Selvia Arshad (a recent MSc International Finance and Economics graduate looking for her first graduate role) and Emma Mills-Sheffield (a consultant and entrepreneur who founded Mindsetup) began their mentoring relationship in 2019.
As an international student, Selvia was seeking help understanding the work environment of the UK and was looking for advice about the types of roles and sectors available to her. Initially, Selvia expected a “careers coach” from her mentoring relationship, but says she’s also gained “personal development”.
Emma herself never benefitted from mentoring and, as her career has progressed, has become “conscious of the power mentoring can have and the impact it can have on somebody”. She’s not just added benefit to Selvia though, as she says she’s also found the experience “really fulfilling” and illuminating.
Read about their mentoring experience below.
Have you previously been involved in a mentoring programme?
Selvia: “During my undergrad I was a mentor on a pathway programme my university ran for underprivileged women. I realized, if I could help someone then maybe I could get help too. There had been opportunities for me to be mentored during my undergrad but I wasn’t interested as I didn’t know what to expect until I had been a mentor myself. When I saw my mentees were achieving some of their goals and graduating, that definitely motivated me to get that similar kind of help.”
What have you gained from the mentoring programme?
Emma: “I’ve gained a new understanding of the concerns and issues that graduates face and my desire to want to help has been strengthened. Being a mentor has definitely helped my work as well, because I’ve learned to see how things play out and to see how I can finesse certain things and reinforced certain thoughts that I've had.
“Helping Selvia has been fantastic and I've got a friend out of it. I don't foresee a time when Selvia and I wouldn't check in, even when she's in the boardroom somewhere, because I'd love to hear what's happening.”
Selvia: “Every time I meet Emma I learn something new whether it's career advice or about myself. It’s just like knowing a senior friend: she just went through all of this before me. She’s helped me with my resume, applications and helped me get ready for interviews. For me, just knowing things wasn't enough, I wanted to know how to approach things more strategically, which was where Emma’s experience has been really helpful.
“She also helps me stay motivated. Applying for jobs can be hard, sometimes you don’t hear back and you’ve got to keep on applying which can be really demotivating. With Emma I get the support to discuss how I’m feeling and what I'm going through.”
Has this experience surprised you?
Selvia: “It's more than I expected. It’s much more rewarding. All I see is myself growing with her.
“From where else would you get this kind of support? No one else is actually seeing what you're going through, but your mentor is. Talking to them is much more helpful than just being quiet and not knowing what to do.”
Emma: “I was expecting it to be more transactional, but in reality when you actually meet, you're not. It’s been fantastic. Selvia also checks in with how I’m doing, so there’s a real reciprocity where I feel someone actually cares for me as well, which is lovely. You get a human connection with your mentee and that's something that I really wasn't expecting.”
What would you say to someone considering a mentoring relationship?
Selvia: “I think the main thing is you’re adding more to your community. People come to Sussex to pursue their dreams and if you can help someone to prepare themselves to go towards that dream, why would you say no to that? Learning from others is how we grow as a human.
“If you think you need some help, it's always better to ask for it. Sometimes it's really difficult to explain what you’re going through, but a mentor can recognise it and prepare you both professionally and personally. And if there’s someone who’s interested in helping you, then why not?
Emma: “Anybody who's looking at mentoring, you can absolutely add value to somebody. I remember I was meeting friends before first meeting Selvia and I said ‘why me, what have I got that's going to help?’ But I’ve been in the work environment for the last 20 odd years. I’ve seen people develop and grow and I have led teams where people have developed and grown. Something that I think is fundamental to an interview may not occur to a graduate. So I encourage mentors, it doesn't matter what your background is, you will have something to offer and you will learn as well.
“There will always be use for it. The value of it is brilliant. And it's made me think about where I go for my mentoring as well. You’re never too old for it doesn't matter what you do. We all should keep doing it; I don't think you should ever stop being mentored and mentoring others. There'll always be somebody who needs guidance and your benefits.”
Do you have any advice for recent graduates and students?
Emma: “Think about your core values. You don't need to go and push, push, push for that one job somewhere and keep pushing people out the way. You need to do it with integrity and work somewhere where your values align and you can absolutely do what you want to do.”