Choosing education paths that are right for you whilst keeping in mind future career options can be very challenging for many 16 -17 year olds, who are in the early stages of formulating their ideas, goals and aspirations for life. Business mentoring can be instrumental in helping students to make these important decisions, and is also a great way to establish an all-important network of valuable professional contacts. Ex-Tower Hamlets sixth former Mohammad Khan provides an insight into his career journey and the contact he had with the world of work during sixth form, and how it has inspired him to become an Alumni Ambassador for Tower Hamlets EBP.
For Mohammad Khan, the path to a career in a fascinating branch of science seemed clear. He left Cambridge Heath Sixth Form in 2012 with excellent A Level results and went on to study Audiology at the University of Southampton, having been awarded a Lloyd’s University Bursary. Lloyd’s University Bursaries are for students from Tower Hamlets who want to study at a university outside of London. The aim of the bursaries is to enable high achieving local students to go to the right university for them and study the subject of their choice.
“Sciences were a strong point for me, so I knew I wanted to study something that had an element of human anatomy, which is how I came across Audiology. However, during my A Level studies, I also realised that I had an interest in the insurance industry which was sparked by taking part in the Lloyd’s Business Mentoring Programme. What struck me about this industry was the strong sense of team work and the shared goal of achieving client satisfaction. I felt well-suited to the mix of skills required: the need for good numerical ability as well as an analytical mind set, along with an eagerness to meet new people and establish business relationships.”
Through the mentoring programme, facilitated by Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership, Mohammad was also able to start networking with insurance professionals, a critical element of a successful business life. He explains: “By speaking to other professionals and being able to confidently connect with them, I was able to pick up the technical language they used and gain an insight into the qualifications needed to get into the industry, which was extremely helpful.”
Whilst his prior commitment to his Audiology degree did not waiver, Mohammad decided to learn as much as possible about the insurance industry during this time. He says: “I realised that whilst my Audiology studies satisfied my thirst for science, I’d had a change of heart in terms of my career choice, and I knew that insurance was the way forward for me. It was the contact I’d had with people from the world of work, and the learning's from my mentoring experience that gave me the confidence to alter my path.”
Mohammad cites his mentoring experience with Lloyd’s as crucial in this decision: “The world of insurance had been brought to life for me and I drew on these insights heavily in the decision-making process. I had come to know people who studied non-business related subjects at university such as geography or the sciences who are now working in the insurance industry, so I thought to myself - why not do the same?”
Mohammad is now studying for a Masters Degree in Corporate Risk and Security Management at the University of Southampton in view of expanding his knowledge of insurance and financial risk management. The university has awarded him a full scholarship for the MSc. He comments: “It was through mentoring that I found out what I was really passionate about, and this made me work harder to get the grades I needed to be able to pursue that career. In a way, having the benefit of the network of contacts that came about via mentoring has been career defining for me. Because of this, I am keen to help others realise the value of networking, and I’m delighted to be an Alumni Ambassador for Tower Hamlets EBP.”
Taking into account the ever increasing standards required by recruiters and the level of competition, Mohammad also emphasises the importance of work experience: “Applicants need to make sure they stand out, and work placements can really help in many ways. Reading about a certain profession online can spark an interest in someone, but it’s the real life experience that can really make you passionate about a profession. For example, I’ve recently completed an internship as an actuarial analyst at Mitsui Sumitomo. Beforehand I wasn’t too sure about what becoming an actuary would entail. My perception of an actuary was altered greatly after the internship. I found it very interesting the way that they work with underwriters and exposure analysts, combining their expertise to make vital decisions that can result in a remarkable profit or a substantial loss for the company.”
Mohammad’s Top Tip for Sixth Formers Navigating the Path to Their Career
“Say yes to everything! Just go for it… it might be mentoring, work experience or even attending a workshop, just get involved as much as possible. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to create a professional network for yourself and join groups such as the Tower Hamlets EBP’s Alumni Network to get yourself known. If it’s early days and you’re not sure what you want to do, it’s a great way to talk to as many different people as possible and you are sure to find inspiration along the way.”