Mentorship can provide numerous benefits for mentors and their mentees. Developing this relationship helps both to support one another, expand their networks, gain experiences, and establish leadership skills.
These benefits are the key to La Trobe’s Career Ready Industry Mentoring program. This program matches industry professional alumni with the next generation of graduates while they are studying. We talked to La Trobe alumnus and mentor Andrew Meiliunas, and new graduate and mentee Afreen Taqvi, about their experiences as part of this program, and what they gained from it.
Andrew became the person he needed
La Trobe alumnus Andrew Meiliunas completed his Bachelor of Laws and Master of International Business & Law back in the early 2000s. He considers himself fortunate to have found a mentor when he was first starting his career.
‘I was lucky enough to have an old family friend who was a barrister. After commencing my law degree, I sought him out and asked him to mentor me.’
The benefits of having a mentor encouraged Andrew to do the same for future La Trobe University graduates.
‘I wanted to be a person available and accessible to La Trobe students to help them navigate their way through university and to become job ready.’
Andrew has built an expansive career with the support of his mentor. His mentorship has spanned more than 20 years, providing guidance and advice from Andrew’s first graduate job through to his leadership role today.
Currently, Andrew runs one of the state's largest estate litigation practices at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. In his role as a Senior Estate Litigation Lawyer, he strives to offer new graduates the tools they need to break into the legal field.
‘Mentoring has reminded me how tough it is to make it in the legal industry, especially if you don't have family or personal connections.’
In his experience, the goal of being a mentor is a simple one.
‘My goal for my mentees is to help them get employed. I am rather purposeful in my approach when it comes to this.’
Afreen takes every opportunity
Afreen Taqvi has just completed her Bachelor of Laws at La Trobe University. An international mooting champion, she initially chose her field of study because she was a strong public speaker. Along the way, she developed a passion for advocacy and problem solving thanks to the support of her mentor, Andrew.
Knowing that she was a new student her understanding of the broader field was limited, she signed up for the Career Ready Industry Mentoring program to help build connections within the industry and develop firsthand understanding of the legal industry.
‘I recognised that the job market was competitive, and being a first-year student, I didn't know much about the legal landscape. I sought out a mentorship to learn more about the industry.’
After meeting Andrew, Afreen was able to develop a clear idea of what she wanted from the mentorship. She learned about Andrew’s career journey, shared insights, extended her professional network, and created a special bond along the way.
‘I wanted primarily to learn more about Andrew's career and his insights into the legal landscape. I was eager to build a mentorship through which I could learn and derive support, encouragement and advancement.’
The mentoring program granted Afreen some unexpected rewards. She was recently selected as valedictorian speaker at her La Trobe graduation ceremony, and has landed a role at an international law firm that provides legal services to corporate and government clients.
‘Andrew encouraged me to seek out legal experience and to learn how the law operates in the real world. Now, I’m part of the Graduate Program at commercial law firm Gilbert and Tobin, have rotated through the Competition and Regulation, and Restructuring and Insolvency teams, and have recently completed my Practical Legal Training course at the College of Law.’
The value of mentorship
Both Andrew and Afreen had expectations of the mentoring program, but Andrew says that although he knew that Afreen had great potential from the start, her achievements surprised even him.
‘If you’d told me when I met Afreen, as a first-year law student – who was working in retail, without any exposure to a legal environment – that she would go on to be awarded the best overall speaker at the Vis Vienna International Moot Competition, secure employment at a top Australian law firm and be asked to deliver the valedictorian speech at her graduation, I wouldn't have thought that would be possible.’
Afreen’s accomplishments are something Andrew carries with him as he takes on his next mentee. And although his time as Afreen’s mentor is finished, he plans on remaining in contact to see what she does next.
‘The most exciting thing for me is – I think she is just getting started!’
For Afreen, the last five years have been life-changing.
‘I met Andrew as a first-year law student and have been supported throughout my law school and career journey at every turn. The ongoing support and encouragement I received, and continue to receive, are the highlight for me.’
Both mentor and mentee encourage alumni and students to take part in a mentoring program for different, yet equally valuable reasons.
‘There is no point complaining about the opportunities you didn't have at university if you're not prepared to make a commitment to supporting current students,’ says Andrew.
‘Mentoring is a great way to do this.’
Afreen believes the insights gained from a mentor make the experience worthwhile.
‘The study of something and the practice of it will always be very different. Students today must contend with a competitive job market regardless of discipline, and so any insights from a professional are invaluable,’ she says.
‘Although it can be daunting, I'd encourage current students to take the step and seek out mentorship. It always helps to remember that although professionals can be intimidating, they were once in our position. In my experience, mentors are very eager to help.’