What it’s like to be a mentor with the Aspiring Professionals Programme

The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) is a charity dedicated to making a practical improvement in social mobility for high-achieving young people from low-income backgrounds. Through SMF, students are given access to mentoring, work placements and other resources to support them in applying for competitive universities and top jobs.

Carpmaels & Ransford has worked with SMF for several years, providing mentors for the e-mentoring programme and running annual work placements. We now have 20 mentors in the firm who provide advice and support for sixth formers who are preparing for university applications and final year exams.

I really enjoyed my time at Carpmaels & Ransford. Everyone was really kind and welcoming and I learned a lot about patent law and IP firms.

SMF student – work placement 2019

Emma Richardson, Learning and Development Advisor and Work Placement Organiser

In 2019, we hosted two students for a week’s placement in our office. Through work shadow sessions and informal discussions with our patent attorneys and business services teams, the students got to experience first-hand how an IP firm operates and the different careers available in the IP industry.

The week was a great success! In our debrief at the end of the week, the students talked about how much they enjoyed their time at the firm, from learning to navigate the corporate environment and finding out about people’s career paths, to understanding what intellectual property involves and the role of a patent attorney. At least one of the students is now seriously considering a career as a patent attorney having never even heard of it before the placement!

Those involved at the firm were equally impressed by how enthusiastic and engaged the students were and they enjoyed the chance to share their experiences.

While we were unable to host students in person in 2020, we led some sessions as part of SMF’s virtual placement scheme and we look forward to welcoming students back to our office again when we are able.

Daniel Bright, Trainee Patent Attorney and Mentor

Unfortunately, contact with professionals and access to career resources are not available for many students. My time at school reminds me of this. I attended a state school which was deemed not to be meeting the minimum standards for education set by Ofsted. The only careers information provided by my school was a link to an online quiz which provided suggested careers (I did not fancy being an accountant) and beyond an explanation of the basic application process, there was no support for university applications. I am certain that I would not have been able to retroactively pick up missing skills and knowledge without external support. Knowing this has really motivated me to support the SMF.

I found working with the SMF to be a really enjoyable experience. Over the past year, I’ve taken part in their mentoring scheme, presented at their virtual internship and helped with their personal statement checking service. As I’ve recently gone through job application processes, I’ve been able to share my first-hand experiences with my mentee and other students. I would definitely encourage others to get involved. Not only has it been an opportunity to help others, but I have also been able to work on many of my soft skills.

The mentoring scheme was definitely the most enjoyable experience for me. My mentee and I got to know each other well, and occasionally we had video calls to practice interview technique or discuss their university application. I have almost exclusively been in the mentee role throughout my education and working life and it’s been challenging to be on the other side. Delivering useful feedback on other people’s work and abilities in a constructive manner has required a lot of thought, but it’s allowed me to develop new skills, which will hopefully benefit me later in my career, whilst also helping my mentee to improve their competencies.

Like many others, I discovered the patent attorney profession by chance – I spotted an article in an Oxford University careers booklet written by a former tutor of mine who had swapped academia to become a patent attorney. Although it’s improving, the profession has historically not been as widely advertised as some, especially to students from state schools, so I was more than happy to get involved when the opportunity to give a talk at the SMF’s virtual internship came up. My colleague, Michelle, and I talked about what our jobs involve, which skills are required and why we enjoy it. Sharing my experiences and giving the students an insight into what we do was a lot of fun, especially as the crowd was very switched on and asked a lot of interesting questions. It was a good opportunity to work on my public speaking, even though presenting to over a hundred people was nerve-racking!

I have also been reviewing and providing feedback on SMF students’ university applications. I dread to think what the submitted version of my personal statement would have looked like without help from my family. The students’ personal statements were already much better than I could have done on my own at their age, but being able to help them improve theirs was very rewarding.

I’m glad that Carpmaels & Ransford has chosen to support such an important cause, especially as social mobility is still a huge issue and the pandemic has made it even harder for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access career insights. It’s been one of many reasons that I am pleased to be training at this firm.


19th May 2021