Development & Alumni Relations Office 



MAXIMISING STUDENT POTENTIAL – CELEBRATING QUEEN’S MENTORING VOLUNTEERS  Volunteer Week 2020 - three mentors against background of hands in different colours

03 June 2020

During Volunteers’ Week 2020 (1-5 June),  we continue to examine the role graduates play in the life of Queen’s by thanking and acknowledging those who serve as mentors – passing on career experiences to current students.

Speaking ahead of Volunteers’ Week, Head of Alumni and Supporter Engagement, Ian Moore said: “Each and every one of our 468 alumni volunteers over the last year has played an integral role in the life of Queen’s.

“Whether it’s providing support and guidance to the University on its journey, encouraging and motivating our students to pursue inspirational careers through mentoring or work-related placements or simply keeping the University family connected around the world through our graduate associations, alumni volunteers make such a difference.

“We are hugely grateful to every one of our volunteers for the gifts of time that they give to Queen’s.”

Across a broad range of volunteering areas, this week we are focusing on some of the many hundreds of graduates who, during the last 12 months, have given the gift of time in support of the University.

Queen’s offers a variety of volunteering activities, each with varying levels of time commitment but each making a huge contribution to the lives of current students:

Today, we acknowledge those graduates who serve as mentors, inspiring students and young graduates to dream and to see in themselves aspects of their potential that may otherwise remain hidden.  

Why is mentoring important? “Mentoring is a great way to reassure, encourage and support students,” said BA Criminology (2010) graduate Aisling Laverty (above left), who is PwC Team Lead - AdValue Consulting. “As a previous Queen’s student I know how important it is to seek and receive advice in relation to career paths and options.

“I shared my previous experiences with my mentee; I talked about my career path to date and my ups and downs and I encouraged her that challenge is good."

Mentoring is not about changing students to see and think as their mentor does. As Natasha Sharma, the University’s Alumni Relations Volunteer Manager says: “It is about helping individuals to understand the skills they have, as well as those they might need to develop in their careers. The aim is to provide our students with a supported framework to think about the career options that are open to them.”

The number one reason for seeking a mentor is career progression, to learn from someone – who may or may not have chosen a similar profession – and to benefit from their experiences. It is also a wonderfully mutual way for mentors (graduates) and mentees (students) to build on their interpersonal skills and develop their networks.

“By acting as a sounding board and signposting students to think outside the box – and often just by instilling in them the confidence needed to progress up the career ladder – a mentor can enable their student mentee to be ‘work ready’ when they graduate,” added Natasha.

A prime example of volunteer mentoring is the Queen's Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) Student-Alumni mentoring programme. Eight graduate mentors from across the five schools in the Faculty currently provide guidance and support in a pilot mentoring programme.

Launched in January 2020, the pilot programme was an overwhelming success, with feedback recognising the amazing opportunity afforded by mentoring, with one student saying: ‘it will open your eyes to so many possibilities that you wouldn't have thought of,’

BSc Business Management (2005) graduate Laurie Montgomery (above right), who is now Business Process Consultant at Danske Bank, said: “Mentoring is a great way to share knowledge and experience, to support others and develop confidence in individuals to help them grow, develop and progress."

And would she consider mentoring again? “I think the programme is a great way of supporting others at a critical time in their career paths. I will definitely be volunteering to do it again!”

Among AHSS mentors are graduates who are enjoying successful careers in publishing, public relations, advertising, the law, journalism and management consultancy.

“The Mentoring Scheme is a great opportunity for alumni to help and support students in the progression from study to starting a career,” said LLB (2003) graduate and first time mentor, Joseph O'Keeffe (pictured centre).

“Mentoring was a good experience,” he added. “It was great to give something back to the University and to help those who are now in the same position that I was once in, preparing to choose the right career path.”

Volunteering in this way gives graduates an opportunity to play an active part not just in the life of the University but in the future careers of the next generation.

“Mentoring offers a chance to give something back to the University and to make a lasting impression on someone who will undoubtedly cherish the experience, long after the mentoring relationship has expired," said Natasha Sharma. "In most cases too, the simple act of volunteering will also have a really positive impact on the individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

“And the more often you volunteer as a mentor, the greater the rewards!” she added.

The next AHSS mentoring scheme will be launched in autumn 2020. It is expected this will be a virtual mentoring relationship given the current climate. 

For further information on volunteering or mentoring, please contact Alumni Relations Volunteering Manager, Natasha Sharma.

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

Volunteering opportunities:   

Volunteering can take many forms. Sometimes graduates may not even realise that they are volunteering, or even see themselves as volunteers!

1. Profile provision

Providing a profile photo, along with details of a graduate career path, can have massive benefits. The University can use this information in prospectuses or on our website to inform prospective students of the value of a Queen’s degree. If you would like to volunteer in this way, please draft 300 words (max) outlining your career path and send this, along with a recent high-res profile photo, to Natasha Sharma

2. Associations

Alumni associations and chapters bridge the gap between Queen's graduates and the University all around the world. These groups – and the events and activities they organise – are run by alumni volunteers, who find it a mutually beneficial way of staying in touch. For more on joining or becoming involved in the running of one of our alumni groups at home or around the world, visit our associations’ web page.

3. Mentoring

Volunteer mentors make themselves available as sounding boards for current students and younger graduates. For current students, finding out how best to prepare for the world of work – and how to make progress once they get there – can be life changing. For younger graduates too, having a chance to talk to someone who has already been down the same career path can also be hugely beneficial.

Mentors increase employee knowledge and improve existing skills, can be hugely beneficial in terms of professional and personal development and improve employee satisfaction and retention. For more on mentoring opportunities, please contact Natasha Sharma.  

4. Placements

When alumni introduce us to their organisations, it enables our Work Related Learning and Placement Offices support staff to uncover the potential opportunities by understanding the company needs. By implementing a system that’s been operating for more than 25 years, the right students are then matched to relevant opportunities, such as placements, careers fairs and company visits, to the mutual benefit of both parties, creating long-standing positive relationships with our engaged corporates. Work related learning can even occur virtually, with individual or groups of students. To discuss providing a student placement, please contact Natasha Sharma.   

5. Recruitment

Many graduates give back in another special way, by sharing their positive experiences of Queen’s - and their career path since - with a student holding offer for, or considering applying to, Queen’s. In this way, the graduate adds real credibility to our efforts, as the potential student can hear about the value of a Queen’s degree directly from someone who has attended the University. As a volunteer in this key area, the individual graduate may speak at online recruitment events, stand with us at careers fairs or network with potential students at virtual events. To discuss becoming a recruitment volunteer for Queen's, please contact Natasha Sharma.   

 

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