At age 14, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember very clearly: I wanted to be a bestselling novelist. And an archeologist. There was that week where I wanted to be a police officer. Not forgetting the palaeontologist phase...and that was just for starters!
The reason for this trip down memory lane? I am currently mentoring a 14 year old girl as part of a programme run by The Girls' Network, a charity that partners with secondary schools and colleges across the UK to match girls aged 14-19 with a volunteer mentor. The Girls' Network believe that no girl should have their future limited by their gender, background, or parental income and believe that all girls should be supported to realise their ambitions, to discover their self-worth, and to develop their capacity to shape their world and their future, a mission that really resonated with both of us, and so Andrea and I began volunteering for The Girls' Network earlier this year and were matched up with our two lovely mentees from a school in Brighton.
Our latest mentoring session (conducted via Zoom, naturally!) focussed on future career options and the education and skills needed to succeed. I realise how fortunate I was to be a young person in a time of a booming economy with no global pandemic to contend with; to have the opportunity to do work experience at different organisations, to speak to adults in careers I was interested in, to work a weekend job and learn the social skills that would stand me in good stead for when I joined the workplace, and to feel hopeful and excited about the future.
Recent research from The Prince's Trust suggests young people today don't feel as positive about their futures: more than a quarter surveyed felt their future career prospects have already been damaged by the coronavirus crisis and 46 per cent say that finding a job now feels "impossible". Almost half worry it will be harder than ever to get a job once lockdown measures are lifted.
I don't want my mentee to feel that her future is cancelled, or to feel worried or disheartened when she thinks about her future career options. It feels like it's now more important than ever to be a supporter, a champion, to be in her corner and to help seek our opportunities for her and widen her visibility to a whole host of potential career possibilities, which will be done, naturally, in the style of a Terrier!
On that note - if you are an animator, illustrator or artist, or if there's anyone that's got experience of being in front of/behind a camera then please get in touch - we know a couple of 14 year olds who would absolutely love to talk to you!
If you're interested in learning more about The Girls' Network, you can find out more about mentoring and other ways to support their mission here. We're #InThisTogetHER