Meet Steven – he joined us as a Customer Representative and found talking to customers was the perfect way to successful in the field of customer retention. Over the past five years, Steven has worked as a Coach to support other Customer Representatives and is now a Team Leader in our Academy – the friendly face that new colleagues see when they join the company after their time in training. As we recruit for new colleagues to join us on our Customer Representative Apprenticeship, Steven reflects on his own Team Leader Level 3 apprenticeship, how this has helped him in his current role and what others can expect from an apprenticeship journey.
Why did you decide to study an apprenticeship?
I’m someone who wants to always learn and grow as an individual. This means I spend a lot of spare time finding independent learning, whether that be reading a book, watching informative videos, completing short online courses on subjects that interest me or even watching documentaries. So when I was offered the opportunity to be on the apprenticeship I jumped at the chance, as it allowed me to do what I love, learn! This apprenticeship was a perfect opportunity as it meant everything that I needed to know was all in one place, so I could learn with the guidance you sometimes don’t get when doing it on your own. In school or college, I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t the best at keeping to deadlines and producing coursework. Academic writing was one of my weakest areas, so it was quite daunting walking into an apprenticeship where the majority of the work I would need to submit would be academic writing. I have now significantly improved this skill and I’ve proved to myself that it can be done with the right focus.
The reason I chose this apprenticeship was because, although I am a very quick learner and have a competitive side of wanting to always be the best, with little experience of being a leader prior to my current role, it gave me a very strong foundation on which to grow. It’s helped me understand the type of leader I want to be; supportive, nurturing and firm, but fair.
What does a typical day/week look like whilst studying an apprenticeship?
It involves a lot of planning ahead. Throughout my time on the apprenticeship, I buddied up with another leader and close friend of mine, Olivia. We would usually set a Wednesday as a study day and our leaders allowed us this day to completely take ourselves away from work and focus solely on the apprenticeship work. It’s very important to set yourself this time – to make sure you can get a good run at reading the material you need to, attend your online webinars, research accordingly and then tackle your assignments. If this time is not set, it can be easy to fall off track or not be productive – a mistake we both made at first! Once we had our study days planned, we would spend 10-20 minutes on the evening before agreeing what we would like to research first thing in the morning, and then how many of our written assignments we would like to complete. There were many modules and each module included up to eight assignments, and these assignments had many criteria that we needed to achieve in order to pass. While this can sound quite daunting for anyone looking to join an apprenticeship, believe me that with the right focus, attitude and support around you, it can be done! Planning and organisation is key and therefore if it’s not already one of your strengths, this can be a perfect platform for you to develop these areas. Olivia and I both had days where the workload felt overwhelming, but we helped get each other back on track.
What advice would you give to somebody applying for an apprenticeship?
The best advice I can give is to stay linked in with your leader so they know how you are progressing. Make sure you agree one day a week (20% of your work time) with your leader for you to completely focus on your studies – this was one of the main reasons we were successful. Plan and set yourself goals ahead of your study day, so you can make sure you’re achieving them and finally make sure you link in with your coach for the course.
Having the agreement with my leader and having the set day was a major factor in allowing myself dedicated time to completely focus on the goals I was setting myself. This would usually be along the lines of attending my online webinar, reading three or four articles on the subject, researching specific models using Google/YouTube, then drafting up assignment answers to complete an assignment each study day. My advice is to plan for this accordingly and ensure you’re achieving what you set out to accomplish and if not to reassess and ensure you are setting yourself achievable targets.
If you’re unsure about anything you can always seek advice from your coach. Whilst they can’t give you answers, they can definitely guide you towards material which can help support your learning and to find the answers you are looking for. We would regularly make sure that we were answering the set criteria, because if you go off track this could mean certain pieces of your work get referred, meaning you would need to redo these sections before resubmitting. If this does happen, don’t let this demotivate you as the coach will give specific guidance on how to answer the criteria – any of my work that was referred was fixed on the second attempt, as I got the support I needed to get it right. Remember to stay positive and push towards your end goal and you will achieve it!
What is the thing you love the most about working at Hastings and being on an apprenticeship?
It’s the people! We all look out for each other and offer support when needed, it’s like having a second family. Hastings has given me many opportunities to develop in many ways, and from where I was a few years ago, I would never have thought I could achieve some of the things I have already! It’s been great to also be on the apprenticeship as it has directly linked to my work. For example, when I was learning about delegation on my course, I could directly apply that to delegating tasks effectively in my day-to-day role – something I was never really good at, as I used to prefer to do everything myself. There are many aspects of the course that have allowed me to gain some theoretical knowledge of being a leader, which have then helped with the practical side of my Academy Team Leader role.
Join us: If you’d like to join an apprenticeship to grow your careers at Hastings Direct, find out more about our Customer Representative Apprenticeship – recruiting now! Other roles also available.