Published: 02 August 2023

“Know who you are and be resilient”

Graham Cook graduated with a BSc in Economics from the University in 1991. Following a 30-year career, he’s now mentoring students on SurreyConnects. He explains why…

Why did you join SurreyConnects?

I wanted to support students and recent graduates who are starting their careers as I near the end of mine. I hope my experience having “been there and done it” can help those less experienced.

I know when I was at University, I would have found a mentor extremely valuable. I appreciate this value is enhanced if the experience either by sector or role is relevant to the student’s interests. SurreyConnects is such a great tool because it facilitates this sort of relevant match.

What motivates you to engage with and support students?

I want to help others and share my experience so they are more informed, make better decisions and better present themselves in the hugely competitive world of work. However, it’s not all altruistic. I find it hugely rewarding for me personally.

The energy, proactivity, new perspectives and intellect today’s cohort of graduates have is incredibly inspiring, and it’s helped me find new angles at work and in my career. It really is a mutually beneficial relationship.

What would you say to encourage a fellow graduate to mentor students?

Firstly, I’d ask them to think about how much they’d have valued such support and insight when they were graduating. Secondly, I’d reassure them that it is beneficial to them, too.

They’ll learn a lot about themselves and their careers through the thoughtful engagement of the students they mentor.

What do you wish to gain from SurreyConnects?

The opportunity to help others so they’re better prepared for the competitive world of work as they set off on their career journey is always a rewarding experience. I’m also keen to support the University and build a stronger relationship with it because I so enjoyed my time studying at Surrey.

What advice would you give to students who are starting to network and build their career?

I’d advise students to carefully consider their strengths, development needs and their values. If these are documented, the students can refer to them to inform decisions on the relative suitability of sectors, roles or employers.

By knowing oneself, one can make better informed decisions and maximise the chance of success and happiness. A mentor can also help assess this.

I’d advise them to be “brave” as networking can be daunting. But by being thoughtful and engaging as you approach others, you’ll often tap into their desire to help, and benefit from their experience and perspectives. Just remember, you’re not asking for a job and, unfortunately, not all people are helpful. But be resilient if you have a bad experience!

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