Mentoring kindles fresh perspectives and renewed career enthusiasm

Participating in the FBE Career Mentoring Program has given Denise a simple way to give back to the university community while gaining ongoing inspiration that is fuelling her own career.

Participating as a mentor in the Faculty of Business and Engineering (FBE) Career Mentoring Program has enabled alum Denise Yeong to give back to the university community. But it has also given her the opportunity to reflect and grow as a professional herself.

Mentor Denise.
Mentor Denise Yeong.

“As we progress further in our careers, sometimes we lose track of the early years when we’re so eager and motivated to put ourselves out there and learn new things,” she says. “I get inspired by all my student mentees. I love to learn about their backgrounds, their culture, their motivations. All of that inspires me to keep mentoring.”

Denise enrolled at the University of Melbourne as an international student, studying a Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Management. Both degrees were the building blocks for her current career, and she now works as a Senior Investment Analyst at AustralianSuper. As a postgraduate, Denise first got a taste for mentoring by signing up as a student mentee. She wanted to find out more information about the process of applying for work in Australia while also meeting professionals in her field.

“For mentees, mentoring is valuable because you get the opportunity to speak with someone who has gone through the job application process before. Maybe you can learn from their mistakes, or learn from what they went through, and that hopefully makes the path easier for you. And it helps you build connections with people in the industry.”

In the FBE Career Mentoring Program, local and internationally based professionals are matched with undergraduate and postgraduate students from across all Faculty of Business and Economics disciplines.

“I’ve met many interesting students over my years mentoring. It’s always a highlight to be able to connect with the student community, learn about their hopes and dreams for their career. It always inspires me, how driven they are.”

Mentee Zirong.
Mentee Zirong Xu.

Treating students as professionals

Denise’s most recent student mentee is Zirong Xu, a graduate student in banking. As an international student who wants to pursue a career in equity research or asset management, Zirong signed up to mentoring because he was looking for an opportunity to learn about professional life in Australia.

“I wanted to find a place to practice my networking skills,” Zirong explains. “Sometimes, I found myself feeling quite nervous when networking with others. I wanted to practice this. As an international student, we also have added layers of difficulty, like language barriers. And I wanted to just find people in the industry who could offer me some advice.”

Because Zirong was based in China, his first few sessions with Denise were held online. But he then moved to Melbourne, and they both decided that the opportunity to meet in-person would be enriching and rewarding. The duo met for coffee, and Zirong says he is grateful for Denise’s help in many different areas.

Mentor and mentee meeting between Denise and Zirong.
Mentee Zirong and mentor Denise.

“Denise has offered me so much advice. On developing transferable skills, on feeling less nervous when I approach professionals, and on interviewing. She also helped me to improve my CV.”

Denise says she was struck by Zirong’s passionate approach to kickstarting his career. “What struck me, even through the screen [on Zoom], was I could always see he was well prepared. I think that’s one of Zirong’s strengths, actually. He is very enthusiastic, and ready to learn and absorb new things.”

They also discussed their differing experiences of applying for work in China and Australia. “I learned a lot about what it is like for a candidate in China, versus a job seeker in Australia,” Denise says. “We were able to share, compare and contrast, and sometimes laugh at the differences!”

A simple way to give back

Denise is a passionate believer in the power of mentoring and says alumni who are interested in participating should not be afraid to give it a try. “I’d encourage alumni to sign up, and maybe they can be inspired by their mentees like I have over the last few years.

Mentor and mentee, Denise and Zirong, walking.
Mentee Zirong Xu and mentor Denise Yeong.

“I’ve encouraged many of my colleagues to join. I always say, it doesn’t take a lot of time, about one hour a month for around six months. And the students are always interested and keen to hear from professionals. If you want to find a simple way to give back, this is a good way to do it."

“It’s a really nice reminder, that sometimes it’s good to take time out of your busy workday and give back.”

Learn more about mentoring at the University.

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