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Last week, I was asked to deliver an inspirational talk outlining my journey from an apprentice (at the prime age of 17) to a fully fledged developer. I discussed with the new apprentices , that had travelled from as far as Liverpool, new skills I had developed and also the challenges I faced along the way.I started off the talk by asking the apprentices if they knew where they wanted their career in IT to go, which fields more specifically. I was surprised that a lot of hands shot up when I asked about web development - this is great to see as when I did my apprenticeship there were only a handful of the apprentices working in web. Following these brief questions I went on to explain how I landed an apprenticeship in web with Lightbox, and my advice to apprentices who were still trying to secure a place with an employer. Some of these tips included:
Research, research and more research - Look into the role you’re applying for in some depth, make sure you show some knowledge of the field.
Upcoming technologies - If you feel confident enough with the foundation of what it is you're applying for, showing awareness of how the industry is changing is very well received from an employer's perspective.
Confidence - Have confidence in everything you are saying, so long as you’re not blatantly making it up as you go along most employers will see this as a genuine interest in the role.
I discussed with the apprentices how I had developed my own abilities in a short amount of time and also how this had secured me a job after the apprenticeship has finished. In the world of the web, it is my opinion that working 9:00 - 5:00 is simply not enough to keep up. At the bare minimum I believe a developer needs to be actively reading blogs in the evening. Twitter is a great source for quickly finding new reads that interest you.
The talk was concluded with some further advice to the apprentices:
Going the extra mile - Developing their ability in their chosen field is again a bare minimum and working on their business acumen and general etiquette would be a vital part in building on their career.
Performance check - If your employer doesn’t discuss performance reviews with you, it is definitely something that is worth bringing up. Knowing where you can further improve is extremely beneficial and these “formal sit-downs” are a great way of finding this information out. Not only are performance reviews important for bringing yourself on but your employer may also ask you questions like “How can I help you do your job better?” This is awesome as it provides you with the opportunity to politely outline any advice for the way your work is handled.
Keep your eye on the game - Set yourself goals, these don’t necessarily need to be written down but it is important you know which direction you want to go.
Apprenticeships give young people quick access to an exciting career. This is not something that should be taken lightly, however, as once your apprenticeship has finished you need to be confident that you can fulfill the role you have been given - What reason would your employer have to keep you on for an increased salary if not? Apprentices now have access to the same careers graduates do, but only if they realise their potential and meet it, which can sometimes be a tall order for young people.