As a programme manager, I facilitate a number of different Springboard Programmes. I love all of them, but one that has resonated with me the most is the GEMS (Graduate Education Mentoring Scheme) Programme. I finished my degree in 2014, and quite frankly, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. For personal reasons, completing my degree seemed like an impossible challenge; and my dissertation … well, there were a lot of late nights, sat up typing with a can of energy juice only fingertips away (I do not advise this method, if it can be avoided!).
Throughout my degree, there were many people I could ask for advice; my mum, my employers, my lecturers and other students. More often than not, my questions would lead to more questions that no one else could answer. I completed lots of work experience throughout my degree, for a range of different companies. I did a lot of networking – made lots of acquaintances and many connections on LinkedIn – but I never really had one person to whom I could ask the ‘daft’ or obscure questions. Nor did I have someone challenge me as to why I was undertaking sporting event work experience when I didn’t have (and still do not have) any interest in sport.
I am incredibly lucky to have the support network that I now have – but at that point, I never had one person who I could call a mentor. Then I moved down south, and started working at the Royal Oak. My mentors at the Royal Oak nurtured my professionalism, taught me about the industry and both supported – and questioned – my ideas, ensuring I knew what I was doing before I finalised any decision.
Many of the students undertaking a hospitality degree don’t follow their degree into the industry, instead choosing to go elsewhere. Hospitality is full to the brim of interesting and talented people from all over the world, with many different stories to tell. Sometimes I think the stereotypes that hospitality have gained over the years masks the greatness of the industry!
By matching undergraduates to some of our industry leaders, those stories and experiences can be shared - inspiring a whole new generation. The big bad world is a scary place for most people, and for those completing degrees the world becomes their oyster. This newfound freedom can bring uncertainty, fear and anxiety – but a mentor can guide, answer questions, and support you in those new situations. I know that if I had had an industry mentor early on in my degree I would’ve taken on more relevant work experience and perhaps found where my skills lie a little earlier in life.
And mentoring is a two-way street. Mentors mixing with a student who is perhaps 20 years their junior will be shown new ways of thinking too. In addition, it will provide a new focus for their career, and someone to inspire, who will love to hear their stories.
The GEMS programme is amazing and I am sure that the students we support through this will do great things. However, I know Springboard would love to support even more – and that’s why we need you. Whether you are a student, a lecturer, a friend, or an industry leader. If you can think of someone that could benefit from this programme, please ask them to get in touch with us – because we would love to help them! https://charity.springboard.uk.net/programmes-activities/springboard-gems