Mwila Mulenshi is the founder and Director of Success Looks Like You, a BME-led community interest company providing careers support for young people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage.
What inspired you to set up Success Looks Like You?
As a young woman, I felt there weren’t any role models for what I wanted to do and I didn’t have any professional networks I could tap into. Ten years later, I realised that it was still the same for other young people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and I wanted to show them how they can get into their chosen career. We’re called Success Looks Like You because I wanted to say that even if you can’t see people who look like you in your job or industry, you can still succeed.
What does Success Look Like You do?
We support young people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds to aspire, achieve and be represented. I hear a lot of young people from those backgrounds talk about imposter syndrome and believing they are not good enough. We give them the confidence that they can do it and help them find the right pathway into their career. Our support includes linking them into careers knowledge, role models, professional networks and work experience. Mentoring is a big part of it, and we match students with mentors who can help them understand how to get into a career and progress within the industry they’re interested in. For young people who have a business idea but don’t know how to get started, we can match them with a mentor who supports young entrepreneurs. We also launched our Girls in Tech mentoring scheme in 2018 at Google’s Digital Academy, and this year we are running it for the second time alongside a 6-week coding camp for young women.
What makes Success Looks Like You different?
The support a young woman from an afro-Caribbean background needs to enter a career in law is very different from the support a young man from an Asian background might need to enter a career in advertising. Our approach is individually tailored to each person’s needs and aspirations, so they get the right support for them. I don’t think what we do should be seen as separate or extra, it should just be the model for how everyone gets effective career advice and support.
What makes you proud?
Success Looks Like You is a real passion project for me. We support over 100 young people a year, and seeing them grow in confidence and move into internships and jobs in their dream industries is incredible. I am really proud that some of the young people who finished the programme this year have already secured internships and even full-time permanent posts in the industries they were hoping to enter. It just shows the impact that giving young people the right support can have.
What is your ambition for Success Looks Like You in the future?
At the moment, we support about 45 young people a year through mentoring and more through our events and podcast, and I run Success Looks Like You in my spare time as I have a full time job as head of services at a children’s charity. I would love to be able to focus on building it up and be able to support more young people.
How has COVID 19 affected your work?
Luckily we have been able to move lots of our work to digital formats, so, for example, our mentoring programmes are now being delivered online. We have also been able to make some of our resources available electronically and our plan is to build a new platform so we can make them all available online and young people can access them wherever they are.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Probably getting funding! A lot of funders love what we do, but because we are a small organisation we are always seen as a risky option, so it is really hard to convince people to invest in us.
What difference has Blueprint for All’s support made?
Our relationship with the Trust has been invaluable. We have been able to reach more young people by delivering our careers workshops to schools in the Trust’s network, and getting involved in its Young Leaders Academy. The Trust has been brilliant at helping us raise our profile, and we have even managed to attract some desperately needed funding as a result. I’ve personally found the Trust’s BME network really supportive and an opportunity to share challenges and learn from other small organisations.
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