I’ve lost track now how many times I have been giving information, advice and guidance to young people who are trying to make decisions as what to do next. Every time though I get asked, ‘How did you end up where you are now?’
Now some may say that I then proceed to bore people with ‘my story’, however I do think some of my experiences can be lessons learned, the most important one being get advice from everyone and not just those who think they know best.
This time 17 years ago I was that person sat taking their GCSEs thinking what is the point of this. All the teachers wanted was for me to study sciences because that is what I was best at. I went through the private education system, which much to my parents’ dismay I rebelled against and decided to leave and go to a 6th Form College. Still following the same route subject wise that I was being pushed down, the only changes I had was going from being at school 6 days a week (yes I did have to go to school on a Saturday) to suddenly only needing to be in College 4 days a week and not being ‘spoon fed’ as to what I needed to know. Suddenly it seemed that I was solely responsible for my own learning and my own future, a responsibility I think would have benefitted me more sooner. Lecturers were there to teach you the theory and encourage you but you were responsible for doing all the background work and increasing your knowledge. I also got a part-time job too and quickly learnt how to waste money (not something I would recommend)!
So, I did my A-Levels (I will openly admit my grades did go down) and then went to University where I completed a degree that some would say has no relevance to me now. However, I would argue that my analytical ability, time management, communication and organisational skills would never have been at the level they are at now if I hadn’t have seen the degree through. I could have dropped out of University as I lost interest in the subject I was studying, however my determination to get somewhere in my life saw me through and I will always be proud of my 2.2.
After that experience I went to an employer pretty much saying, ‘I have no idea what I want to do but I have a degree, I am eager to learn and I want experience so please give me a job’! It wasn’t quite like that but the basis is there – I applied for a job purely because it was a job and I hoped there would be opportunities post that which would interest me. I did get the job believe it or not… well technically a different one to what was advertised but they took a gamble, which I am forever grateful for.
For the next 7 years I worked hard to prove myself, I took advice from those who had been working longer than me, learned from those with more experience and I progressed through the ranks until I became a Manager and was responsible for other staff and was completely accountable for my area of work. It was then my choice to follow another opportunity, which may not necessarily have worked out quite the way I planned, but if it wasn’t for being made redundant I would never have considered the self-employed world that I live in now. And honestly, I wouldn’t change it as it’s helped make me the person I am today. I have had to prove myself. I have had to work hard and fight for what I wanted. I’ve worked 70 hour weeks to make ends meet. I don’t have masses of money where I can go out and buy everything I want, but do you know what? I’m happy.
17 years ago there was not the abundance of careers guidance that you get now. It seemed that you were directed according to what you were good at academically rather than what interested you, and what suited your style of learning. Looking at labour markets didn’t seem to matter because I was told that there would always be jobs aplenty and naively I believed that (refer to last paragraph – I soon learned). Apprenticeships didn’t seem to be a ‘thing’ either. Being perfectly honest, back then I didn’t even know what one was!
Thinking about it though, what I did with that employer when I left University you could argue that there are similarities with apprenticeships. I was learning on the job as to what businesses want from their staff. I was developing my skills. I was gaining first-hand knowledge about how industries operate. I was learning from others (and getting a wage).
Now you are probably reading this and thinking what is the point of this story?
I am a ‘comms person’ so we are capable of ‘waffling’. Now attempting to go straight to the key points of my story…
- Look at all the options out there within your areas of interest.
- Get the facts as to how you can get to where you want to be.
- Get a feel for the jobs that may be out there for you.
- Make the most of all those who can give you advice, whoever they may be – not all of us have had that so you are incredibly lucky.
- Speak to employers within your areas of interest and understand what they look for in their future employees.
- If I had known about apprenticeships I probably would have followed that route as I learned far more from actually doing a job (though at the same time I wouldn’t swap my experiences as I may not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for those experiences).
- Most importantly though, follow your dream’s and no one else’s. You are in charge of your own destiny so make your decision count.
Learning on the job, as you would in an apprenticeship, is effectively what I did as I was unsure as to what I wanted to do… I just did it a few years later than most apprentices (and not as an apprentice). To me this was an amazing experience and helped me develop my skills, learn from others and clear my head in to thinking what do I actually want to do.
You could say that is my tedious link to apprenticeships (thought I better mention them as I am working for a Shared Apprenticeship Scheme)… even if you think that I’m sure you can get the point I am trying to make.
So that’s my story… what’s yours going to be?