Student Stories

Lauren Johnston - Heriot Watt University

Make Your Mark Ambassador

“I wish I’d been on the Make Your Mark with Susan Room® student school five years ago,” says Lauren Johnston, a Master’s graduate in Business Strategy, Leadership and Change from Heriot-Watt University.  
 

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“I’d been trying to overcome my anxiety for a long time – it prevented me taking opportunities that I probably should have. I’d not do things because I thought, ‘no, I don’t have the skills for this, or I’ve not got the knowledge for that’ - when I did. Now I kick myself because I wish I’d done half those things. So, I genuinely wish I’d had the learnings I took from Make Your Mark five years ago because, with these tools and skills, I’d have got to this more confident place a wee bit quicker – I’d have taken advantage of opportunities much earlier.” 


The entire Make Your Mark experience was transformative for Lauren, who having recently graduated is now confidently pursuing a career in organisational change and strategy, while also continuing to tutor high school pupils - something she’s been doing for more than five years.


“I don’t know how she’s done it, but Susan’s changed the way I think, the way I process things.  I realise that my tutoring, for example, isn’t just a job. What I’m doing can change someone’s life. Susan’s shown me the impact you can make on someone by simply helping them is extraordinary.”


It’s why in between interviewing for a permanent role to launch her professional career and tutoring she’s also building a ‘tutoring network’ - a community of young people who share a passion for tutoring.


“What I’m keen to do is build a safe space for young tutors to freely come together to share their views, their concerns and their resources. When you first start tutoring it can sometimes feel lonely and daunting. I want to change that and share best practice by growing connections, conversations and contributions within this community.”


And Lauren has a clear message for all those young people she interacts with – be they her pupils, fellow tutors or friends. “I tell them don’t ever think you can’t. If you can do it, then do it. If you want to do it then there’s a clear reason you want to – just do it and get whatever support you need.”


Lauren also explains they won’t always find that support within the education system because the type of learning she experienced with Susan just isn’t taught there.


“This programme can give young people the belief to do things. They just don’t give you that confidence and drive at school or uni.  It’s a shame it is that way, but they don’t – they’re extremely focused on the now. At my age, without this coaching experience, I would never have realised what I discovered. There’s a real need and demand for young people to find and unlock their actual potential.”


That’s why following her participation in Susan’s programme in 2021, Lauren became a Make Your Mark ambassador – a voluntary role that sees her sharing her coaching experiences and helping more secure a place on Susan’s annual free-to-attend student school.


“This programme can change someone’s life,” says Lauren. “Not just their professional life, it can help them in everything they do.”


And while, as an ambassador, Lauren is keen to ensure more young people take advantage of opportunities like this, she’s also keen to help them realise that such opportunities rarely fall into your lap; ‘you must actively seek them out and take advantage of them’.


Lauren explains how securing her place on Make Your Mark taught her a valuable lesson.  “I got the opportunity through my network - something I built. I applied for an internship with a brilliant voluntary programme and built a relationship with its organiser. She then nominated me. I’m so grateful for that relationship and that she opened up this opportunity to me.”


It's an opportunity Lauren has continued to cultivate in her role as an ambassador.


“This programme’s content is just brilliant. Becoming an ambassador and being part of a community united by purpose is as wonderful as it is rare. It’s quite simple, Susan has literally changed my life in a way that I never thought someone could do. Now I want more young people to feel like this - confident, empowered and really driven to do something.”


Lauren Johnston lives just outside Edinburgh. She completed her Master’s in ‘Business Strategy, Leadership and Change’ at Heriot-Watt University in September 2021. Having secured a series of temporary project roles since graduating, she is actively seeking permanent employment. Her dream is to make a positive impact with a career in organisational change and strategy. Lauren remains a Make Your Mark ambassador following her participation in Winter School 2020/21.

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"The highlight for me has been learning that it’s okay to say ‘no’. That we need to say ‘no’ sometimes. We can’t please everyone and do everything all the time. Learning that has set me up so well – I realise I’m being so much more productive and effective."

— Lauren Johnston, Heriot Watt University