"I’d never done anything like Susan’s programme. What I loved about it was the title was just so fitting. It showed us that we can make our mark, that we don’t have to fit in or sink into the background. All university students should have access to this type of learning."
— Beth Thom, Heriot Watt University
Beth Thom - Heriot Watt University
Beth’s hopes and dreams might be a bit different to others exploring a placement or career in asset management. “I’m not going to be a salary chaser,” says Beth, having recently completed her four-week virtual internship on Baillie Gifford’s summer programme. Her time with the responsible investment management firm has been well spent, helping her work through not only what she wants when graduating but also what she doesn’t.
“I don’t know exactly where I’ll end up upon graduating, but Baillie Gifford is a great organisation to work for and I’ve really enjoyed their internship. I’ve been able to explore my interest in Human Resources and have come to realise my interests span equality, diversity and those bigger issues. Baillie Gifford is a very different kind of asset management organisation and this internship has helped me see there are many ways to contribute to positive change.”
It was as part of this internship that Beth attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school – a four module coaching programme designed to help Baillie Gifford’s interns secure their professional edge.
“I’d never done anything like Susan’s programme,” says Beth. “What I loved about it was the title was just so fitting. It showed us that we can make our mark, that we don’t have to fit in or sink into the background. All university students should have access to this type of learning.”
While absolutely loving her studies, Beth believes universities must do more than focus on securing students, degrees and grades.
“I’ll often go into the university library and see students slumped there. They’ve been there all-night studying and drinking endless cups of coffee to stay awake. These young people just aren’t giving themselves a break but, unless they reach crisis point, there’s little focus on anything other than academics.”
And while there seems to be growing recognition that the pressures being felt by university students are having a detrimental impact on their mental health, Beth believes the practical tools - the type made available on the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® programme - that help reduce anxiety and promote self-care are sadly lacking.
“We’re the first generation to really grow up with social media and I don’t think anyone realises the impact it is having. Young people constantly see pictures and videos of others’ achievements. It’s impossible not to compare ourselves with others – even if they aren’t in the same situation. Perhaps 20 years ago you could switch off from it, but not now. That constant scrolling, day-in day-out, whether you are in class or in your bedroom. It can have such a detrimental impact on mindset – about how we think about ourselves.”
And that’s why Beth is such an advocate and has become an ambassador to the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school.
“As well as academic qualifications, young people absolutely need access to these softer skills and tools. They need to know it’s okay to give themselves permission to switch off and take a break. Susan’s mindset and inner critic session is so impactful. I went into my Baillie Gifford internship feeling a bit on edge, like I shouldn’t relax or be myself too much. I’m only in my second year and you don’t usually do an internship until your third, so I didn’t want everyone else to think I shouldn’t be there. I guess the other interns were experiencing similar feelings because after Susan’s mindset and inner critic session we were a completely different group – we really bonded. It helped us all see that we should be confident in ourselves and the ways we are different. That it’s okay to be ourselves and to embrace it.”
While Beth has no idea what university will look like for her remaining two years in a world dealing with coronavirus, the one thing she’s certain of is that hers has been a summer well spent.
“My objective in applying for the Baillie Gifford internship was to make the most of my summer and it’s been really, really great. As well as being a fantastic learning and professional development experience, it has also been lovely to meet people from different universities - to make new connections and friends.”
But these experiences, tools and techniques will stay with Beth well beyond the summer. She concludes: “These are the skills you need throughout life - to be yourself, to be happy, and to become the best version of yourself.”
Beth Thom is going into her third year at Heriot Watt University to achieve a undergrad MA International Business Management. She is due to graduate in June 2022. She attended the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® summer school programme, as part of her internship with global responsible-investment firm, Baillie Gifford, and is now a programme ambassador.
Beth is working with Susan and her other ambassadors on ways of making coaching available to other students. Watch this space.