It’s Fast Mentoring Month – meet the alumni mentors!

There are currently over 450 alumni mentors in the CQUni Career Connection Program, ready to help you prepare for your career, gain industry insights, and develop personal networks in your field.

Some mentors have been a part of the program since the beginning, while others only joined in the last couple of months.

Why did they decide to become a mentor? What do they enjoy about mentoring? Is there anything they have learnt from their mentees or the process of being a mentor? Meet some alumni mentors and learn more about their experiences as mentors.

Sanjeewa Gunasekara

Sanjeewa graduated with a Master of Information Systems in 2006. He joined the mentoring platform only a couple of months ago but has already completed his first consultation with a mentee.

Sanjeewa works as an Information Systems Security Specialist. With over 20 years of experience in his field, he offers advice on a wide range of services, including resume and cover letter checks, career conversations, transitioning from school to work, and re-entering the workforce.

Sanjeewa enjoys helping others in many ways, and mentoring is another way for him to help people. He finds that mentoring is a great way to give back to current students and enjoys providing them with strategies to work on their challenges.

Sanjeewa believes that not everyone needs a mentor but working with the right mentor can be a gamechanger. He compares having a mentor to driving on a fast, smooth highway, while not having a mentor can be like driving on a slow, bumpy gravel road.

Watch Sanjeewa’s Q&A video to learn more about him as a mentor.

Annette Sommerville

Annette has completed two degrees with CQU – a Bachelor of Occupational Health and Safety in 2010 and a Master of Engineering in 2021. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree from James Cook University, making her a knowledgeable mentor in various fields and disciplines.  

Annette works as a Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Manager in the construction industry and was the winner of the Master Builders Queensland Women in Building Award in 2019. The award gives Annette a lot of confidence, and she uses this recognition to encourage her mentees to keep moving forward.

Annette didn’t enter the occupational health and safety industry straight out of school but had a couple of other careers before that. She believes in ongoing education and sets a prime example for women looking to enter a male-dominated field and those looking to change career paths later in life.

Watch Annette’s Q&A video to learn more about her as a mentor.

Mohamed Siddiq

Mohamed has completed two degrees at CQUniversity – a Master of Information Systems in 2005, and Master of Business Administration in 2007.

Mohamed is a teacher with management skills and over 20 years of experience. He has worked in educational institutions in Australia and overseas and is currently the Head of the School of Business and Law at a private business school in Singapore.

Although his teaching experience can be an asset in mentoring, Mohamed regards the two as entirely different fields. Whilst teaching is more limited and ‘by the book’, mentoring allows more flexibility for guidance and exchanging ideas and thoughts.

Mohamed has completed several consultations over the years and even made friends along the way. He helped one of his mentees to start a teaching career, however, the two now keep in touch to discuss teaching methodologies and exchange ideas.

Read Mohamed’s interview below to learn more about him as a mentor.

I can see that you’ve been a teacher for more than 20 years. What do you think are the main differences between mentoring and teaching, in your experience?

With teaching, it is a little bit more limited. You deliver the content according to the curriculum and explain the concepts further when prompted by the student. Mentoring is more in free form and allows you to guide the mentees towards their goals. Mentees aren’t necessarily young students; some can be older, even in their 40s or 50s. You can see that you create an impact, as they appreciate what you do for them. You can exchange ideas and thoughts with mentees, guide them, and reassure them that there is “light at the end of the path”.

I can also see that you’ve been an alumni mentor with us since 2015 and have completed a number of consultations over the years. What are some of the things you’ve learnt from being a mentor?

You need to listen very carefully to what the mentee has to say without any pre-judgement. Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they’re experiencing.

You have worked in educational institutions in Australia and overseas. Do students in different countries have similar queries, or do they ask completely different questions? How do you prepare for your consultations?

I’ve had mentees from all over the world, including Japan, Russia, South Korea and Pakistan. They all face the same situations as students and have similar issues regardless of their geographical location. You can’t really prepare for consultations based on their location. Instead, I go with free flow and deal with each question as it comes.

You have received some great reviews from your mentees. Without naming any names, can you tell me about some of your most memorable consultations/mentees?

I had a senior student mentee who now owns an eco-agriculture business in Queensland. We started off as mentor and mentee but later exchanged details and became friends. He initially approached me for advice on how to get into teaching. I suggested volunteering to start with. Students can be the toughest crowd; they can form a judgement before you even start presenting. So, I provided strategies to break the ice and get over cold feet for his first day of teaching. We now catch up frequently to chat about teaching methodologies, exchange ideas and learn from each other.

What is the best advice you could give to someone considering becoming a mentor?

The golden rule is to be patient. Being patient and empathetic with your mentees is crucial as they are totally lost and need guidance. It is important to understand where they stand and why they seek advice. Take time to break the ice and develop a relationship. I do wish that mentees would come to the sessions more prepared. I don’t want the session to be wasted, so it would help if they prepared questions and had a purpose and an idea of what they would like to get out of the session.

Read our blog post about how to set SMART goals and prepare for a mentoring session HERE.

Urusha Kansakar

Urusha graduated in 2018 with a Master of Professional Accounting and now works as a Financial Accountant. As an international student from Nepal, Urusha uses her “go-getter” mentality to make the most of every opportunity that comes her way. During her studies, she was involved in a number of student activities, including being an international student ambassador, a member of the campus life committee, and a presenter and interviewee for iChange.

Urusha calls Australia the ‘land of opportunities’ and encourages her mentees to network and make connections where they can.

She has had mentors throughout her life who have helped her not only with her career goals but also in her personal life. To pay it forward, Urusha shares her experience, skills and knowledge in her career mentoring blog called Urusha inspires.

Watch Urusha’s Q&A video to learn more about her as a mentor.

Peter McLarty

Peter graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Information Technology. He currently works as a Data and Information Technology Security Manager. With over 20 years of experience in his field, Peter is one of the most experienced mentors and has provided support to over 30 mentees.

Although Peter encourages both of his kids to choose their own paths, his daughter is inspired to pursue a similar STEM-oriented career. As a person who works in a fairly “privileged position”, Peter is working towards bringing more women into roles where they are underrepresented, in particular STEM and IT fields, but also other areas.

Peter finds it extremely important to give back a bit of his time to find ‘rough diamonds’ out there and guide them into the industry a bit more ‘polished’. He finds mentoring a rewarding experience that helps him realise how much he has to offer to other people.

Watch Peter’s Q&A video to learn more about him as a mentor.

In addition to Sanjeewa, Annette, Mohamed, Urusha and Peter, there is a pool of alumni mentors from various fields and disciplines, eager to share their experiences and knowledge with others.

Students can sign up as mentees, and past graduates have an opportunity to sign up and mentor students, or fellow alumni.

To connect with a mentor, sign up to the CQUni Career Connection Program and fast-track your career today!

How to set SMART goals before connecting with a mentor?

August is Fast Mentoring Month, so there is no better time to connect with an alumni mentor for a one-on-one career conversation.

To get the most out of your mentoring session, it is important to prepare and set goals before getting in touch with a mentor. If you have a purpose for the meeting, your mentor will be able to provide you with advice that is most valuable to you.

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Picking the right mentor is the first step in preparing for a successful consultation. A great thing about the CQUni Career Connection is that mentors highlight the areas they offer support in when they register. This allows the system to suggest mentors to you as a mentee, based on what you want to learn when you fill in that part of your profile. You can select mentors not only based on the support areas they offer, but also on discipline, work field, experience, target organisation or the Mentoring Groups they are a part of.

After picking a mentor, you will be able to plan for your session based on their areas of support, and what you want to get out of the session. Creating SMART goals is a great way to have a clear vision of what advice you are seeking from your mentor.

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What are SMART goals, and how to set them?

Look at where you currently are, and where you want to be in the future – whether it be a month from now, a year from now or three years from now. Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

An example of a SMART goal:

By 31st of August 2022 (time-bound) I will identify and connect with 3 (measurable) mentors from my industry who have highlighted they are able to offer resume feedback (specific).  I will arrange and attend a meeting with at least one (achievable and measurable) of the mentors to receive feedback on my resume which I will action to improve my resume (relevant).

Keeping your SMART goals simple for one-off meetings is important. It avoids you getting confused and mixing up what you already know, and what you need to know.  Consolidate and action what you have learnt from the mentor before moving on to your next topic or requesting another session.

Breaking your goals down into smaller bites and keeping them simple for the first couple of times that you meet a mentor will also allow you to test the water before you get too far down the relationship. It is important to make sure the mentor is the right person to help you with what you need. 

Let’s look at each section of a SMART goal more closely.


A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. A general goal would be “get a job”, whilst a specific goal would say “get a job at a marketing firm in Sydney in the next 6 months”.

To set a specific goal, you must answer the six “W” questions:

  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Which:  Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose, or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
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Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.

When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to the continued effort required to reach your goal.

To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as:

  • How much? How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?
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When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. Your goal needs to be realistic and attainable. You will develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them, and eventually, you begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.

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To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective towards which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic – you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be – just ensure it also aligns with other relevant goals. If your goal is not realistic, you will find it difficult to stay on track.

Consider the following questions when considering if your goal is relevant:

  • Does it seem worthwhile?
  • Is it the right time?
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A goal should be grounded within a timeframe. With no timeframe tied to it, there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to find a job, when do you want to find it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, for example, “by the end of August”, then you have set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal.

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There are over 450 mentors waiting to give you their best advice, and they are all big fans of mentees who come to mentoring sessions prepared. Here is an example of feedback that a mentee received from one of our mentors:

“I really appreciated that you had a clear idea of what you wanted advice about from our consultation, and that you were ready to provide me with some background information to help me determine what advice might be most valuable to you. That was extremely helpful.”

If you’re a student looking to fast-track your career, or a past graduate considering a career change, set your SMART goals and join the mentoring program now!

Stressful situations – Been there, done that

With the end of term fast approaching, it is quite common for students to get stressed. However, it is important to remember that these stressful times will pass. Often people laugh about the things they were stressing over whilst at uni, and most problems don’t seem that significant in hindsight.

We asked our 30 Minutes a Month alumni participants to share some stories from their uni days, especially when they were stressed about something that worked out in the end.

Philippa Rumble (Bachelor of Education (Primary), 2021) said it’s easy to look back and laugh, but there were many times during her degree when things seemed out of control:

“I’ll always remember the time I had 4 assessments due over 3 days. I was getting ready to run a community event for 2500 people at the same time, and my computer died. That was the time I realised that saving to a cloud drive wasn’t something that lecturers advised just for fun. While it was a really stressful time, I was incredibly lucky to get my laptop fixed and some of the assessment documents recovered 48 hours before my first assessment was due. It took several looong nights of work, but I managed to submit all my assessments, get HDs for all of them, and pull off the community event successfully. However, the moral of the story is to submit early if you can and ALWAYS back your notes and assessments up to an online server, or just email them to yourself!”

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Kodi Warner-Magnussen (Bachelor of Environmental Science, 2021) shared a story from his first-year biology exam:

“In my first year, I had a biology exam coming up that I felt I really was not prepared for. In the two weeks leading up to the exam, my peers and I held a handful of study groups to go over the term’s content. I felt that my peers were way more prepared than I was, so I was extremely stressed. I was only hoping to pass by the time I walked into the exam. I was so worked up that I even felt sick. In the end, I walked out thinking I could have done way better and had absolutely no idea what my grade was going to be. When our grades were finally released, I just grazed my way into a High Distinction with an 86%. A great result, I would say! It just goes to show that we can often severely underestimate ourselves, and it can take a toll on our health.”

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Jessica Wright (Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours), 2016) told a story from her honours year when she had to take six weeks off her studies:

“In my honours year, I had to have major surgery. It meant taking about six weeks off my project and studies to recover, and I felt like I would never finish it. I was able to get an extension, enlisted the help of a close friend and mentor to help guide me through, and managed a score I was pretty proud of, given the circumstances!”

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Jessica Small (Bachelor of Business, 2021) shared a story where a delayed train made her miss her exam:

“In the first semester of my second year of university, the train I was catching to Brisbane for my final exam was delayed. I did the calculations in my head and knew that a 45-minute delay would mean that I wouldn’t make it to the city in time for the exam that I had been studying for. I felt my stomach drop. I remember almost bursting into tears at the thought of missing my exam and failing the unit I had been studying for the past 12 weeks. I decided to hop on the train anyway for the one-hour journey and hoped that my calculations were incorrect, but as we got closer to the exam’s start time, I knew I would miss it. I emailed my lecturer, who was very comforting and told me to apply for another exam sitting. I even contacted Translink to support my claim that the trains were delayed. My application got accepted, and thankfully, I ended up sitting the exam a few weeks later. Once the results were released, I received a message from my lecturer saying that I had the best results out of all the students in the unit. She had also nominated me for the Financial Planning Association’s Student of the Year award. I added that award to my resume, which was the reason I got an admin job in the industry one year before graduating. I guess you could say that missing that train really worked in my favour and opened some doors.”

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Belinda Donaldson (Bachelor of Property, 2021) shared her experience in dealing with unexpected situations:

“One time, I had misread a due date on an assignment, and it was due three days earlier than I had planned. I also had a second assignment due the day after. Life was throwing up challenges as well – I had work, parenting commitments, and my husband was working away. Whenever I sat down to do my assignment, something interfered, requiring my attention. Somehow, I got both assignments submitted on time. After a couple of late nights, early mornings, some quick-fix dinners and TV babysitting, I managed to get the work done. From that moment, I always built contingencies into my planning and aimed to get my assignments done ahead of schedule.”

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Based on these stories, stressful situations are often only temporary. The assignment and exam period will be over in no time, and you’ll be able to look forward to new opportunities. Meanwhile, it is important to look after yourself and your friends. Stay tuned for next week’s post where our graduates share techniques to deal with stress.

Are you a graduate and want to share your experience with students? Join the 30 Minutes a Month micro-volunteering program to earn rewards while assisting students in their learning journey.

Why does Mentoring Matter?

CQUni’s Career Connection program is bridging the gap between alumni professionals with industry experience and students looking for guidance or answers.

When discussing the Career Connection Mentoring Program with participants, the major theme of the platform boiled down to one word – flexibility – and in the digital age, this has never been more important. With the future of work rapidly shifting to a more digital and global practice, the challenge for future professionals to get that first foot in the door has increased.

Continue reading Why does Mentoring Matter?

Looking for a career mentor? This blog is for you!

This August is Fast Mentoring Month! Did you know CQUni has an online mentoring tool that connects students and alumni (graduates) for one-on-one career conversations?

CQUni Career Connection is a free, online mentoring program. It connects current students like you with experienced graduate mentors so you can get advice, coaching and career preparation from the people who have been there before you.

Continue reading Looking for a career mentor? This blog is for you!

My motto – be realistic!

Paul Mchugh completed his Graduate Diploma of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), studying online and working as an OHS Manager and Environment and Community Manager in mining operations in the Northern Territory. As a 30 Minutes a Month participant, he shares his insight on the art of planning.

There are three things that I had to commit to during my studies…

Continue reading My motto – be realistic!

My top tips for studying online

As we continue to adjust to world changes, news updates and emotional and physical boundaries, our study life is becoming the last thing to receive our attention. Here I want to pass on my top tips for studying online.

Before I get started, I want you all to know a little bit about me. My name is Nikki Sweet and I am a mother of four young children, my partner and I both work full-time 12-hour shift work (whereby our shifts are worked in a way so that one of us is always home with the children – albeit sleep-deprived but present). I have previously completed a Diploma of Health Science, Certificate IV in Business, and a workplace-specific certificate III and IV in communications.

Continue reading My top tips for studying online

Work Smarter – Not Harder

30 Minutes a Month participant Imran Asif is a Master of Business Administration (2012) graduate from CQUniversity. Based in Singapore, he is experienced in technology research and advisory. Currently, Imran is the Business Development Director for Asia/Pacific at Ecosystm Advisory Pte Ltd, where he works closely with leading technology companies and advises them about market intelligence, brand positioning, and go-to-market strategy.

Work-life balance is not an exact science. Each person must find their own way of combining career, relationships, and personal care into an integrated whole. What is right for you now will likely change as new circumstances arise, so periodically review your situation, and adjust accordingly.

Continue reading Work Smarter – Not Harder

Work-life balance means…

Day to day life can be one big balancing act. Do you understand the importance of a healthy balance between your career, family, and hobbies? We asked CQUni alumni participants of the 30 Minutes a Month program what work-life balance means to them, to gain insight on what is important to individuals in the midst of their career.

Feeling like you don’t have that work-life balance nailed at the moment? We’re here for you. CQUniversity offers students counselling support to assist you with wellness and personal resilience.

Continue reading Work-life balance means…