What are you going to do when you leave school?

Published: 09 Jun 2017 By LoveApprenticeship.com

road-thumbnailWe live in a culture where anything is possible. There is a job for everything – you can even be a professional biscuit taster if your heart so desirers! But with all these options available, how do we know which one to choose?

I had this exact dilemma this time last year when I was faced with the big question: "what are you going to do when you leave school?". I believe it’s at this stage, when making one of the biggest decisions of our life, that we are the least informed. The expectation on a lot of young people is university and if you don’t go to university, you’re classed as a right-off, but this simply isn’t true. Did anyone ever tell you about apprenticeships?

In September 2016, I was lucky in securing myself a degree apprenticeship at Microsoft. This meant I’d have a full-time job as a communications and marketing manager as well as studying for my degree in Business Leadership and Management at Aston University. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy – doing a degree in full-time education is hard so imagine what it’s like working full time – but it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done and the best decision of my life.

I’ve put together a few top tips that I found useful when deciding on my next big step:

Push yourself out of your comfort zone

Now this doesn’t mean you have to jump out of a plane or do anything drastic. Doing one small task that pushes yourself out of your comfort zone a day will develop your confidence and open up an array of opportunities for you. I make sure that each day at work, I meet someone new or learn something new. This can be something as small as introducing myself to someone and asking what they do, but this helps me to build networks that may come in handy in future. Everything I have done to get to the position I’m in has been out of my comfort zone, including applying for a job at a tech company without having ICT as a qualification. But when I think back, every opportunity that has scared me (in a good way) has been an opportunity that I look back on and thank myself for doing. So, think twice before doing what everyone else is doing and think about what experiences would benefit you as a person and push you out of your comfort zone.

Don’t follow the crowd

When I first told my friends that I wanted to do an apprenticeship in the tech industry, they looked shocked and told me I didn’t look like a ‘techy’ person. I guess in a way they are right, the stereotypical employee at a tech company is a middle-aged man who spends his days coding and that definitely isn’t me! However, this stereotype is changing more and more by the day and being both young and female in a technology industry has opened up a huge amount of opportunities for me. If I had followed the crowd and gone to university I would never have flown out to Washington DC for an event or had a chat with our PM, Theresa May and our CEO, Cindy Rose about how we get more young people into STEM subjects. Do what you want to do and don’t let anyone else’s opinion affect that.

Know what you love

I recently spoke to my old school about apprenticeships and what it’s like to work at Microsoft. I opened the presentation with the question “who here has a passion for technology?”. To my absolute shock, 3 people in an audience of 150 raised their hand. I continued and said, “raise your hand if…you used your phone as an alarm clock this morning...you texted someone this morning…you listened to music on your iPod this morning…you looked on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram this morning…you watched TV this morning?”. It was at this point that everyone’s hands were in the air and the reality hit them that their lives revolve around technology. Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to tech, I haven’t got a clue how to write software or develop apps but I love what it can do and how it can change people’s lives. I grant myself lucky that I get to work in a creative and vibrant culture surrounded by talented people who make other people’s lives better with technology. I may have been unsure when I first left school, but I know now that I love technology.

I’m not pretending I’m the expert or some kind of career guru but being only 18 years old in a company like Microsoft who pays for me to do a degree makes me think I must have done something right! So, I challenge you to think twice about the typical university route that all your friends are doing and consider an apprenticeship.

Katie Bradbury from Microsoft UK.

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