When finding a mentor makes a world of difference

As a paramedicine student and Ambulance Victoria volunteer, Jess Mueller is the first to put her hand up to help others. She says asking for help herself doesn’t come so easily. But Jess is now advocating for students of any discipline to take part in La Trobe’s Industry Mentoring Program, as she did last year.

“Accept that it’s good to get help, especially from someone in your industry,” Jess says. “They can teach you so much, they can help you find a deeper understanding of your course content, and help you excel.”

Jess acted against her fierce independence last year to accept she needed help for the gruelling third year first semester of her course. She’d heard it was a killer, and had already stressed her way through the previous year.

“I just thought, if I want to be less stressed, if I want this to be different, then I’ve got to do something differently,” she says. “It was an important semester to get right and I needed someone outside who was able to help.”

Through the mentoring program Jess was paired with a Bendigo paramedic, an alumna of the course’s first cohort.

“We’d meet up every fortnight for an hour or two and have tutoring sessions based on what I needed to learn and what I was struggling with. It was quite informal. It was just really good to have that extra person from outside of uni, who worked in the field, and knew the clinical aspects.

“I’m really grateful for her willingness to help a complete stranger to the extent that she did. The experience turned one of the most stressful semesters into a much easier time and I ended up doing really well.

“It was also really good to be able to hear her stories. It made me more excited for what’s to come.”

Jess first heard about the life of a paramedic at the Bendigo Campus Open Day, which she attended while completing Year 12 at her Melbourne secondary college. Up until then she’d had her sights set on studying law and criminology in the city.

In Bendigo she sat in on an information session with a paramedicine lecturer. “It was just his passion and the way he talked about the industry that got my attention,” Jess says. “I hadn’t considered paramedicine before then, but that hour introduced me to that whole world and it ticked all my boxes.

“I’m quite a compassionate person, and as cliched as it is, I like the idea of helping people. I didn’t want an office job where I was stuck inside four walls. I wanted a job that was different every day, and that had human contact, and that’s just what being a paramedic is.”

Jess says her semester-long mentorship further cemented that she’d chosen the right career. “It put my whole course into perspective and actually gave it context. Prior to that I hadn’t had any contact with an actual paramedic in the field.” (Placement for paramedicine doesn’t start until the second semester of third year.)

Jess’ mentor later became an even more important person in her life. When Jess started volunteer work with Ambulance Victoria last year, her mentor became her supervisor.

As a volunteer Jess attends call outs to rural and remote areas, however since COVID-19 became an issue, she says there’s been very little work.

“In the last three weeks there has been no jobs at all, I think because people are terrified to go to hospital. We usually get a few call outs a week to check on locals who call for the social aspect. At the moment that’s overruled by the fear of getting sick.

“It’s all pretty low key but then you get that one job a month that’s absolutely bonkers. There are high-speed zones in those areas, so crashes, and because they’re far away, in the time it takes to get to them people can go downhill.”

The experience is giving Jess a good platform from which to make future career decisions.

“Rural and remote is an option for me once I hit that grad year, but I’d also really like to work in an outer suburb or a bigger regional city like Bendigo or Ballarat. I feel like I need to get that broad experience when I’m younger.”

Jess says in the past she was always shy about reaching out for help, “or even admitting to myself I needed help, I’m very independent. But this mentorship is probably the best thing I’ve done and now that I know my mentor, I’ll have her as a contact for the rest of my career.

“I’ll definitely put my hand up to mentor someone else down the track because of what she did for me.”

The La Trobe University Industry Mentoring Program provides opportunities for students to grow professional networks, experience and skills to gain the edge when applying to graduate employers.

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