If you’re seeking opportunity, take a browse of this page for some guaranteed inspiration. Firstly, we’ve selected this incredible group of mentors and asked them for their stories on how they got to where they are today. Then scroll down to our handy map so you can access more support in your area.
Adam Broomhall ↓
“The people who close the railway all weekend so we can re-lay it. My job involves overseeing the engineer of a project from start to finish. That means working out what needs to be done to make a better railway, for better passenger journeys, how we’re going to do that, then also overseeing the quality, delivery and installation. We work out how things work, how to do stuff, then how we can make it better.”
The skills needed to be an engineer
“Maths skills are a big one, but even more so are problem solving skills. When you’re faced with any sort of problem, it’s about how you’re going to get around it. That also involves a lot of creativity: You have to come up with a solution and that can often involve thinking outside the box. Being able to work in a team is important: It’s very rare for any engineer or scientist to work entirely by themselves. It’s all about how you work with other people to come to a collective understanding, a collective agreement or solution.”
How I became an engineer
“I went to university to study mechanical engineering, then immediately after graduating I applied for various different graduate schemes. This was the only one that would actually have me! Because it’s a big company with lots and lots of different jobs, you do 6 months working in one department; in an engineering role, then you move on to another one. When it came to the end of the graduate scheme and I had to find a job, I knew that this was a department I was very interested in because I had worked in it previously.”
My main piece of advice would be don’t worry.
“There’s this perception that your GCSEs and A Levels are the most important decisions that you will ever make in your life, which is just bullsh*t [ed. Change to ‘rubbish’?], really. You can try something and decided that it’s not for you, whether that be a few weeks into it, or a few months into it, or even a year into it. It doesn’t matter. You can go back and do something else. You can change your career path completely.“
Alistair Machray ↓
As a journalist, you see the very best of human nature, and you see the very worst of it. “Journalism isn’t all about meeting famous people and travelling the world. I had to knock on doors of people who’ve lost a child in a car crash; I’ve been that cold face in the office when there’s been disasters and terror attacks. The Hillsborough Disaster is an exemplar of that: You see the very worst of people in the coverups and corruption. But you see the very best of people in the bravery of the families and the resilience of the human spirit. My career has been fantastic, but it has been tinged by moments of extraordinary pathos. That all adds to the rich diversity of it”.
To be a journalist, you have to…
“You have to be able to write, and be able to encapsulate your thoughts and the thoughts of others into coherent sentences. You need to be able to get on with people. You need to be able to get them to open up to you, to trust you and you need not to betray that trust further down the line. To tell either a story or joy or a story of sadness that belongs to someone else is an enormous privilege that comes with great responsibility. A belief in and a love of human beings is important.”
Aim to do something you love
“It doesn’t have to be something that’s going to earn you loads of money. My son, for instance, is a theatre director. That means freelance assignments, and working in bars and coffee shops in between times, and he’s so happy. I’d rather be an out-of-work, happy theatre director than an in-work, well-paid, but miserable accountant.”
If you need inspiration…
“Sit down and draw up a list of the 5 things you like best in the world, then ask yourself which careers are attached to them. Then I would say, ‘Move heaven and earth to get yourself into a career doing one of those things.’”
Chris Yates ↓
Medicine is not glamorous, but it’s very rewarding. “I know people who have left medicine because they had gone into it for the wrong reasons. Maybe they wanted to do something high-achieving, but they didn’t appreciate that medicine is a fairly all-consuming career. It’s not like your average 9 to 5. Most days in medicine, you’re either staying late or you’re going home worrying about a patient. You have to accept the fact that it’s going to be a gritty work-life balance. I don’t think it’s a job you’d ever rush into and think, “I’m just going to try that and see how it goes”. Most of it is long, hard days, but equally very rewarding. You get paid for your time well, it’s a job for life and it’s a job that I will guarantee you will never be bored at: Every day is different and it’s lifelong learning.”
Studying medicine is fairly structured. “You graduate, then you do 2 years as a foundation doctor, which everyone does, and that comprises six jobs that are spread throughout the breadth and width of medicine. It can be anything from surgery, GP, A&E, to give you a
taster of medicine. At the end of that, you apply to do your specialist training. I’m a trainee studying anaesthetic and critical care at the moment.”
The role of an anesthetist “Essentially, anaesthetists oversee the sickest patients. They try to get the surgeons talking to the haematologists, talking to the physicians, so it’s like an oversights role. A good anaesthetist should work well in a team, work well under pressure, but also have overarching views, a 360 degree, eyes in the back of your head awareness. Unless you have a degree of resilience in terms of dealing with stressful situations, it’s probably not the best job for you.”
Elle Lindsay ↓
How I got in to biology…
“I took biology at A level because I was considering medicine, and I ended up completely and utterly falling in love with it. It was so varied and felt so relevant to the massive environmental and ecological issues the world is seeing at the moment. Biology felt like it touched everything and spilled into every aspect of life.
When I finished my undergraduate degree, I realised how much I like learning and how much I liked biology. So many people were leaving university and going into general graduate roles that had no association to their degree, but I knew that I wanted to keep using biology and keep using science. I thought that academia, at least initially, would be a really good way to stick with science and expand my knowledge within the field.”
Adaptability and flexibility is really important. “In research, specifically biology, you can be in the lab one day, and having to write it up the next. You have to add lots of different strings to your bow. By the same token, patience and resilience are really important. When you’re doing an undergrad, you’re consistently getting feedback on exams or essays etc. At PhD level, you’re just flung into, “Right, you have a research project for 4 years, you have a thesis at the end.” No one’s patting you on the back as you go through, because no one’s PhD has gone the same way.”
Study what you love, preserve your spark
“If you want to go to university, but you don’t necessarily know your career path, choose to study something you love. You will perform better at university if you have a passion for your subject, and will perform better coming out of university, too. Even if you do end up in a job unrelated to your degree, it’s the people that have that little bit of spark that are going to stand out in job interviews. There would be nothing like studying something at university that you don’t really enjoy to kill that spark.”
Hannah Hayden ↓
How I got into medicine…
“I wanted to do medicine since the age of 10. It was hard to get the experience needed to apply because I don’t know anyone in my family who is a doctor or anything close to that. It just so happens that one of my friend’s parents was able to help me get a placement in a hospital, which was lucky. I see many of my mentees spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about getting a certain type of experience. Although it’s important, I know from asking universities that it’s not essential to have experience working in a hospital. Rather than spending 6 months worrying about trying to have 10 hospital placements, you could go to a care home and learn different skills that way. I’d advise you to be creative, use your time wisely, and think outside the box. If you’re unsure, you can email a university that you’re interested in and say, “I can’t get this experience, what would you advise?”. They’re usually happy to give advice.”
Concerns are money are very valid, but there are ways around it
“It’s difficult, but you can do it. From age 16, I worked in a supermarket to get some
money to help me. While at medical school I had a job in Accessorize and Monsoon, and also at university I was a mentor and worked with local communities. For many careers, being able to juggle those things early on show that you’ll be able to cope with that career later on. Juggling a part time job or other interests could make you better at the job you subsequently want to do.”
Job culture is so important
“It’s not just the job you do that matters, it’s the people around you and their attitude to everyone else. My worst job was still within medicine, and still within paediatrics, but I was in a job where I felt I wasn’t supported, I wasn’t pushed forward. Other people felt the same, morale was low, and I just couldn’t relate to the people more senior to me. When you’re not inspired, you’re not motivated, and you don’t feel supported, it’s really difficult to enjoy your job, even if it is in a field that you love.
Jonny Murray ↓
Why I do my job
“From day one it was a real job with full responsibility over the leadership and ownership of projects. P&G also really pushed the aspect of being able to bring your whole self to work and be who you are. That really inspired me. The leadership team were a mix of male and female and came from a mix of backgrounds, and had all worked in different parts of the business before and had lots of different learning experiences. This made me feel that I could do similar and achieve similar to them.”
Misconceptions about my job
“People see big businesses as quite corporate and rigid, not very entrepreneurial, but it’s very much the opposite. From a leadership perspective, you have your own mini business within P&G. From year one, you’re responsible for a budget, you’re responsible for growing the sales for that retailer, you have full accountability and you can be quite entrepreneurial with how you do that.
There’s a misconception that sales is all about heavy negotiation and being able to almost con or swindle, but a lot of the work that I do is more about, “How do I work together in collaboration with retailer to build a plan that works for both of us?” We’re working on businesses where we’ve had relationships with retailers for 10s of years, and actually, it’s about how can we build something that’s sustainable and long-term.”
Make the most of your university’s resources
“You can come from any university background. That means you can be super focussed when you go to university and do a marketing, business or sales degree, but if you have something else that interests you like geography, languages, history, that won’t put your application at a disadvantage. I studied Marketing Management at Lancaster university, and did a sandwich year where I interned at Kellogg Company in Manchester. After my final year, I applied for the graduate scheme at Procter & Gamble. It’s in the university’s interest to teach graduates how to get a job, so they prepare you for the kind of tests that you would be expected to take for graduate scheme applications, review CVs, and they bring in external companies to do mock assessment centres with you.”
Placement years are worth it!
“People are reluctant to take a placement year because of the additional cost, but if you compare it with the overall cost of university, it’s worth it. You do still earn money – it’s living wage – and the experience that you get is invaluable. It allows you to go into your final year with graduate applications showing that you have real-world experience. Not everyone made that decision to do an extra year, but it’s something that I think really paid off and helped to get to that final job.”
You need to have proven leadership skills. “It could be through a previous job or opportunities you’ve had in school, or even just in community roles, like in a local sports team, but having the ability to work with others is really important. A lot of the case is finding a mutual solution that works for both parties. Ultimately, the objective is to grow out businesses together with the retailers, so while there is an element of negotiation and discussion, a lot of it is, ‘How do we partner together to get the best result for everyone?’”
Nadine Thomson ↓
I want to get more young people, especially women, into technology
“Technology has a diversity problem in a number of areas; gender, race, and socioeconomic background. I’ve had some great mentors who have really helped my career, and so I want to give that back to someone else, by helping with work experience or networking, which is what lots of young people miss out on. I want to open doors for people.”
The advice I give…
“A lot of things happen from who you know. I’ve worked hard on developing various networks that have helped me with opportunities. This could even include recruitment companies: The recruitment company for my last job contacted me because I’d already developed contacts there, who knew me and thought of me when this role came up. Again, if you’re not known to them, then it’s harder to get on the shortlist for some of these things.”
Recruiters are interested in diversity
“Recruiters are increasingly conscious of diversity, whether that’s gender or race or social mobility, and companies are asking for it more. That is something for younger people to think about as a way of connecting with a recruitment organisation. It is good to try and get on their radar.”
The job industry is changing
“When I first began my career, industries wanted to hire people within the industry. That’s changed a lot because of digital disruption. Many different firms have had their business models threatened because of the pace of technology and the way society has changed. The disruption to industry means they’re quite open to having people come from different places to bring different experiences. This is perhaps where it really works for young people coming in. Companies are hungry for different viewpoints, and they’re also trying to reach different parts of the demographic.”
Find the right cultural fit
“I like cultures that are really people-focused, that are quite exuberant, quite energetic. But some people are very happy to work in a culture that’s more process-driven, a bit more organised, structured. Sometimes, it’s finding the right cultural fit.”
Orla Thomas ↓
To be a writer… “You need to get as much writing experience as humanly possible. If you’ve got a student newspaper or a magazine, that’s a great place to start. I worked on the student newspaper and I stuck my hand up for lots of writing projects, which gave me a good bit of experience before I actually got going professionally.”
If you’re trying to get something published…
“Make sure you address your correspondence to the person by name. If you can’t manage that, you’ve fallen at the first hurdle. If I get an email for someone that says, “Dear Sir/Madam”, I immediately disregard it, because it is so easy to find out who the appropriate person is to address your email to. That’s journalism 101.
Also, a lot of people who haven’t been published before are nervous about submitting a piece, but everyone at the beginning of their career doesn’t have something published, and you can still show that you’re a good writer with original ideas. Look through a magazine or a website that you want to get published in, find a piece of short form content that you like and write something for that section that shows that you’ve paid attention and you’ve put some real thought into it.”
To be a better writer…
“Feedback on your writing is crucial, even if it’s from your mum or a friend. I also sometimes find reading your work aloud can help. You can really pick up on things like sentence structure by reading aloud, and if you’ve completely run out of breath while reading a sentence, that sentence is probably too long and needs splitting into two. If it sounds weird in your mouth, that probably needs work too: I’d much rather people use language and words that they would naturally use when telling a friend a story.
My benchmark for travel writing when I come back from trips is what did I tell people about? What were the stories that kept coming up? What would I tell someone down the pub? That, for me, would be where the most interesting stories are.
Rachel Glossop ↓
I didn’t even consider flood risk to be a job… “Then, with climate change, it became very obvious that flooding is a massive issue. I studied land management, which is a mixture of civil engineering, surveying, architecture and geography; looking at the constraints of land and how it could potentially be developed in the future. I went on to work at a pipeline consultancy in the water sector, and then the environment agency, in their development control team. That was looking at how flooding factored into new planning applications, so I was thinking about resilient homes and the impact of climate change. Suddenly, there was a big flood event in 2007, and there was a realisation that there needed to be that expertise within the local authorities, so I transferred across to Hull City Council.”
My job is very varied…
“You might one day just be looking at a planning application, but the next day you’re having to give advice to a community who’s just been flooded. It’s a mixture of engineering, on the technical side, but then a massive amount of it is about the people skills and negotiating skills. Project management skills are important too. But certainly, one of the big things is that ability to listen and communicate. It’s about an engagement and awareness and understanding of climate change, and that passion and enthusiasm for the environment. You feel like you’re doing something for a purpose, because of the fact that if we don’t, it affects people’s lives.
Tom Hayes ↓
How I made a career out of broadcasting
“I trained to become a teacher, but I’ve always enjoyed sport and media, and I guess I was always like, “Well, if I can’t be at the Olympics, what’s the next best thing? Media! They go to the Olympics. They get to speak to everyone. How does that work? How do you do that?” I got on to a scheme called BBC Kick Off in 2012. It was a 6-week placement in local radio, reporting and working on sport all the time. I quit my teaching role on the proviso that I’d be a supply teacher, whilst applying for media jobs. I got a job at the BBC on an entry level position in 2015, at the start of 2015. I spent four years there working on radio, but learning about TV, working online, the growth of social media, doing reporting, commentating. Then, because the BBC is quite a difficult beast to navigate in terms of career progression, I was like, “How do I take control of this a bit more?” Going freelance has enabled me to do that.”
“Planning is key if you’re going to go freelance. You’ve got to be able to offer an expansive skillset. Networking is huge. Patience, but also the will to accept that you might need to bide your time. It’s a gradual process. For some people, you get that one gig and your career skyrockets, but I haven’t had that moment yet. I see it more as building up a body of work and developing more and more relationships until ultimately getting to a position where I can choose which jobs I take.”
Teaching is extremely rewarding
“I taught in primary, secondary, college and university level, and you never lose that passion for helping people to attain qualifications and for putting on an enjoyable lesson. I always enjoyed school. Sometimes, people don’t like to say that, but that’s part of why I always wanted to make school enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, there was always parts of the curriculum that had to be a bit dull, but I took that very seriously to try and make it a good experience for people.”
Always keep on striving
“With sport, you train, you get good and you always keep on striving. I had years of that from a participant’s point of view, doing everything to make you run a second or 2 seconds quicker. That’s largely fuelled my professional career, even though the sporting drive’s not there now, I’m still always like, “I want to do better. I want to be involved in bigger and better things”. it’s trying to find people or the right environment that matches that”
Vipul Modi ↓
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to explore who you are.
“So often, we feel this pressure to choose a career path, but ultimately you just need time to slow down, to take a break and really sit down and identify who you are and what you like to do. Are you a people person? Do you like to engineer? Build? Do you like strategy? Are you creative? Hopefully doing that will give you a clear direction of where you need to go
Are you a problem solver?
“If it is that you like strategy, problem solving, interacting with peers to come up with innovative solutions, there are unlimited opportunities available, especially in the consulting world.”
Do you like to put yourself out there?
“There are so many opportunities with social media. I’ve seen YouTubers take off incredibly over the years simply from vlogs – promoting certain concepts and items and the approaches that they take in life to create this positive moment for others.”
Are you creative? Do you like to be a focal point of a company or an idea?
“This world is changing incredibly quickly. Given the amount of entrepreneurs that are developing and the number of start-ups that are being created, if you do have a concept, then do not be fearful. Take a chance. It’s never been as easy as today to begin to create some level of noise surrounding your concept or idea.”