Exactly one year ago today I attended a boot camp day at The Juice Academy; a day that would go on to shape the following year into the most exciting and valuable year of my life so far.
There’s no way of compressing every single lesson I've learned along the way into one article, but there’s a few big ones that I think are worth sharing.
Apprenticeship is not a dirty word.
Apprentices are generally underestimated and looked down upon, often thought of as people not smart enough to get into university, or the people looking for an easy option.
I wasn’t too dumb to get into university. I got in to quite a few, receiving unconditional offers from some. I was, however, too smart to stay in university. I was passing my classes, but chose to drop out nevertheless because I knew it wasn't right for me.
Because of this, people assumed that I’d struggled there academically and had to settle for an apprenticeship, which was not the case.
My apprenticeship was the first thing in years to come along and challenge and teach me enough for me to want to stay. I knew it was the right choice almost immediately, which, after remaining dumbfounded after a whole year at uni, was such a breath of fresh air.
Now the drop-out girl that everyone was worrying about is thriving, and I realise I sound a bit smug, but after all too long being underestimated I think I’ve earned it. There really is no better feeling than proving people wrong.
*Sirius Black voice*
“I did my waiting!”
It’s actually really easy to work hard and get organised when you’re doing something you genuinely enjoy.
I was never the most organised in school. I was one of the ‘leave all essays until the night before, panic, pull off a miracle’ kind of people - not the most relaxing way to approach academia.
I’ve also never been someone who can force themselves to do something if they don’t enjoy it. If something isn’t holding my interest and I decide I’m over it, that’s it.
Just a few weeks into my apprenticeship I was struggling to recognise myself. I had started making to-do lists. I was one of those people who wrote everything down and sorted out their desktop files and who actually prepared for things ahead of time.
It didn’t take long for it to click that this is how it’s supposed to be. When people said you should find something you love and it won’t feel like work, they weren’t kidding.
It’s more than just a foot in the door.
Even my own parents referred to my current job as a ‘foot in the door’ when I first started, as if they were trying to comfort me, or themselves. They meant well, but they sounded uncertain - probably due to the stigma around apprenticeships.
“It’s a foot in the door, at least.”
It is so much more than that, though. I’ve put my foot in the door, entered the building, walked down the hallway, boarded the elevator and I’m stopping off on every floor of the building, collecting knowledge until I get to the top.
Confidence is key.
I’ve never been that confident in new situations - not since I was a ballsy 10 year old. I’ve been known to struggle with everyday things like answering the phone, being comfortable talking to strangers or being brave enough to volunteer for anything outside of my comfort zone.
The support and trust of my tutors and my managers has enabled me to become the most self-assured that I have been since I was a child. And I’ve had no choice but to leave my comfort zone, because I quickly learned that this is where the magic happens, and there’s too much to lose from not trying.
Now I can answer the phone without squirming. I can negotiate. I've attended networking events and actually enjoyed them. I'm no longer afraid to put myself out there.
I've also volunteered to take part in several activities that would have sent my old self running for the hills, including taking part in videos for Social Chain and Vonkel, and contributing to a selection of different online publications - both personally and on behalf of my employer - including Creative Boom and /Scribe.
Being valued is the most effective form of motivation.
In classic millennial style, I need validation, praise and encouragement to thrive. There’s a case to be made for tough love but I believe that it was being treated like a professional right from the beginning of my apprenticeship, and being praised for my victories early on, that made me want to succeed.
It’s as simple as positive reinforcement conditioning you to repeat the actions that lead to feeling good, and rejecting those that don’t. The more I tried, the more I was praised, and the more I wanted to achieve because of that.
One of my clients was so grateful for the work which I did for her promoting an event, that when she informed me her photographer had cancelled I volunteered to travel over on a weekend and stand in for him.
Not in a million years would I have bothered with that before, but I wanted to show her that I was worthy of her gratitude and that I was also grateful to her, for trusting me with her business.
There’s a whole world outside of university and it’s full of successful people.
My high school background tricked me into thinking that anyone who was anyone had a degree, but - especially in digital marketing and PR - there is an entire world separate to the higher education bubble who have paved their way through daring to make the unconventional decisions.
There is no shame in breaking the mould rather than following the crowd - like I said before, the magic only ever happens outside your comfort zone.
The people I’ve met in this industry who have not come from university backgrounds are all the more impressive, and all the more successful, because whilst their peers were busy racking up debt and falling asleep in lectures, they were making a name for themselves in the working world.
The most important lesson you can learn is the value of your own worth.
Only you know what’s right for you. Sometimes you just don’t know what that missing piece is until you stumble across it. But if the past year has taught me anything, it’s that the next time I stumble, I won’t be so quick to listen to the concerns of others and let that get to me.
People are very quick to tell you what you ought to be doing, or what you’re doing wrong, or that they know best. What people rarely do is trust in your instincts and your sense of self - it’s up to you to do that. Despite the overwhelming doubt and concern from everyone around me, I knew that dropping out of university was the only way I could survive, and I was right.
I know now that in future, all I have to do is trust what feels right, and believe in myself, and I’ll get to where I need to be. It’s cheesy but it’s true.
A big shout out to my pals in Cohort 12 - and not forgetting our adopted family of Cohort 13! Thanks for being the people you are and making it so easy to befriend all of you, you made sure this year was as fun as it was valuable.
I also want to say a huge thank you to Sandy, Carly, Amy, Emma and Kathryn in particular. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the ongoing support of these amazing women who do incredible work every day - I owe it all to you, and I will never be able to put into words how grateful I am.