It’s the launch of the School of Economics’ First in My Family Mentoring Program (FIMF), and the first opportunity for mentors and mentees to connect face-to-face, after being paired based on their career goals, experience, and personal fit.
Over the next five months, mentors and mentees will meet at least once a month and set up a series of goals, covering networking, skills development, applying for a job, and transitioning to the professional environment. In addition, mentees will complete a reflective journal after each session, taking note of key information and analysing what worked, what didn’t work, and how to improve for the next meeting.
For many students, the path from graduation to employment can be difficult, but for those who are the first in their family to attend university, the journey holds more challenges. The fundamental difference is that first generation university students do not have access to the same insights as those whose parents have successfully navigated university before them.
According to mentee Joel Forister, “Because I’m the first in my family, I can’t really ask my family for uni advice. There are a lot of difficult choices to make at university and I signed up for First in My Family because I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet somebody who’s been in the same position.”
The First in My Family Mentoring Program leverages the existing knowledge and experience of School of Economics alumni to support students who are the first in their family to attend university, giving them the support and guidance required to navigate that transition between education and employment.
“Outside of university, the options you have are overwhelming, especially with economics because there are so many different fields you can go into,” says mentee Billy Ghaida. “I want to get a sense of direction in terms of my career.”
BEc/LLB student Amos Potter agrees. “I think degrees aren’t always directly preparing you for the workforce, so this face-to-face interaction is exactly what I need. I’m looking to benefit from the experiences of the mentors who are industry leaders and use what they’ve learned over their careers to help me progress from study to work.”
This view is shared by the mentors, with Edwina Chen of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council stating, “Often when you’re starting out in a career, there are so many unknowns. You can ask your family and friends for advice but it’s different to having someone in the industry.”
The high calibre of graduates participating in the First in My Family Mentoring Program demonstrates the variety of areas an Economics degree can be applied, from Wayne Lonergan (founding director of Lonergan Edwards & Associates), Abdallah Allaou (Analytics Manager, Aldi Australia), to Thomas Morgan (Institute for Economics and Peace) and Eliza Owen (Commercial Research Anaylst, CoreLogic and upcoming Outside the Square speaker).
For some mentors, many of whom have been in the same position as their mentees, the program presents an opportunity to give back to their community.
“A few years ago, I was on the other side of the mentoring relationship and a mentee myself, and I benefited hugely from the experience. My mentor passed some great insights on to me and I’m glad of the opportunity to pay it forward,” says mentor Junran Cao, economist for the ATO.
Mentor Robert Montgomery, Chief Economist & Head of Policy at Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, believes programs like FIMF will continue to diversify the industry. “Because economics is a social science, there should be more people in standard economics roles coming from different backgrounds. The more people we can get from diverse backgrounds into economics, the better the field will be.”
The First in My Family Mentoring Program may still be in its infancy, but with just over a quarter of the School of Economics student body being the first in their family to attend university, there is no doubt that the demand is there.
“The generosity of the mentors has been overwhelming,” says mentee Joshua Peters. “I have definitely set some ambitious goals for myself and I’m excited to see where this goes.”