On the 8th of March this year, Northern Power Women broke internet records with our online NPWLive event. The event marked International Women’s Day by connecting, empowering and uplifting people across the country, and kicked off with two carousel sessions. The first, a mentoring session aimed at young professionals in the first few years of their career. The second, a networking session for university students. Meg Burns, a 3rd year Economics student from Manchester Metropolitan University, joined the second session aimed towards university students. We spoke to Meg about her experiences, what she benefited from the event, and the impact that carousel sessions could have on future university students and young professionals. 

Each carousel session was an hour long, and mentees and mentors were sorted into breakout zoom rooms where they could engage in conversations and seek advice specific to their needs and interests. As she spoke of the carousel session, Meg reflected on the ratio of mentees to mentors, and how this favoured personalised conversations: “I remember seeing that they had more mentors than mentees, so everyone had the opportunity to speak in depth with some really inspiring people”. Each breakout room lasted 15 minutes, before all attendees were brought back into the main zoom room and assorted into their next groups.

Despite feeling a bit nervous about speaking to established career leaders, from organisations such as EY, Accenture and The British Army, Meg was eager for the opportunity to speak to new people who could provide her with advice and insight relevant to her career goals. “It was a really exciting day”, she said. “I was a little bit nervous, but it was quite nice knowing. that you could get so much from the event, without feeling like you were going to be marked on the conversation. They were there for you, and it was kind of as informal as you wanted it to be. As soon as you got onto the calls you saw that there were friendly, warm people who just genuinely wanted to help and give you as much advice as they could”. The relaxed atmosphere of the online event was also aided by the authentic desire of the mentors to help out in whatever way they could. “The people that are signing up for these events aren’t doing it to tick a box, they’re doing it because they genuinely want to help the next generation get to where they are.”

Because of the reassurance and positivity Meg received from the mentors she spoke to during the carousel session, she saw highlighted the importance of networking, and the role it plays throughout career progression and development. Additionally, the breadth of experiences Meg could tap into by speaking to people from all different sectors enabled her to get an objective perspective on her career ambitions and the challenges that face her as a ‘Class of 2021’ graduate. “There are people from so many different backgrounds. It’s not just consultants and big banks, it’s the whole spectrum”, she said. “You kind of think you’ll have one career and that’s it, but hearing how they all merge together was really eye-opening”. “As a graduate, it can seem really daunting when most of your life you’ve only really known academic peers and you’ve not really been introduced to these kinds of people before, but just remember they’ve been in exactly the same position as you”.

One such mentor who had recently been in the same position as Meg, was Hannah Aldred, who Meg got chatting to in one of the carousel mentoring break-out rooms. As an employee on the O2 graduate scheme, Hannah had a wealth of advice to offer, as Meg had an interview for a graduate scheme at a similar telecommunications organisation just a few days after the carousel session. After meeting during the session, Meg and Hannah connected on LinkedIn, and Hannah offered to help Meg prepare for her upcoming grad scheme assessment. “She had a lot of really good insight into what the assessment centre was going to be like. So when we started speaking and I told her about my assessment centre, she couldn’t help enough […] she prepared some really detailed questions and spent well over an hour with me on a zoom call the night before my assessment centre just running through questions and giving really invaluable advice. I really couldn’t thank her enough”.

As well as getting direct and transferable advice for her upcoming assessment centre, speaking to Hannah also allowed Meg to humanise the realities of the working world. “You sometimes see these jobs advertised and think “well who’s actually getting them?””, Meg reflected. But after speaking to a normal, friendly person like Hannah, the mystique and distance between Meg and the professional world dissipated, and made her career ambitions seem all the more realistic and tangible. So tangible in fact, that Meg was successful in her assessment centre and has now secured a place on the graduate scheme!  

If you’re looking for ways to level up your career progression, or are about to take your first steps as a graduate into the world of work, Meg highly recommends signing up to a mentoring opportunity with Northern Power Women. “I already knew about a lot of the opportunities on offer in the north west but it’s just really kind of emphasised just how many are out there, and that these people really do want to help. The help and advice is there it’s just ready to be taken […] Everyone was just so positive, and it seems like a no-brainer for students to get involved with these kinds of events”.