Mentoring can be an incredible way to volunteer your time, sharing your expertise with current students, providing them with 1-to-1 guidance and advice can be incredibly rewarding for both sides.
We recently chatted to Jaya Modi, a London College of Communication (LCC) alumna about her experiences of being a mentored as part of the LCC Industry Mentoring Scheme.
The LCC Industry Mentoring Scheme aims to encourage and support postgraduate students in their transition from education to industry. The voluntary scheme matches LCC postgraduate students of all disciplines with industry professionals to support their development as they enter the creative industries.
Why did you get involved in the LCC Industry Mentoring Scheme? Did you have a particular goal you wanted to achieve?
I applied to the Industry Mentoring Scheme during my Master’s program at LCC. I was really keen to be proactive on the course, and made sure to partake in extracurricular projects and activities to accentuate my experience. So naturally, when I saw the call for applications, I was interested.
Having been in the UK for 5 years, I knew I wanted to join, work and explore further the environment I had spent so much time in. I felt that the mentoring scheme could potentially help me expand my knowledge about the industry, and hopefully help me network with some wonderful individuals.
I felt that I was simply touching on the periphery of the circle that encompassed the design industry, and in my eyes the program was my chance to navigate my way towards people and projects that interested me, and eventually form a creative sphere around myself - connected by likeminded creatives.
How did you find the process of applying and being matched? How has the mentoring programme helped you transition from education to industry?
I definitely felt reassured that the process involved a written application - only because more often than not, open programs tend to see a massive dip in attendance and commitment after an initial period. A proper selection and pairing process made me more confident in the legitimacy of the scheme.
I had never been a formal mentee before, and definitely had no experience mentoring! hence obviously I was quite nervous. As it always happens, rumours of some highly coveted names started doing the rounds – I recall hearing someone was paired with a designer from It’s Nice That! Inadvertently something like that triggers a very natural competitiveness - which I only later learnt - by actually experiencing the entirety of the scheme - was so misinformed and unfounded.
We got to meet our mentors through a mixer, and I was paired with Jo!
Within minutes we clicked, and I knew I had been paired with the right person. In fact, I actually found that having someone like Jo - with her experience through different phases of her life - made her such a strong mentor! She had matured through stages that I could see for myself ahead, and unlike the fancier names I was jealous of earlier - she was so much more approachable, committed, attentive and actually had time for me. Her passion was unparalleled and that’s all that mattered.
The programme, through Jo, helped me a great deal in my transition. As an international student, I needed sponsorship to work in the UK, and if that wasn’t hard enough itself - against the backdrop of Brexit, it was near impossible! However, it was a goal I had outlined to Jo the very night of the mixer, and it’s what we worked for consistently over our time together.
From helping me with mock interviews, critiquing my portfolio, brushing up my presentation skills to refining my wardrobe, Jo readied me for the tough reality of job hunting. She also prepared me for rejection. Coursework at a postgraduate level can be overwhelming, but my time with Jo kept me anchored to my reality.
What’s been the most surprising or challenging thing you’ve learnt through the process? Why do you think it worked so well for you and Jo?
My first (surprising) lesson learnt was to not chase after fancy names or studio affiliations. Today I am most thankful to Luminita for the pairing she made with Jo and myself.
The most challenging lesson I learnt was the commitment it takes to sustain a successful relationship like the one between mentor and mentee - which is so vulnerable and close, yet must remain rooted in strict professionalism. The amount of personal involvement it needs is significant. One has to keep in mind that ideally, a mentor-mentee relationship is a mutual exchange. It is something both parties have to nurture together - and that isn’t easy.
I think it was the honest and upfront acknowledgement of this investment that worked well for Jo and myself. The mixer night itself we made a list (we both love lists) wrote down our goals and came up with a timeline. We also shared what each of us wanted to gain from the experience - and made sure we upheld those expectations for each other.
Would you recommend mentoring to current students?
I would definitely always recommend the programme to all students, but only if they can ensure that they are genuinely going to give it the time, care and effort it deserves.
They have to understand it isn’t a sign up to a networking event, or a fast track to an internship/ job, or even a monthly therapist session. The responsibility of making the exchange work, is equally on the shoulders of both the mentor and the mentee. It is always about supporting each other, and helping build something fruitful together by playing to the strength in the sum of both your contributing parts.
What are your next steps?
Well, I’ve been lucky to still be involved with the programme in some capacity or the other. I was so grateful to have been invited by Luminita to the celebration and filming of the 5th anniversary of this endeavour, where I got to share my personal experience with the aspiring mentee cohort - which has really grown in size since my small batch of 20-25 applicants! Currently, I am joining as a mentor for the “Upgrade Your Future Path: Industry Mentor Career Events” which is running from May to July 2020, as an initiative to support, help and hopefully inspire students during the COVID-19 crisis.