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This is my story of my long journey from applications into apprenticeships and the ups and downs of my (many) interviews.
Where to begin. I have been on quite a few- a few too many actually - apprenticeship interviews. You would’ve thought that after I’d hit a certain number of them I would have learnt from my mistakes and kicked butt in every interview after that, but you’re wrong. I failed many, many times and the couple of things that kept my hopes up were: firstly; I had no other choice, absolutely none whatsoever; and secondly, in the wise words of Chumbawamba “I get knocked down, But I get up again, You’re never going to keep me down”. True story. But I didn’t have a choice at all. School just wasn’t for me, and luckily I realised this in January of my first year of Sixth Form. So I made the decision to leave school, pursue an apprenticeship and join the big bad world. Working and getting paid, but still learning and coming out with a qualification in something I actually wanted really appealed to me.
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The first thing I did was think about the area of work I wanted to go into and, after numerous lengthy discussions with my parents, teachers and friends we all decided that Digital Marketing and Social Media was something I might be good at (mainly due to my love of Twitter). So I applied to countless companies for apprenticeship positions in this area. SO many were unsuccessful but a little ray of sunshine came through when an agency wanted me to apply to them to help me find an apprenticeship. This agency was fantastic and I thought, “Perfect, if I nail this they can get me a job quickly, job done!” I was very wrong here. Admittedly, I did relax a little thinking they would just get me job, but when I applied to the company I got so excited and really wanted to do well. I answered all the video questions - with a little help from my dad and hours of preparation which were not needed in the end - and when I got the phone call asking to meet me, I couldn’t have been happier (genuinely screamed after I’d hung up) and was surprised at how quickly this was all coming together. But it would months before I actually gained a position.
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At first, the interviews came in thick and fast, and I spent a lot of time preparing for them and travelling into London trying to find them (word of advice - find out where you’re supposed to be going before getting on the wrong tube line). I even had a few interviews in places like Hammersmith, Holborn, Covent Garden, Knightsbridge, Leicester Square and Canary Wharf - pretty cool places to work for a 17-year-old!
The best thing about apprenticeship interviews are that they are mostly held in groups with four to eight other people with you. I’m a fan of group interviews as you can bounce off other people’s comments to negotiate your own views and opinions. Group interviews also give employers an idea of how you work with lots of different people and how you handle meeting new people. For those of you who are shy and quiet, now is the time not to go unnoticed; it’s the time to push yourself, stand out, and demonstrate your potential.
You have to remember, when you’re asked to an interview, employers already like you as they’ve read your CV and application, and they’d like to know more about you. They are not testing you or wanting you to fail, they want you to relax, to see whether you’re well prepared, and find out how you’ll fit in their environment.
I have been asked some pretty weird questions in past interviews. Most are related to the job, like “What mode of transport did you use to get here today?” or “How would you like to sit in this environment?” Normal questions just weirdly worded. But the weirdest, most off-topic “interview” questions were definitely, “What are your emotions towards football players?” I really didn’t know how to respond to this so just said I thought they were overpaid, which is true. But the best questions and ones I’ll remember forever definitely have to be, “Do you like the bus?”, “If we fired you how would you react?” and finally my favourite “How many chickens do you think you will eat in your lifetime?” Employers ask these questions to get to know you and see how you tick. You can’t prepare for them, even if you have spent all morning involved in preparation, but it helps employers understand what you are about.
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Some interviews need a lot of preparation. For a few of my interviews I had presentations to give, mostly related to something I was passionate about. If it’s digital, they’ll give you a time limit and a rough idea of how many slides to do and a bit of notice to prepare. My advice would be to choose something you actually know a lot about and feel comfortable talking about in front of people. Also, don’t do what I did; for one presentation I talked about the advantages and the disadvantages of social media, and if you talk about the disadvantages, you’re basically trashing the industry, and people don’t want to hear that. Instead, they want to hear the passion in your voice, and how you’ve found the product life-changing and can’t live without it.
I met some really interesting people through these interviews and was absolutely fascinated about what they were talking about. I met someone who had a Youtube channel specialising in Chillstep music and had amassed over 190,000 subscribers. He explained why he chose this music, how he managed his account and how people paid him to upload their music to help them garner more views. Unsurprisingly, this guy got the job and he deserved it, his presentation technique has actually inspired me, and whenever I do a presentation I think back to him as an example and try to mirror the enthusiasm he filled the room with. This was by far the best interview I had because, although I didn’t get the job, I learnt so much from the other interviewees.
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If you’re not a fan of interviews, tough. I’m afraid they’re virtually impossible to avoid. And they are all so different it’s hard to predict what will come up in each one. Some companies want to make sure you know the ins and outs of the company, some want to see how you react in situations and question you about your CV, your previous accomplishments and your goals, and others just want to meet you and have a little chat.
One thing I have learnt from all these interviews is how to deal with rejection. A lot of rejection. You are not going to be offered every job you apply for, and obviously it’s upsetting going through the whole application process and not getting anything, just getting a rejected application would be better, but it gets easier.
Once you’ve gone to a few you can learn from them - you look back and understand where you might have gone wrong. You can learn to understand that a lot of the time it’s just about fitting in - you might have done brilliantly in the interview, but there was someone else who did just that little bit better. Try not to feel down after not getting a job because this will happen quite often - in life, not just in apprenticeship applications.
What I am doing now is perfect. I’m doing a three-month internship in Social Media and Content Management. I’m getting a lot of valuable experience out of it. I’m finding out what I enjoy and what I’m going to look for in future jobs, whether I want to try something similar, or do something completely different. This job has been great because I’m building myself up a collection of work that future employers can Google and see. I’ve got a bit of work under my belt and can use this experience in future interviews - hopefully now I’ll do better in those than I have in the past.
At the end of the day it’s your personality that gets you a job, so make sure you’ve got a little bit of charisma and you’ll do fine. Listen to Chumbawamba’s advice and believe that when you get knocked down you can get up again, and remember Bob Marley when he told you to “Get up, Stand up, Don’t give up the fight!” Sometimes cheesy song lyrics are all you need to get yourself motivated. Good Luck.