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The Girls’ Network mentoring programme was one of a variety of schemes run at Willingdon this year. The programme helped to inspire and empower girls by connecting them with professional female role models. The programme helped to address the multiple barriers facing girls in their classrooms through a one-to-one mentoring scheme for 20 year 10 and 11 girls.

Olivia Bowden joined the scheme to help her grow in confidence and help keep a balance in her studies.

Read her interview below which was written for the Girls’ Network website

Mentee to ambassador - meet Olivia

But why is this network such an important offering to the next generation? Previous mentee and current ambassador based in Eastbourne, Olivia Bowden, says: “My aspirations, I have been told, are far-fetched… But my mentor paid close attention, and without mentoring it would have taken me a lot longer to find an idea of what I really wanted for my future.”

No goal out of reach: why mentoring matters

Olivia joined The Girls’ Network in spring 2021 with an aim to pursue higher education, and turn her passion for English into a career. 

Before she met her mentor, many people told Olivia that, as a young woman in her final year of secondary school, she might want to consider limiting her expectations. But Olivia is steadfast in her conviction, keen to become a professor in English to help other young people, on the edge of their burgeoning careers, flourish. 

“Many people say that, as a girl of my age, it is too soon to think about my future, that I’m ‘reaching for the stars’.” Despite some people’s reservations, Olivia came to mentoring confident about what she aims to do in the future, which her mentor has helped underpin. 

Across 10 sessions, Olivia says: “My mentor not only helped me think about the future with hope and inspiration, but supported me in the present, with any struggles I was having. Before I met my mentor, I had a long list of important careers that I was interested in, each with their own list of worries. With my mentor, I managed to untangle the mess of jobs and anxiety related to a future career, and explore each one.”

“My mentor paid close attention to my future aspirations; it felt like she was making a continuous effort to know me as a person, as well as a mentee.”

Role modelling: the long-term impact

Mentoring benefits young women in many different ways and for Olivia, it was about having someone outside of home and school who she could rely on and receive useful advice from:

“Personally, I think a lot of young women lack a role model to follow, especially in the context of careers. My mentor went above and beyond to support me. I felt completely comfortable talking to her about any issues or worries, and she still supports me to this day.”

She continues, “Young girls everywhere are not being shown their potential, and lack guidance. Mentoring helped me as I was given a great role model to follow, and a guide to step onto the path of a career. That small amount of support really improved my confidence, and I felt that I knew more about my future, and ended up feeling a lot more secure.”

Olivia’s journey as a mentee might be over, but she remains a member of The Girls’ Network as an ambassador. Reflecting on her journey, and the worth of mentoring in her life, she says: “For me, having a mentor has been a beam of support that I needed, someone to look up to and feel inspired by, as well as someone to motivate me for the future; almost like a really supportive friend to confide in. I was sad that I had finished the programme but optimistic for the future.”

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Student Voice

College Interview

"Earlier today I had my college interview for Lewes and I think it went very well. At first I was nervous, but I became more confident as the call progressed. I must thank you for organising the mock interviews for us, as it gave me more confidence and it was really helpful! In my mock interview, I was nervous throughout, but I felt less nervous this time round!!" 

Leonor Ramos Monteiro

Former Student

Choosing a Career Path

Choosing the right career option is a difficult process and only a lucky minority manage to choose the right path for them from a young age, while the majority of people find themselves questioning what is right for many years, even beyond GCSEs and A levels. 

So what is the right career path for you? Maybe it’s medicine, maybe it’s hospitality or maybe it’s a completely new business endeavour. Whatever it may be, you do not need to decide straight away. Although people might tell you how important choosing the right career path early on is, the truth is that you have your whole life to choose!

However, people usually give this advice for one very important reason - your decisions now will either restrict you or open up any door you may wish to explore in the future. Decisions we make now will sit on our CV’s, and for future employers, these pieces of paper are extremely important in deciding whether or not to employ you. Therefore, you need to make sure that you are fully equipped. 

How do you start this process to give yourself the best possible chances in the future?

1) Do your absolute best at school: Yes, school is a fun place to be with friends but to make more friends and have incredible opportunities in the future you need to make sure you do your best at school and get the GCSEs and A levels you deserve. If you want to travel with your friends at university, the only way you will be able to get to university is to do the best you can at school.

2) Gather as much evidence: Accumulate as much proof as possible to show you are the best and most interesting person for any future job. We’ve all had those super boring conversations with someone where we ask them their interests and they say ‘oh nothing really, I just like to sleep’. As much as we say that to our friends, a future employer is not going to want someone who lies around all day. Become part of your student council - maybe think about applying for Head Girl or Boy, like Michael and I. Volunteer outside of school - local farms, stables, libraries and many more are all looking for people. Do work experience - work experience is great for helping you to make decisions about your future career and it gives you lots of evidence to prove how hard you can work. Create your own business - future employers love to see a good work ethic and during covid, there are loads of online courses for work experience which are great! There are so many opportunities out there for you to gain interesting life experience, you might not enjoy them all but at least you have learnt something from it. If you never try, you’ll never know!

3) Look at what your future could hold: These can be short term or long term goals but one thing that helps me is planning. For example, my short term goals are for my GCSE grades to all be Grade 7’s and above. Whereas, my long term goal is to move to France. You don’t have to think about your career in this part yet but if you know where you want to move to in the future or what your interests are, you can understand what career is best for you and what money you will need and how flexible it will need to be.

My future will hopefully be within veterinary medicine. This is something that I have always wanted to do but in the last few months, my interests and long term goals are have led me to research veterinary medicine within the army. This just goes to show how quickly and easily your perspective can change, so don’t be hard on yourself about your career. As you grow and gather more experience your understanding of jobs and what is right for you will change. The one thing you must remember is that your future is impacted on what you do now so give yourself the best starting point you can!

Lowri Lambird-George

Former Student

Student Career Guide 2022-23


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