Thoughts from Rachel Dent
Careers advice and guidance has come a long way since my own experience at a convent school where the only real comment I remember anyone making about my future was the then Mother Superior who remarked rather ironically: “ Rachel, I really hope you can find a job where you talk from the beginning of the day to the end!” Today our pupils are offered a full programme of support designed to help them discover not only the kinds of careers they would like to pursue, but also the type of people they are and how they are motivated. We encourage them to develop their self-awareness and link their personal and academic talents to potential careers. There’s a great deal to consider and it’s no wonder that our ‘Generation Z’ pupils - who are seeking that magic combination of job security and a sense that the work they are doing is meaningful - are asking us more and more questions about the shape of their future. It’s something that we keep at the heart of every aspect of the education we provide: we know that we need to equip these young women with the skills they will need not just for the next 5 years of their lives, but the next fifty and more. We know that they may change careers not just once, but several times as they make life choices and respond to the changing world around them.
This career flexibility is something that we are already seeing in our alumnae community. It is really interesting to see how our former students are coming out of university and reflecting and in many cases changing their career pathway. It is also very evident that our alumnae want a career which they feel is both fulfilling and for which they have genuine passion. At our alumnae events I am always incredibly proud to be in the presence of so many energised and forward thinking people and even prouder that they are a part of the Abbey community.
I feel passionately that we can do more to support our pupils - not just at the start of their careers, but as they progress and make life decisions – using the power of The Abbey community. We have former pupils across the globe forging paths in every type of career imaginable, building on the education that they gained at The Abbey. They are a dynamic, motivated and highly intelligent group of women with a wealth of experience of life and careers. At our London alumnae drinks evening last year I remember looking around the room at the connections being made and renewed and thinking “if only we could bottle this!” This year I’m delighted to announce that, as far as possible, we have.
Today we are launching www.theabbeyconnect.com, a mentoring network for all former pupils of The Abbey School that enables them to connect with alumnae across the world and share careers advice, job opportunities and experiences. We have worked with university network specialists Graduway to develop the network and we are proud that we’re the first girls’ school in Europe to launch a network of this kind.
As routes into careers become more diverse and university is not the universal destination for pupils, friendships and connections made at school become increasingly valued and important. The power of shared experience should never be underestimated and it is this, coupled with the energy and diversity that characterises our alumnae, that we aim to harness with theabbeyconnect. From advice on the best routes into a career, to internship opportunities and tips for balancing work and family life, there will be someone who can help within theabbeyconnect. I hope that the network will prove enormously valuable to its members, continuing to support the investment that they have made in their education as they go on into life.
It has always been true that the benefits of an Abbey education continue long after our pupils leave the school, now we have a tangible network of support that will be with them throughout their lives. I cannot wait to see it grow!