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What my apprenticeship has taught me

Bekah Leonard, our guest writer from UNFM, talks about her apprenticeship and the lessons she’s learnt along the way.

Bekah Leonard
20th July 2016
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Over the last two years, I’ve been working with Uni’s Not For Me as their journalism apprentice. As I’m coming to the end of my course now, I decided to write about my experience so should you decide an apprenticeship might be for you – you’ll know what to expect!

You aren’t a pro

Yes you are starting a full time job as an employee, but you haven’t had any training yet! Your employers know that you haven’t done this before and your time in your course is a learning experience. You aren’t expected to know everything yet so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The biggest mistake I made at the beginning of my apprenticeship was telling myself I was a full time journo already, and couldn’t make mistakes. If I had asked for help from the beginning I would have gained even more knowledge rather than struggling through.

Anyway, your employer wants to know what skills you do and don’t have so that they can build upon them and create a fully rounded employee. Trying to do things you aren’t totally confident in will only result in you asking for help eventually, so it’s best to ask from the beginning.

Time management is key

As an employee, you’re going to be given responsibilities even as an apprentice. Even now, I have to tell myself to take a step back and look at my to-do list and prioritise accordingly. Rather than try and get everything done in the space of an hour, divide it up so you have a realistic and manageable day.

By doing this, your work won’t be rushed and it’ll be of a much higher quality. Keep your boss up to date with your progress and if they want you to speed up, they’ll let you know. If not, keep working your way through to the best of your ability at a pace you know you can handle.

Work, study, life balance

As an apprentice, it’s important that you manage your time between your studies and work, as well as leaving time for a social life. It’s easy to get swamped with revision and work duties throughout the week and not leave any space to relax and socialise but this is important.

Try and keep weekends for you, so you can refresh yourself for the following week. Even if you have to do revision at the weekend or submit coursework, do it in a space that’s comfortable and productive for you. This could be at home in comfy clothes – whatever works for you. If you have to work all weekend the week after will feel extremely long and difficult.

Of course, I’m sure you know not to go out partying all the time. Be sensible about when and how you relax and spend time with friends – Monday hang overs are not fun… not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, obviously (My boss will probably read this).

Keep your CV up to date

As you go through your apprenticeship, you’ll collect experience. I found myself writing for a range of different people (such as this brilliant website) but never thought to keep track of what I was doing. Now, I find myself frantically searching for all the experience I have writing and desperately filling up my CV before I forget something.

Everything you do in your apprenticeship is important and can be applied to future career opportunities so be sure to keep links to any work you’ve published, and save any important work you were assigned. If you have hard copies of your work, make sure you get print outs too. All of this makes for a snazzy portfolio that will be sure to impress your future employers.

While I’ve been with UNFM, I have had so much fun expanding my knowledge and gaining new skills I know will help my future career. Uni wasn’t for me, but now that I’m at the end of my NCTJ apprenticeship I can honestly say that an alternative educational path was definitely the right choice for me.

I know that if I wanted to go to university now, I could. However I just don’t want to nor do I believe I need to. If I had to give any advice it would be don’t hold back from doing an apprenticeship because you think its worth less than uni – I promise that’s not true!

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