The power of mentoring in bridging barriers to success
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
It’s results day. You wake up anxious, overthinking and there are so many emotions running through your head. You get to school, open your results and see that you underachieved and/or failed most of your exams. Ouch.
That was me, in 2015 and 2017, for both my GCSEs and A-Levels. I was predicted A*’S and A’s, but got C’s. “I’m a failure”, “I’m not good enough” - all these thoughts were running through my head. However, one thing that kept me going was that I knew my mum would still be proud of me regardless and I had to keep going and make her proud.
My name is Kevin and I am the founder of Bridging Barriers, a social mobility charity that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access employment through mentoring. I set up Bridging Barriers after failing university twice. Whilst struggling with confidence and self-esteem, a mentor changed my life, helped me get back on my feet, graduate with a 2:1 and secure three internships.
One thing that life has taught me is that some people are geared for academic life and some people are not. It’s very important that you do not determine your future prospects based on your academic attainment - your life is not defined by your grades!
I was supposed to go to a Russell Group University, however due to not meeting my expected grades, I didn’t make my firm or … choice. I was gutted. I thought to myself, “how will I succeed in life without getting top grades or going to a top university?” Little did I know that you don’t need to go to Oxbridge, or a Russell Group University to succeed in life. You can still break through the market if you don’t get the best grades.
You may be wondering how, Kevin? The market is so competitive, I don’t come from a privileged background, I don’t have connections in the corporate world, how can I succeed? Well, neither did I. And neither do the young people that I work with at my charity Bridging Barriers, but there’s one thing that the young people we work with have - hunger. They are hungry to succeed. They are determined to get into positions that their parents didn’t have the opportunity to get into, and 60 per cent of our alumni have gone on to secure full-time employment within one year of completing our mentoring programme.
I’ll give you an example - meet Faith. Faith is a mentee from our programme, a young black woman who was the first in her family to attend university and study law. Here’s her story.
“I was the first child in my family to attend university and to study law. As a student who did not attend a Russell Group university and had no prior legal work experience, I feared I could not get my foot in the door.
During Covid-19, submitting applications for a 12 month industrial placement was daunting, and I faced multiple rejections and questioned myself. I applied to Bridging Barriers to get a better understanding of how to apply for legal roles and to have someone to guide me through the process.
I was paired with a mentor who was a female who was in the legal profession. We had regular one-to-one meetings where we tailored my CV and cover letters to the applications and learned techniques to make myself stand out while also building on the confidence that was lost.
My mentor guided me through the entire process and helped me to secure a 12-month placement at a global company. She is currently helping me to apply for a training contract. I am so glad and grateful I met her because it would not have been possible without her and Bridging Barriers.”
What is the moral of the story? You can break the barrier, trust me. The world is your oyster!
You don’t have to go to Oxbridge to succeed. Nor do you have to go to a Russell Group university. I didn’t. Part of our strategy at Bridging Barriers is that we help young people who lack positive role models and networks by giving them access to industry professionals who support, guide, and mentor them to achieve career success and bridge the barriers they face. However, there are still a number of young people who need our support. This year, over 40,000 young people could miss out on university places because of lower-than-expected grades. These young people need our support, and we need the support of forward thinking employers who are passionate about helping those from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into positions that their parents weren’t able to.
Kevin Osei is is the founder of Bridging Barriers, a charity which is focused on helping young people to achieve career success through mentoring.
Their objective is to build confidence and resilience in candidates by giving them access to role models who are able to equip them with the resources, tools and mindset to succeed in their field of interest. For more information visit https://www.bridgingbarriers.co.uk/