The Industry Mentoring Programme at London College of Communication (LCC) aims to encourage and support postgraduate students as they prepare to progress from education towards their future careers.
Spanning a wide range of disciplines, the voluntary initiative connects students with a range of creative professionals who can support their development by helping to build their networks, grow their communication and presentation skills, and enhance their understanding of the creative industries.
Mentors also draw their own range of benefits from the programme, which include opportunities to develop their own skillsets, access opportunities for specialist mentor training, and connect with LCC’s vibrant community.
Each iteration of the programme runs for 6 months between March and September. Participants catch-up regularly to listen, question, clarify and explore a variety of ideas and aspirations across journeys that are specially tailored to the goals of each student, helping them to feel more confident, informed and engaged in the professional landscape.
As the Industry Mentoring Programme introduces our newest batch of mentors and mentees for 2021, we chatted to LCC graduate and previous participant Sydney Luntz alongside her mentor, digital artist Chiara Cola, to discuss why taking part in the initiative proved to be such an invaluable experience for them both.
"I fell in love with digital art and worked tirelessly to turn it into my job"
Tell us a little bit about your practice, and your creative journey so far.
Sydney: My background is a motley of humanities and writing-related studies and practices. Although I studied English Literature and Linguistics during my BA degree, my time at UAL surfaced a greater commitment to communications. Communication allows for a more versatile skill set and explores all mediums. Communication is not limited to the written word or specific formulas; it’s a flexible, inviting and variegated practice. Communication is visual, it is audible, it is written, it is filmed, and it remains inclusive in its malleability. Since a young age, I have implored the ways in which we can make communication engaging, but not at the expense of accessible and inclusive content.
Chiara: I studied for my MA degree in Media and Communication studies at Sapienza University of Rome before undertaking a Master’s in Fashion Management at Polimoda in Florence. I would say that the first highlight of my journey was actually my career change in 2007, when I decided to become a self-taught designer and pursue something new and different from my academic journey – although, of course, my studies continue to play a big role in my visual work, especially on the research side. I fell in love with digital art and worked tirelessly to turn it into my job.
I’m also currently teaching on the BA Interior Design course at London Metropolitan University with a wonderful team and great students, and for the past 3 years, have been an art and design tutor at the National Saturday Club with students between the ages of 13 to 16. We’ve worked together on some fantastic projects - I deeply admire their freedom and bravery in approaching and transforming the briefs. Starting to teach gave a whole new dimension to my life and the meaning of my work – holistically, I think teaching has made me a happier individual.
"I wanted my creative potential to be tapped into, nurtured and sharpened"
Sydney, why did you decide to study at LCC, and what were the highlights of your time at the College?
To put it candidly, I was suffocating during my BA degree, where the curriculum was narrow-minded, limited to a set of expectations, and overall, not conducive to creative growth.
I sought a course - MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice - that would be manageable with my current expertise, but would also challenge me in new avenues. I wanted my creative potential to be tapped into, nurtured and sharpened.
My highlight was the Industry Mentoring Programme - wholeheartedly, without a doubt. The scheme granted me an opportunity to continue a postgraduate degree while still focusing on my career trajectory. This simultaneously brought immense relief and excitement to my time at LCC.
"A real journey of discovery"
Chiara, as a mentor, how have you been able to support Sydney in her career journey so far?
Mentoring Sydney was a real journey of discovery: her talent is multifaceted as well as her interests. She is a very ambitious individual willing to bring positive change to the world - this is something that is so evident and makes her eyes shine. It was wonderful to witness this powerful trait in her character. Our conversations often turned quite political as well.
In our second meeting, I asked her to make a list of artists, writers etc she admired, as well as the reason for her choices. I wanted her to focus on her most true self as a fundamental starting point of our journey. We then put a lot of attention in rewriting her CV together, and also had a mock job interview in which I prepared a lot of tricky questions that are commonly asked while sharing a lot of my own positive and negative experiences so far. This was something she said was very useful to her.
We were only able to meet twice before our mentorship was interrupted by the pandemic, but we were able to continue meeting online, and I tried to support her as much as possible during those very hard months.
"The programme stripped away the unsettling fears and insecurities of entering the creative industries"
Sydney, how has taking part in the Industry Mentor Scheme helped you to develop your career and your practice?
Chiara placed great emphasis on understanding myself; embracing what I loved and fostering new-found confidence in my work and ambitions. The programme stripped away the unsettling fears and insecurities of entering the creative industries. My time with Chiara reviewed past job experience, what I do and do not desire professionally, but most importantly, how I view myself and what I want for myself. I grew a sense of self-appreciation, and no longer felt the need to eclipse big dreams with rejection and disapproval from others. I learned to love even my most overwhelming insecurities, turning them into strength and trusting that the right job, with the right people, was out there for me.
Since graduating from LCC, I’ve been able to embrace my relentless curiosity and creative skillset. I’ve continued my freelance work, both in graphic design and audio editing. Additionally, I’ve joined The Women International, a women-centric social enterprise, to help their social media and admin teams.
I also recently began my first full-time job in London at a media agency - I could not be more thrilled – alongside other opportunities such as helping UAL to create a magazine as a Content Editor, or my work at Westminster Befriend a Family. This is particularly close to me, and is where I’ve been able to continue the mentoring process myself - I’m now a mentor for a young person in the local area.
"The mentoring process has enriched my life to the highest degree"
Why would you recommend the Industry Mentoring Programme to students at LCC, and what are your top tips for making the most of the initiative?
Sydney: If you’re as lucky as I was, you’ll make a good friend and progress in your professional life. Mentoring is and will forever be a beloved experience, novel in the ways it shows up in our lives naturally and purposefully. Applying to the Industry Mentoring Programme was the best decision I made at LCC. The scheme celebrates ambition and caters to your dreams. I could not recommend it enough, especially if you’re itching to get started on making your mark in the creative industry. The mentoring process has enriched my life to the highest degree - I hope to continue it in all of my future endeavours.
Chiara: I would suggest to any students who are taking part in the programme: be open, don’t be shy, ask as many questions as you wish. And trust your Mentor: share your emotions, frustrations, dreams, thoughts, positive and negative experiences - your true self. I believe this is a process that unfolds gradually with both mentor and mentee opening up.
As it’s a 1:1 Mentorship, it’s a highly personal and tailor-made journey of 6 months that can really be built around the mentee’s needs and aspirations. I think it’s a very rare opportunity, so I’d advise everyone to make the most of it.