Victoria Ayoedji from The Petchey Academy, London, graduated the Career Ready programme in 2017. Now a graduate of the University of Cambridge, Victoria explains why her time on the programme was so important to her confidence, experience and professional development.

I grew up in East London, it was very multi-cultural with a good community focus, especially at my school where I had very supportive Teachers. My local youth club also had great sense of community with some really positive role models, a few of whom I’m still in contact with today. It really taught me the value the importance of strong, support networks.

Back when I was 16 one of the main challenges, I faced back in school was figuring out what I wanted to do at university and as a career.

I had a mindset switch from wanting to be a Dentist to studying Geography at University. And once I had begun Year 12, I was really focussed on applying to either Oxford or Cambridge.

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I knew I was going to have to put in a lot of hard work to get there and, as my school had only ever sent one other person to Cambridge before, I knew I needed to look for further support. I’ve always been very motivated, proactive and optimistic in seeking out opportunities to better my future and I would never let my background stop me. That’s why, as well as other programmes, I was keen to get apply and get involved with Career Ready. 

When I joined Career Ready, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Phoebe, a Lawyer at Clifford Chance. Phoebe was amazing. Through our meetings at her office in Canary Wharf, I was able to get valuable insight into the corporate sector and workplace in general. Phoebe also helped me successfully apply to work experience at Deloitte, where I took part in their ASPIRE programme. I didn’t think much of it at the time, as I was only Year 12, but in hindsight having work experience at Deloitte was a big deal, and a great booster for my CV at the time. My experience at the firm taught me a lot about the working world and about myself too.

Having attended a state school in East London and not knowing anyone that had gone from East London to Oxbridge, talking to my Career Ready mentor was so motivating.

Pheobe encouraged me to apply for Cambridge and through my work experience on the Deloitte ASPIRE programme I even met two Cambridge Graduates who helped me with mock interviews and my personal statement. I can’t describe how helpful this was with making a successful UCAS application.

Through all of this, I have learnt about the importance of being proactive and being critically curious, as well as how to hone my strengths. I’ve become a lot more confident in myself and realised the importance of putting myself out there. I always remind myself: ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you don’t get, you might regret.’ And if I think back to when I decided to apply for Career Ready at the start of Sixth Form, there is nothing I regret about signing up to Career Ready.

I’m now a recent graduate of the University of Cambridge, where I studied geography. And as the only person from my school cohort to receive an offer from Oxbridge I am passionate about enacting social change through advocacy and access to education.

I have spent the last five years engaging in projects and initiatives that align with this and use my personal experiences through public speaking and mentoring to support people from diverse backgrounds to overcome barriers to education, providing them with access to opportunities to reach their full potential. I believe that Career Ready has given me the confidence and skills to develop within the education and corporate social responsibility space. Most recently, I was nationally recognised with the Outstanding Achievement Award and the upReach Top 10 award at the Student Social Mobility Awards hosted at the House of Lords. I’ve seen the difference mentoring has made to my life and I want the same to be true of other young people who’ve got a similar background to mine.

Over the past two years, I’ve mentored six students through the Oxbridge application and process and they’ve all gotten places at either Oxford or Cambridge. It really shows the difference a positive supportive network and a bit of self-belief can make to someone’s life.

Get involved with our programme and help more young people kickstart their futures.