Annabel May is currently undertaking a Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship at New Schools Network. Annabel shares more about her journey in this piece.
If you had said to me two years ago that I would currently be working as a Level 3 Business Administration apprentice for one of London’s leading educational charities, I would never have believed you. Yet the career that I had envisaged would be my dream job turned out to be far from that and at the start of lockdown I knew that I had to change my career path.
I have always had a passion for cooking from a young age, and with little idea as to what I wanted to do after my GCSEs, I decided to train in the culinary arts. In September 2017 I started my Level 2 qualification in Catering and Hospitality and followed that with a Level 3 Professional Chefs course at Leicester College. I began to learn a lot and enjoyed cooking every day and made several friends for life. Outside of college, I had a part time job at a restaurant. The work here was interesting and I was learning new skills and experiencing what it would be like to work in a real restaurant kitchen. The hours were often very long with few breaks, but I thought that to achieve the best standard, this is what I would have to do. After achieving a distinction in my Level 2 and 3 qualifications, I knew that to be a great chef I should work in London. So, at the age of 18, I left home and headed to London. After several interviews and trial shifts I secured a role at a well-known and very prestigious restaurant.
However, as time went on, I began to find that my initial love for cooking had started to fade. The hours were very long, and shifts were inconsistent and not planned far enough in advance. This consequently made attending family events and seeing friends near to impossible, certainly with the inconvenient mid-week days off. Fast forward to the start of lockdown – the only contact I had with family and friends was through a computer screen, and I was constantly exhausted. I started to think of this as my opportune moment to make a change in my career.
The only thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to live in London. However, I was at a bit of a crossroad career-wise! At first, I had a lot of self-doubt about going into a different career. I had no A-levels or degree and thought that I would never be good enough. After a morale- boosting talk from my Mum and Dad (you know the one…!), I thought that I should start to network and see what was ‘out there’. I opened my LinkedIn account, and began to chart a new course in my working life.
With the onset of the global pandemic and being furloughed from my job, I found that I had the time to reflect upon who I was and what I had to offer. It sounds strange, but I audited myself to assess my transferrable skills. I felt that I had good organisational skills and had a very hardworking ethos. Business administration appealed to me as I could utilise these skills, and the team work element of working in an office was tempting, as well. As I was in no way qualified for these roles, I investigated apprenticeship programmes, and broadened my professional skills by undertaking a plethora of courses on LinkedIn. I initially started looking for roles on the government website and to this day have still not heard back from some applications! After further digging, I found WhiteHat, where the range of companies and apprenticeship opportunities amazed me. I got involved straight away by attending the ‘Unleash Your Potential’ series in order to ace interviews and make a great first impression.
To attain an apprenticeship, I applied to many different companies. Hours of hard work learning facts and figures off by heart for different companies didn’t always pay off. A great example of this was my first rejection – the company decided they didn’t want an apprentice. Whilst this was a bit disheartening, it did not set me back and I returned bigger and stronger for the subsequent interviews, making it through several rounds and achieving two offers on the same day. Without any forewarning to my unsuspecting flatmates, I burst out crying – tears of joy, of course. I’m not sure if it was shock of my success, or the prosecco consumption following the news of my first offer. As time passed the reality started to sink in and I chose the apprenticeship that I thought would be right for me and offer a positive experience. I started mid-July and have never looked back. The opportunities that have now opened up to me due to this apprenticeship are amazing and I am guided by some really supportive staff at the company in which I work.
So, my advice to anyone thinking of apprenticeships, or about to begin one would be to get stuck in. From a time when I would be in an underground kitchen, often not seeing daylight for days at a time during the winter, to now having a voice in an apprenticeship program that I love – it has truly changed my life. Lastly, I would like to thank my amazing WhiteHat coach, Stephanie Trattles, for giving me the confidence to write this piece and the amazing work she does in being my coach. Every piece of work that I submit to her can always be improved and everything she has done has helped me to progress into a better apprentice. Thanks Steph!
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