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My mentoring experience: Allyson Jones

Allyson (Biochemistry, 1983) is an ex-pharmaceutical industry retired Company Director. She has mentored King’s Civic Leadership Academy students and mentors on King’s Connect. Allyson originally embarked on a career in endocrinology research at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London. However, it did not take her long to realise that she was far better at communicating scientific data than at creating it! She changed tack to enter the pharmaceutical business as a writer, eventually co-founding a medical communications company and working across the world to support medical education efforts.

Why do you mentor with King's
I was very fortunate to get a head start in life, by being the first in my family to have the opportunity to get a university education. It helped me create a very successful career. Being retired, I now have the luxury of time to devote to helping students get a good start in their career. Essentially, I’d like to see everyone have the same – or better – opportunities that I did. Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone, so I’d like to do my bit to help.

How have you benefited from your mentoring experience?
It has been heartening to see the effect that a chat about career options and a little help with the CV and interviewing process can have. There is also, of course, the feeling of satisfaction on all sides when the mentee gets that job. But inspiration works in both directions, and I continue to be impressed by the drive, motivation and ingenuity of students in forging their paths.

Why do you think mentoring is important?
I think mentoring is important for students not only for the careers advice and opportunities it might provide but also to give students a link with someone outside the academic environment of King’s. It gives them an opportunity to talk to someone who has been successful outside academia, someone who can help them generate ideas about how they want their own life to shape up. Mentoring is perhaps particularly important for students from less-advantaged backgrounds, or those for whom arrival in London might be a daunting experience. A good mentor should be able to provide a degree of reassurance and increase their confidence, if needed.

Mentoring is probably even more important right now, during the pandemic. Students are having to dig up a huge amount of self-motivation and self-belief as their education has moved online and they find themselves removed from normal student life. Many are unable to attend college premises or mix with faculty and other students with the freedom of more flexible times. Added to this is the uncertainty of the job market. Motivation and reassurance have become especially important in mentoring, and there is more emphasis on investigating a wider range of career options than perhaps would have been the case this time last year.

Mentoring is a wonderful, and often poignant opportunity to provide direct support to a new generation of students. A positive experience for everyone.– Allyson Jones

What do you think are good qualities to have as a mentor?
A good mentor should be able to listen to the student, provide realistic advice, show them some of the opportunities that may be open to them, and help them shape their view of their future. Being outside the academic environment with all its pressures, a good mentor should also help students keep a healthy perspective on life as they progress with their degree.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mentors, or those who might have just started mentoring someone for the first time?
It's important to be available to the the mentee via onscreen links like Zoom or Skype, or at the very least by phone and email, but the mentor should lay out the ground rules up front so that both parties understand and are happy with the likely time commitment. I would add that the time commitment doesn’t have to be onerous; the mentee may just need an occasional chat for reassurance or advice. I would also say to a new or aspiring mentor that they should engage with the student; get to know them and like them, but be sure to preserve a degree of professional distance. They are looking for a mentor, not a BFF!

I’d like to see everyone have the same – or better – opportunities that I did. Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone, so I’d like to do my bit to help.– Allyson Jones

What would you say to recommend mentoring to other alumni?
I would say that the mentor gets as much from mentoring as the mentee. It is a tonic to see a student develop confidence, communication skills, get their heads around the opportunities open to them, and it's a great feeling when a particular objective (eg. getting a job) is met. One of my mentees reached out through King’s Connect because she was interested in Health Communications. We chatted over email, then by phone, then met up and within a few months she had secured two job offers.

What (or who) has had the biggest influence on you to help you achieve your success?
The biggest influences have been:
- My degree, which opened doors that would otherwise have been closed to me, and
- The person who took a chance on giving me a job for which I was supremely unqualified, but which turned out to be the first step in a long and successful career in medical education.

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