Apprenticeships are different to internships – firstly, they go on longer (way longer) and secondly, there’s usually a much better shot at a job at the end of them. Here’s how to kick arse when you land one – with tips from Mark, a former O2 Telefónica Higher Apprentice. With a title that fancy, we figured he’d be the best person to go to for advice…
Prepare yourself for a bit of a shock
Going from unemployed to what is essentially a full-time job can be a bit of a surprise – especially if, like Mark had, you’ve just done your A-levels: “It’s quite a big shock if you haven’t had a job before, but you’ve got to remember that nobody’s expecting you to be amazing when you first go in,” he says. The hours, the office environment and the canteen are all going to daunt the crap out of you at the beginning, but don’t worry, it’ll all slot into place fairly soon. “They give you all the training you need and it really isn’t as scary as it sounds, you’ve just got to throw yourself into it,” Mark adds.
Make friends with the other apprentices…
You need to chat to people experiencing the same thing as you, otherwise you could go mad. “O2 actively encourages us to bond with other apprenticeships – they’re there to support you and you all become really good friends pretty much immediately,” he explains. “Grab lunch with them if you can because they’ll be invaluable later on.”
…But remember, it’s a bit of a competition
You’re all pretty much vying for the same job (i.e. the best one you can possibly get) so you’ve got to be mates, while at the same time sucking up big-style to your potential employer. “I hate to think of it as a competition, but it sort of is – you’ve got to use your skills to your advantage. For example, I’m quite confident so I made sure that I knew the names, jobs and a bit of background about everyone in the office – you’ve got to make a bit of a name for yourself.”
Talk to everyone
“Honestly, the best thing you can do is just chat to everyone and anyone. It can be as simple as asking someone if they want anything from Costa or seeing if they fancy joining you for lunch – just make sure you talk to people,” emphasises Mark. “The worst thing you can do when coming into a new team is to just sit there not saying anything. It gives off a really bad impression.” For tips on faking confidence if it doesn’t come naturally, take a look at our guide.
Yeah, mannn. It sounds a bit whimsical, but basically means that you shouldn’t feel the need to go all corporate and speak like one of those boardroom guys. “People think you go in and have to be the big business man, and act completely different to what you’re normally like. I came in on my first day in a shirt and tie and stuck out like sore thumb,” Mark remembers. “Of course look smart on your first day, but it’s important to just speak like you do normally – having your own personal brand is crucial because it lets people know what you’re about and sets you apart from everyone else.”
Get involved in “extracurricular” stuff
Anything on top of your job description will get you brownie points. “People want you to be proactive, so even if a manager wants you to make a poster or work on a presentation, you can put your name on it and it’ll look great in your annual review.” Plus suddenly people will start to hear your name bandied about the office and you’ll be well on your way to making yourself indispensible. Everyone wants to be indispensable. Why? It means they’ll just HAVE to hire you.
Budget budget budget
The pay you get as an apprentice varies wildly and, while O2 Telefónica’s apprentices get some of the best pay rates in the UK, you still can’t splash out on a Bugatti. Or a big diamond. Or a shoe made of gold. “It’s important to know your limits, I live alone in the city centre so a lot of my money goes on my rent but you need to plan ahead, know what you’re going to spend and try going out every other weekend,” says Mark. “Or maybe have a few friends around rather than going out, it’s about sticking to the plan – if you can’t afford a meal out, don’t go!”
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