Recently, we successfully completed Phase 3 of Meet a Mentor with some outcomes we are very proud of. 15 aspiring creatives were paired with 15 industry professional mentors and lots of exciting things are happening as a result. Jobs and internships have been secured, friendships made, advice given and networks formed.
Here Janice Woyo (mentee), a budding fashion designer, who was paired with Fashion Events Producer Louise Nindi reflects on her experience of being on the programme, what she has learned about herself from her mentor and the important things she gleaned from our speaker Chris Pearce CEO of TMW Unlimited at the final session.
Coming into the final Meet a Mentor session, I felt discouraged in a way because of the doubtful thoughts that I allowed to plague my mind. I started to question myself and wonder, ‘What am I going to say to my mentor Louise when I see her, have I even made any progress?’. It was only when I sat down and spoke to her that I decided to be honest with her about myself, the goals that I wanted to achieve in my life and things that I felt were in the way of achieving them.
This is one of the things that I am really going to miss about the Meet a Mentor sessions. The connections went deeper than just surface level. Louise was more than just a mentor, she was like a caring friend who sat, listened and understood the personal struggles in my day-to-day life. She was also prepared to challenge me a bit too. She even mentioned more than once that she saw herself in me when she was younger and finding out what she wanted to do. She could relate to where I was coming from in terms of having high levels of anxiety and trying to push through that to become what I want to become.
Before starting the Meet a Mentor programme, we were asked to write down our goals for what we wanted to achieve whilst on the programme and these were shared with our mentors. It wasn’t until the last of our four monthly sessions that these were handed back to us and we were able to look and see what we had written down and reflect on whether we had made any progress. In my mind, I had originally thought that I hadn’t achieved what I set out to achieve but it was only after speaking to Louise that I realised that I needed to give myself more credit. I’ve started to notice the things that I’ve done and how much I have done in a relatively short space of time.
It was encouraging and uplifting to know that someone else saw the bigger picture and noticed that I was moving closer to achieving the rest of my goals. For example, one of the tasks that I was given was to research companies within fashion and production that I wanted to work for and send out emails to them expressing my interest in working alongside them. I found this task really challenging because of the fears and doubts that I had about myself but I knew that I had to do this just so that I could overcome these insignificant negative thoughts and build my confidence. The task did just that and it helped knowing that Louise believed in me and knew that something was going to come from doing this. If it wasn’t for the communication that we had or her reaching out to help me I never would have approached some of the companies I’d love to work for, like ASOS or Dazed and Confused.
Another key aspect of the session, which I found to be really uplifting came from the CEO of TMW Unlimited Chris Pearce. In a talk titled, ‘And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?’ Chris spoke about his personal journey throughout his career, including the highs and the lows that led him to where he is today. What I had found really interesting was the way that he had referenced musical icon David Byrne and his song titled ‘And You May Ask Yourself — Well, How Did I Get Here?’ He used the narrative to describe the different stages of his life and the ways in which he overcame them. It’s almost as if the song provoked his own thoughts whenever things seemed to be going wrong but he always found the answer in his darkest moments.
I believe that the doubt, frustration or even the feeling like you’re going nowhere happens to most of us as we struggling to attempt to get into our career paths but there’s always that one song or specific lyric to a song or even just a word that gives us just enough strength to pull ourselves together and this is what I think the song did for Chris Pearce. It gave him a sense of hope, encouragement and determination to continue onwards to eventually find success. After he finished his presentation I think we all left the session feeling refreshed and knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that if we kept pushing we will find our own sense of victory despite the obstacles that will inevitably be in our way.
It was funny that after the talk, my mentor Louise and I looked at each other and both said that we needed to hear what he had to say. Even though Louise is a successful producer, she too is human and has her own occasional doubts, and just listening to Chris most probably inspired her to keep pushing to be an even greater producer than she already is.
Listening to Chris was indeed something that I need just to boost my self-confidence and to keep on pushing for what I wanted to pursue in my life. He made me realise that I am human and that everyone else is going through the exact same struggle, it’s how you make it out of the struggle that will have the greatest impact to your life.
A few key points really resonated with me during Chris Pearce’s talk such as, learn how to manage your nerves, recognise the symptoms and don’t let them hold you back; when going to an interview make a personal connection with your interviewer, find your personal connection early because it helps the interviewer relax; always have resilience, energy and curiosity; what other people think of you is not important, it’s all about what you think of yourself and sometimes in life you have fantastic experiences and you learn from the bad ones.
Overall, I can now say that I am more confident in myself than ever and most importantly, I believe in my talent and my abilities and I know that I have a lot to offer in terms of creativity. Although this Meet a Mentor programme has come to an end, Louise will always be a mentor of mine. I owe it to her and myself to never give up even when the road gets tough and to make sure that I make something happen. I know that in the future, I will become a great asset to a fashion company or perhaps I may even become my own greatest asset if I decide to start my own fashion company.