25 April 2017

By trainee solicitor Holly Webb

Since January 2016, I have been a mentor to a young woman, supporting her to achieve her dream of becoming an occupational therapist. I have helped her with interview techniques, revision skills, applications and essay writing. I made sure I gave honest and unbiased advice to give her the tools to make informed decisions. We meet less regularly now which reflects how independent she has become and how settled she is at university.

Here are my reflections on the IntoUniversity scheme, my role as a mentor and the positive effects it has had on my legal career.

What is the IntoUniversity corporate mentoring scheme?

Mentors who have been to university build a one-on-one pastoral relationship with a mentee in their last year of sixth form to support them through the difficult transition to university. It is an 18-month scheme which runs from when students start applying to university up until the end of their first year.

What is IntoUniversity’s aim?

Its main aim is to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to either attend university or pursue another chosen aspiration. IntoUniversity has had a huge impact on students, with 80% of school-leavers in the 2015 scheme progressing to university. This is compared with the national average of 34% for maintained (state) schools in 2014.

Why is the scheme important?

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds receive tailored support where needed to encourage them to continue with their studies. This is especially important in the steep learning curve of their first year of university, when they are more likely to drop out.

I am fortunate that I wasn't the first person in my family to go to university and I could ask family members for advice and support. If English is not your parents’ first language or if you’re the first person in your family to break the mould and go to university, it can be a challenging time.

What have the challenges been?

Firstly, getting to know an 18 year old student, building trust and a relationship was the initial challenge! With her bubbly personality and finding common ground on so many aspects of life; this was an easy hurdle to overcome.

Secondly, finding the time around a busy work schedule to meet regularly, face-to-face was a challenge. I found this to be easy once I had mastered communicating with colleagues about work deadlines and also having a contingency option of a phone call instead of a meeting.

What are the rewards?

Being able to make a difference in a young person’s life is definitely the most rewarding aspect of mentoring. The highlight so far has been our cheeky Nando's to celebrate her results and her place at her first choice university!

To see her grow in confidence, expand her horizons (especially in the healthcare sector) and achieve her goals has been so inspiring and a positive experience for both of us.

How else has mentoring helped my legal career?

At Burges Salmon, we share an office with our trainee supervisor and they are, to a certain extent, a mentor. Corporate mentoring has given me an insight in to the role of trainee supervisor by having to give constructive feedback and guidance, for example. This will also be helpful if and when I become a supervisor myself.

The transferrable skills from mentoring that I have put into practice in my legal career are: expanding my network, building and maintaining relationships, self-reflection, creative problem solving, thinking commercially with a sector-based approach, excellent communication skills, flexibility and responsiveness to meet and exceed client goals.

Find out more about corporate responsibility at Burges Salmon.

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Holly Fey

Holly Fey Head of Resourcing

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Corporate mentoring and my legal career

Being able to make a difference in a young person’s life is definitely the most rewarding aspect of mentoring.
Holly Webb, Trainee Solicitor

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