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University Mentor helps student Mariah succeed

Date 19.02.2021

Events Management student Mariah Westlake has benefited from a mentor while studying for her degree at the University of Northampton.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the events industry to close in the blink of an eye in March 2020. For student Mariah, these dramatic changes to the sector she has aspirations to work in focused her mind, and with an eye on her career prospects, she embarked on a mentoring relationship with James Knox, UON Graduate and Environmental and Social Governance Manager at Ricoh UK.

The University of Northampton’s Events, Tourism, and Hospitality programme, offers students unique access to industry experts as mentors, Mariah grabbed this opportunity with both hands.

Mariah said: “As part of the course, our tutor, Claire Leer, Senior Lecturer in Events Management and Tourism, held a virtual meet and greet for students and mentors. It was great to hear from the professional mentors about their experience and areas of interest.

“At the end of the session, I knew I wanted to work with James. He graduated from the University of Northampton, and since then has had a wide range of roles, from serving police officer to events management roles with big brands. At the time, I wasn’t sure what area of events I want to work in, so I thought his varied experience would help me.”

James and Mariah started their mentoring relationship in October 2019, but quickly went virtual, or met for a lockdown dog walking and coaching sessions, when restrictions permitted.

Mariah continued: “From our very first email exchanges James was so friendly and helpful, always providing thorough and detailed answers to my queries, and encouraging me to think differently.

“James has been invaluable support when it comes to assignments too, everything from helping me to focus my thinking, and tightening up my writing, to signposting me to good industry examples to bring into my work. Working with James has built my confidence so much.”

James has supported Mariah through a challenging final year of her studies and is helping Mariah to focus her mind on her first career steps.

James, himself a graduate of the University of Northampton, said: “When I graduated, I didn’t feel as though I really knew what working for a living would be like, and I certainly didn’t have a career roadmap set out. I believe that if I had the support of a mentor, I would have found my path a lot quicker. It’s this personal reflection that motivated me to be a mentor.

“Mariah has thrown herself into our mentoring sessions, she always comes well prepared, taking away actions and ideas, trying suggestions I make, and talking about what does and doesn’t work for her.”

Looking to the future, Mariah is feeling positive, she said: “Working with James has helped to clarify my sense of what I’m aiming for once I graduate. James had a great influence on my development and gave me the confidence and courage to follow my dreams of becoming a wedding planner. He even used his connections to help me get valuable work experience at a wedding venue. The mentoring from James has been beneficial in so many ways, I couldn’t recommend it enough.

“James has always made time for me whenever I needed to talk and this experience has left me inspired and motivated.”

James said: “University is the place to utilise all the opportunities and contacts you receive before you go into the workplace. Working with Mariah, and the other UON students I’ve mentored, confirms my belief in the power of mentoring and the change that’s possible – on both sides. I’ve learned a lot from Mariah too, boosting my own personal development. It is a tough time at the moment, but I’m very proud of her achievements. I think it’s so important to support young people coming into industry, they’ve got a lot to learn about business, but they’ve got lots to teach us about the future.”