This next post is a guest feature from Sophie.
Sophie went from her A-levels into an apprenticeship, and has offered her thoughts on this experience and how she’s navigated the working world since school.
When I was studying for my A-levels at Pimlico Academy in London, I never stopped to think how actually hard the decision most 16-17-year-olds have to make was, do I go to university or do I choose a different path? No one prepared me for what felt like the right choice to make. I remember being told “university is essential” and “you can’t do this career if you have a 2:1” so when I collected my results and said, “I’ve got an apprenticeship” that was the day I turned my back on academia.
From the beginning, I was never against not applying to university or being pro-apprenticeship, far from it, I had been set on the dream of becoming an MP and feeling as if the only stepping stone was an Oxford degree in PPE. It was a lot of making life-changing decisions on my own, maybe my volunteering and charity work would have been enough, or perhaps I could have done a law apprenticeship and somehow get close to a job in Westminster?
Whilst I know now I’ve made that decision, one which didn’t feel like the norm in 2016, it’s reassuring to know that 912,200 individuals were participating in an apprenticeship in 2016/2017 too, according to statistics from Smart Apprentices’ website. Sometimes your back-up plan becomes your Plan A and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you were destined to do something which would help you learn and develop in a different way.
When I started work, I never expected to enjoy the role as much as I did in the beginning. I felt like a high-flying, keen Elle Woods the moment I stepped through the revolving door of my modern glass commercial office which is in the heart of the City. It’s not your 9 to 5 office job where you clock in and out every day; instead, I’d say it’s more 9 to 7 pm and for a third of the year you have to push through an all-nighter and have Deliveroo as dinner at the client site. Also, 60% of the time is spent in other people’s offices which for me works very well as I like having a change of scenery.
For my first year, I felt like a small fish in the Atlantic Ocean, the amount of responsibility and ownership I was given from day one was something I was not expecting. Plus studying a financial qualification which is equivalent to a Masters Degree.
The benefits of working in Audit is being able to work with a diverse range of twenty-something-year-olds and meet new people. Audit was always more people-oriented than Risk Advisory, I went to fancy dinners after a client project, would be wrapped up and even saw Varsity matches for two years in a row (I was always rooting for Cambridge to win).
But what now? I’ve been at my company 3+ years and worked with lots of different teams, managers, and clients. It can feel easy to settle into a role and pretend that you’re still going through the ‘honeymoon’ phase of a job, I realise now during lockdown that my priorities and what I look for in a job have completely changed.
No longer am I wanting to prove myself and work for the biggest company on the market, instead, health and well-being and being able to pursue my hobby of writing and having a website has become an important part of who I am and what I stand for.
To the graduates who feel like you have to find the perfect graduate scheme out there, there isn’t one. Don’t feel like you have to stay in the first company you work for because, believe it or not, your experience is valuable outside your current employer. When you’re young, it’s so easy to buy into the idea of staying in one place forever but is it really contributing to your happiness and continual self-development and learning?
If there’s one thing this pandemic and lockdown has taught me it was that I stayed in my current job for as long as I have because of the learning and growth and the people. It is so much easier to feel alone in your career when you’re not used to working in a team of people but completing a task by yourself and just having 15 minutes a day of contact with someone. This past year has been dominated by Zoom calls, back and forth emails, Excel, and my work taking longer to finish, I missed the office and in real-life contact.
Everyone who is working is struggling in some form or another. For me, I’ve been struggling emotionally due to my role becoming more complex and the collaboration aspect diminishing while working from home. I’m now motivated by wanting to reach out to people and help students, school leavers, and apprentices with their first ‘proper’ job and I do this by writing about my experiences, sharing other young professionals’ experiences, and providing free resources to help students settle into the Big 4 accounting firms or just apply for a job.
If you are interested in working in Finance / completing the ACA or working at a Big 4 firm, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram and I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have or provide support / resources