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Sophie Weston.

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

A University of Chester initiative helping students benefit from the guidance of their predecessors is putting Maya Angelou’s words into practice - and a recent graduate has hailed its support in achieving her dream career role.

Sophie Weston was part of the Graduate Peer Mentoring scheme during her time at the University and after graduating with a first-class BA Honours degree in Marketing Management, she is now embarking on her next adventure as a Digital Marketing and Design Officer.

The 22-year-old from North Wales said: “My proudest moment yet has been achieving a first-class honours degree in Marketing Management, which has enabled me to pursue my dream career. Since finishing my degree, I have gained a specialist marketing job and I attribute my job application and interview success to my Graduate Peer Mentor, Joseph Kelly.

“I volunteered to take part in the Graduate Peer Mentoring scheme to gain insight from professionals working in the industry. It was a great scheme and I am very grateful to have been a part of it.”

Matching final year students with graduates in the same field to share good practice, provide advice and support, the scheme Sophie took part in was run by the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) and the Department of Marketing and Sales from Chester Business School. The University also offers peer mentoring programmes, where second and third year undergraduates mentor students who are in their first or second year.

While the Graduate Peer Mentoring initiative stands out for Sophie, it was far from the only opportunity she dedicated herself to during her time at University.

“Alongside studying for my degree, I also took advantage of the opportunities that were offered to me by the University, such as venture sessions - developing entrepreneurialism - and internships. My internships included working with a start-up social business to raise funds through a crowdfunding campaign as a digital marketer and working with Cheshire Football Association as a marketing assistant. I also took on a role as committee member for the Event Society, where I met some amazing people.

“In fact, the best thing about my experience at Chester has been the opportunities I had to meet professionals, gain extra knowledge, and expand on my skills. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the most of the opportunities that are provided at the University, or if you believe none are right for you, to go out and find opportunities to develop your skills because knowledge really is power.

“The opportunities and what I gained through them are invaluable. I was naive as a first-year student to begin with and if it wasn’t for taking the opportunities I did, when I did, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Sophie went on to explain how these were among the reasons Chester was the right choice for her degree studies.

“I decided to study at Chester as it is a city close to home, that felt safe with a lot of opportunities. After visiting an Open Day at the University and seeing all of what they had to offer, I decided this was definitely a place I could see myself studying at, for the next three years.

“I was based at Queen’s Park Campus, and chose the course because I believe that marketing is perhaps the most important part of business and I was keen to study Marketing Management at the University of Chester, to gain the relevant knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in this field.

“The three years I spent studying Marketing were very insightful and I learnt a lot from the lecturers along with guest speakers. It was a very interesting course and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.”

Sophie’s drive to pursue a career in Marketing also helped her to overcome the challenges of the global pandemic - and develop further skills and experience in working digitally.

“Whilst studying my degree, along with everyone else, I had to overcome the uncertainty of COVID-19. In March 2020, during my second year COVID-19 disrupted teaching and students like myself were forced to adapt to a new style of learning. Little did we know it was to last at least another 12 months.

“I can confidently say that COVID-19 challenged me, but I adapted, overcame the situation and came out of it stronger and wiser. I was one of the first students at the University to undertake a completely virtual internship placement,” she said.

As Sophie looks ahead to an exciting future, she hopes to be able to herself give back to students who follow in her footsteps: “As I embark on my next adventure as Digital Marketing and Design Officer I will look to continue to develop in Marketing and eventually in the future I will be able to share my knowledge and skills with other aspiring marketers.”

Sophie’s mentor, Joseph Kelly, who is an External Communications and Marketing Manager at Community Integrated Care said: “Mentoring Sophie has been an absolute pleasure and I’m so proud she has been able to secure the role she very much deserves.

“The Graduate Peer Mentoring programme really does give students a unique opportunity to learn from alumni who are now industry professionals and help guide them into their graduate careers.”

Julie Marshall, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, added: "Seeing our final year Marketing students connecting with our Marketing graduates is wonderful, for me, as their lecturer.

“Knowing there is a flow of learning and mutual benefit in both directions, between both mentees and mentors, is a rich outcome of this project. I look forward to future generations of our Marketing students having the opportunity to make professional connections with those who have followed similar paths, in the years to come."

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