Stepping into the unfamiliar can offer unexpected opportunities, sometimes more than we imagine. Before Aberdeen Young Professionals, mentoring was unknown to me, and I did not know what to expect from a mentoring scheme and a mentor. However, the idea of being guided and challenged through a chosen career path was appealing.
In January, I decided to make the big jump and met with my mentor, Calum Lawrie, to discover how I could take the next steps in my career, but also what mentoring was about.
On the 13th of January my questions were answered and a new adventure seemed about to begin following an enriching kick-off meeting. With Calum, we engaged in a constructive discussion which aimed at defining my current situation and ambitions to develop potential projects that would enhance my professional, but also personal development.
Drawing a clearer picture of the situation
Our conversation started with a simple question concerning my role at Return To Scene as a corporate communications assistant. Calum was eager to understand my daily tasks as well as my long-term career development aspirations.
Enjoying my current position focusing on developing communications and marketing strategies, I explained I am mainly aspiring to become Director of communications and marketing, but also interested in other career directions such as lecturing at university and business development - preferring keeping an open mind and leaving the door open to other opportunities.
As my new mentor explained, having different ideas in mind at this stage of my career does not represent a problem and I should instead allow myself to explore different vocational routes.
Having a clearer picture of long-term objectives, Calum asked how he could support me. I consequently presented three main areas where I felt help was needed:
• Networking: Being an unfamiliar practice, I lack confidence while attending networking events. Besides, I am aware it will be a critical skill to master for any career chosen.
• Defining a specific career plan: As I feel career development can be distinct from my country of origin, France, being offered advice on this would be valuable, as it would enable me to define concrete and SMART career goals over time.
• Developing projects that could accelerate my career progression: I am already volunteering for the community interest company (CIC), Crow House Projects, but I would like to investigate other activities that would be relevant to my career aspirations.
Following this outline, Calum suggested a plan of action with new projects to undertake, allowing him to give solid advice and enabling me to acquire new skills. From my day work to volunteering activities that I am already involved in, we determined further opportunities for development.
Drawing upon existing responsibilities to enrich skill sets
To boost my networking abilities, we concluded I should find as many opportunities as possible and leave my comfort zone. By participating in a significant number of offline and online networking events/platforms, I will gain confidence. Calum, therefore, recommended constituting a list of networking activities and organisations.
Furthermore, to advance my communications and marketing role, Calum suggested I could get closer to the Return To Scene’s business development team (e.g. by joining meetings with clients), to better acknowledge the company’s clients as well as their expectations. Being involved in customer-facing situations would facilitate the creation of effective content relevant to their needs. I could likewise explore another side of the business, expanding my skill set.
We also concentrated on volunteering. Being a producer (on a voluntary basis) for the CIC, Crow House Projects, of the science fiction film, Children of Chronos, since February 2017, I have been managing communications (website, social media, and press) and gathering a team to raise awareness of this short. However, I shared with Calum it was sometimes challenging to lead volunteers and move forward some projects. Understanding the importance I was attaching to this film, Calum offered valuable advice on how to delegate work and identify participants’ strengths for more effective task-sharing. He advised keeping volunteering to enhance my communications and marketing expertise as well as managerial/leadership aptitudes.
Finally, Calum suggested I could conduct workshops at Robert Gordon University for pupils aged from 14 to 16 as part of STEM Ambassadors to improve my presentation skills. As a STEM Ambassador, I found this idea compelling, and we talked about producing activities on the use of social media.
Therefore, from networking to delivering STEM workshops, we managed to determine achievable and practical projects corresponding to my initial objectives via an honest and constructive discussion.
Ending our first meeting with an original and challenging idea
Our kick-off meeting nevertheless didn’t end there. As we were starting to plan a solid course of action, a new and surprising idea came up, and the discussion turned out to become even more enriching than I initially thought. This didn’t come from the plan I drafted in advance but from a simple question.
Since February 2018, when I first joined Return To Scene, I have been considering creating a personal website to develop and show my knowledge of communications, marketing, and media. I have drafted a few pages and designs but didn’t pursue the idea as I wasn’t sure of its potential.
I consequently asked Calum the following:
“Do you think a personal website could be beneficial?”
I was waiting for a simple “Yes” or “No”. Funny enough, I was wrong as after careful reflection Calum stated:
“That’s not a bad idea at all; it could be great! However, instead of focusing purely on communications and marketing, why wouldn’t you concentrate on another concept, something more personal and general? What’s your passion?”
I have been a horse rider since the age of 4, so horse riding, outdoor activities and sports have long been playing a significant part in my life. As a result, we came up with the last project to investigate – I could produce a monthly vlog on “things to do” in Aberdeen and its surroundings which would link to my personal website and create an attractive personal brand. The vlog would provide advice to the local communities, which would become a useful source of information. Besides, considering my passion for the film industry, I could include a monthly blog post on films grasping the attention of a niche audience, such as independent French films.
This last concept was the one which sparked the more our imagination and interest. We both agreed the latter would constitute an enriching experience with numerous learning opportunities, and maybe a business venture in the future.
To me, vlogging and creating a personal brand will undoubtedly be a challenge, but also a chance to employ and further skills that I acquired during my education (MLitt in Film and Visual Culture). Implementing such a project will significantly enhance my professional, but also personal development.
Meeting and working for the first time with Calum turned out to be a productive and encouraging experience. Thanks to our professional and informal discussion, we achieved to find common ground and started to define a working strategy that I look forward to implementing. Setting goals relying on a career path and personal determinations will probably set me on the way to discoveries, challenges and a new adventure that I look forward to starting.