THE BLOG

Five Things Taylor Swift Can Teach You About Mentoring. No, Really

19/11/2015 11:18 GMT | Updated 18/11/2016 10:12 GMT

What can an aspiring woman in STEM learn from a former country singer with a cat called Olivia? More than you think.

1. We all need a #squad

Defined career paths. Deciding what you want to be at 18. Staying in one company for your whole working life. It's not how it works any more. Which is exciting (yay!) as it means there are a million ways to start building your career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), but also daunting too (boo). Like Swifty, what you need is a #squad of your very own - a group of people of varying ages and professions who can be sounding boards and advisers as you navigate your way through your own career. People who you can call when you're nervous for your first job interview, or who can connect you to their well-established network of STEM role models. Such people are worth their weight in gold, and through our mentoring programme, Student to Stemette (STS), we can help you build your own female #squad.

2. The best mentors come in many forms

In an interview with TIME, Swifty said, "We're taught to find examples for the way we want our lives to wind up. But I can't find anyone, really, who's had the same career trajectory as mine. " So you want to be an engineer, but can't find someone in engineering who has had the career you're aiming for? Don't panic. In some ways, having a mentor who is from a slightly different STEM field to the one you want to enter can be a massive plus. The skills you need to succeed in STEM you can learn from a whole range of people who have succeeded in STEM fields. A breadth of perspectives and insights is essential as you shape your career. For example, although Head Stemette Anne-Marie's career has been tech-focussed, she has mentors from fields as varied as finance and the non-profit sector.

3. Been knocked down? Shake it off.

Venturing out into the world of careers can be more terrifying than when your Mum finds out how to use emojis on Whatsapp. But you're not alone. Failure is an important and unavoidable part of building a career - although that can be hard to see at the time. A mentor, who has the benefit of age and experience behind them, can be an invaluable resource when you face obstacles along the way. That's why we call our mentors "Sherpas" (and refer to mentees as "Sherpees"). In the same way as Nepalese Sherpas, who are regarded as highly skilled mountaineers, lead climbers through their treks, so we hope your Sherpa will offer you guidance and support until your next big career milestone. Aspirant STS Sherpee Maria says she is most looking forward to having a Sherpa who can, "guide me in my search for a meaningful career...and someone who will have faith in my own power to take action." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

4. Dream big. Like record-breaking, Superbowl-dominating, chart-smashing big.

Taylor Swift wasn't born with 55.4 million Instagram followers (that's right, she's got more Insta followers than there are people in Spain). But, through a combination of hard work, big ambition, and a breakup with John Mayer, she did it. Be unashamed about your career goals. Want to revolutionise medical research, build the world's next hottest tech company or win a Nobel Prize? Amazing! A commitment to succeeding in a field you're passionate about is essential - it's what will sustain you through long nights of revision, university applications and job interview prep. Surrounding yourself with people who have built careers in STEM is a crucial part - they will remind you of what is achievable, and will help you to see the bigger picture when achieving your equivalent of a sell-out concert feels veeeeery far away.

5. Don't be afraid to follow your own path

Take a lesson from Taylor's book - she has made a name for herself in making bold decisions which have set her apart from the crowd, like removing her entire back catalogue from Spotify. We all know that there aren't enough women in STEM. Sometimes, the thought of working in an industry which isn't traditionally seen as female-friendly may seem super daunting. Enter your mentor. On days like this, have one (or two, or three) experienced people in STEM who you can look to as examples of what is possible makes all the difference. Ellie, a Sherpee from last year's STS programme, says, "Student to Stemette helped me build my confidence. It reassured me that I wasn't the only girl who liked doing science. It's a scheme which gave me a helping hand from someone who was just like me." You can read more about Ellie's experiences as a Sherpee here.

Entering the world of STEM can be exciting, daunting and overwhelming. But there are generations of inspiring women who have walked that path before you, and want to be your Sherpa. All you need to do is apply. Because in the words of Emma Watson, another inspiring Woman in STEM (being a wizard counts, right?), "If not you, who? If not now, when?"

Jo Cruse is Stemettes' Communications and PR Lead, and a communications consultant. She's passionate about enabling girls to fulfil their highest potential, and is currently obsessed with growth hacking (whole days have been lost to the creation of cat memes). You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (where she has slightly fewer followers than Taylor).

Student to Stemette is run by Stemettes and supported by Deutsche Bank. You can follow @StudentStemette and check out website StudentToStemette.org.

Co-authored by Jo Cruse, Stemettes' Communications & PR Lead