Guided by advice from one of the world’s top media minds, communications graduate Mim Kempson has a distinct edge as she starts on her career journey.
Kempson is flying to Sydney this month for an internship with Vogue – something she doubts would have happened if she hadn’t taken up an RMIT industry mentorship during her studies.
As one of six students mentored by RMIT alumnus and Newscorp CEO Robert Thomson, she was able to join her fellow students to chat with the global media leader every three months in an online forum.
But Kempson, who graduated with a Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) last year, was also lucky enough to go one step further and tour the offices of the Wall Street Journal with Thomson in New York.
“Thinking of the [industry mentorship] experience as just an ‘added extra’ to my education is a grand understatement,” Kempson says.
“It was rewarding on so many levels and I would tell any student to give one a shot.”
Here she shares more about the value of industry mentoring and how to make the most of the opportunities it can lead to.
What was one of the first things you learned from getting to chat with Robert?
Honestly, and it sounds like such a nagging high school teacher thing to say, but I definitely learned to plan my questions and be prepared.
My fellow mentees and I worked together to come up with concise, set questions in order to make the most of every one of the 60 minutes spent with Robert in the forum.
Simply looking prepared is also a plus; it’s awkward to scramble around for something extra to drive conversation. After all, for the most part it’s generally the mentee who’s responsible for governing the direction and structure of each session.
From Robert we gained a global and corporate perspective on how digital technologies are shaping the news industry, and found out about the status and demands of the current job market. That kind of firsthand insight is one of the best things students could take from getting a mentor of their own.
How would you advise students to make the most of an industry mentorship?
It might be obvious, but it’s an absolute no-no to ask your mentor outright for a job. They’re there to give you advice on how to get employed, not to employ you.
I was really lucky because I was studying abroad and living in North America for almost the entire duration of the mentorship, which made for an entirely different experience than if I’d been in Melbourne.
So the tour of the Wall Street Journal happened pretty organically. The conversations in the online sessions were always stilted by technical glitches and awkward time delays. It was annoying but it turned out to be another factor towards getting such an awesome opportunity.
So, what happened?
Well, the system fully crashed. It was the second mentorship session, and for five minutes the CEO of News Corp and I were the only ones present in our regular Google Chat. Seeing as Robert was in New York at the time, North America naturally fell into the conversation.
It was only moments before Vietnam and Australia tuned back in that Robert very generously offered me the exclusive tour. Only a seven-hour drive away, it wasn’t out of the question to drop by Sixth Avenue for a quick “hello”.
The moral of this story is to let things happen naturally. If they’re meant to, they will.
So strategy and networking played a pretty important role in going from student to Vogue intern?
I’m not suggesting you draw up a strategic plan on how to win friends and influence people.
Be receptive, and only act if the timing is right. My chat with Robert at the Journal was cut short when his assistant alerted us that his next meeting, lunch with “the ambassador”, had been pushed forward.
I’d planned on asking Robert about internship opportunities but had run out of time. Instead, I wrote a follow-up thank you note to his assistant who had kindly coordinated the tour, and showed my initiative there.
After months of email correspondences and patiently trusting that things would work out, I finally secured myself the internship at Vogue.
Story: Sean O’Malley