Hello, my name is Jessica Oghenegweke. I’m 21 years old and originally from Norfolk. I would say that I’m a completely different person to who I was about six years ago before I found the self-confidence to pursue my passions. And this stemmed from a lot of things. Not feeling like I fitted in, being from a small town (in both size and opinion) and not having a lot of self-confidence. And, most importantly, not recognising or making the most of what I had.

I’ve always been interested in media; my dream is to be James Corden. I’ve always wanted to write, have my own TV show, be a presenter, and this is going back to when I was little watching The X-Factor with my family, getting up in front of everyone in the living room during the ad breaks pretending to present the show.

For some reason the older I got, the more self-conscious I became. Maybe it was just part of being a teenager, or how mainstream media tells you how to look and behave. My ambitions just kept being pushed more and more into the back of my mind until I participated in NCS Summer 2013 after my friend encouraged me to.

It all started with NCS

NCS Logo: A key part of NCS is building self-confidence and self-belief

National Citizen Service (NCS) opened my eyes to so many things. I’d never been in an environment where being kind was celebrated. You were encouraged to network and explore your passions which reignited the drive I once had and made me think “why can’t I work in media?” It was so empowering and enabled young people to believe in themselves and their abilities.  

I suddenly became excited again – I finally got that self-belief back, and I honestly thought if I truly believe I can do something, then I’m not going to let anybody else tell me that I can’t, and I’m not going to give anybody else the power to make me feel like I can’t achieve my goals.

Putting myself out there

I thought about the volunteering I was doing at my local youth centre and the work I was doing as an NCS Leader and wanted to see how far I could take it. Then I decided to apply for NCS’s National Youth Board and ended up representing my region, looking at ways I could help young people in my local area. I was never into party politics, but I’ve always cared about inequality and the maltreatment of people, so I ended up campaigning and becoming a member of youth parliament for Norwich North.

Leap of faith

I chose my A-Levels before I started my NCS journey, and later realised I was no longer interested. I thought to myself, ‘If I’m going to invest so much time in something, I may as well care about it’. So, I had a deep dive on the internet and found an amazing music school called ELAM. Then I had a very earnest conversation with my parents about it, expressing how much this opportunity would mean to me. They bought into my passion and my plan, and after I finished my AS Levels, I moved to London that very September.  I’d just turned 17.

Wow was it a whirlwind, and I was finally meeting other people that looked like me. I remember the first time I walked into ELAM and my Dad said “woah are you Kanye West?! Look at all the facilities you have here; this is incredible.” But if I didn’t have the experience of travelling with NCS and feeling empowered, I would have never even had the self-confidence to get on that train to London for my audition day, let alone have the audacity to move, so my self-confidence without a doubt was down to NCS.

P Diddy - the master of self-confidence
P Diddy – the master of self-confidence – at a RockCorps concert

Building self-confidence & self-belief

During my time at ELAM, I thought I’m going to utilise this opportunity the best that I can – I’m going to build a brand, I’m going to be a presenter, and I’m going to create a portfolio, so that’s what I did. I interviewed masterclass guests such as Plan B, Rita Ora and Annie Mac, and I was able to add that and more to my CV by the time I left. And I constantly stayed after school to study and attended multiple networking events. I just wanted to have as many skills and contacts as possible so when I left, I would be open to the world.

ELAM logo

I had an amazing English teacher at ELAM who told me not to give up. She knew how much I loved writing and encouraged me to put myself forward for a playwriting competition at The National Theatre. I was stunned when my play was shortlisted and performed at The National Theatre. Also, my parents were able to see everything they’d supported. It was so special to thank them for bending over backwards to support me in London.  I could finally show them I’d done everything make something of myself. It was a proud moment.

It’s all about self-confidence and self-belief

There’s that famous phrase ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken’, and it’s so true. Don’t wait for a trend in the media to tell you who you are, don’t wait for a trend in the media to validate you, you’re incredible the way that you are, we all are, and that’s something I had to learn.

I finally learnt what it means to be me. To like all my quirks about myself like my high pitch voice that sounds like a child and my odd sense of humour, but all of these things actually work in my favour.

No more excuses

The main thing is to stop making excuses for yourself. Stop making excuses for why you can’t achieve something and stop comparing yourself – it’s so damaging. It’s important to find what makes you unique and special and play on it, embrace it, don’t mimic anyone else. Remember, it’s about you, making the most of you.

You’ve got time

So of course, I’m not a famous presenter yet. You don’t know who I am as you’re reading this, and that’s ok! I believe that we all have different timelines for when things are supposed to happen. And I don’t think my time has come yet. And I’m still learning and growing as a person, and I accept that. I think impatience can be a destroyer of ambition, And if you sometimes push things too hard or you go too fast, and you’re not prepared, it could backfire.

I’m still grafting, doing my thing, taking my time and exploring different avenues; I’m trying to write a television show at the moment with a friend of mine. And I’m also working at a charity called The Diana Award. But I love being creative. I did an apprenticeship at BBC Radio 1 when I left ELAM. And I was told that I got the position because they could see my enthusiasm and authenticity.

6 Top tips

So, these are the top tips I believe are critical to building self-confidence and self-belief:

  • Be 100% yourself
  • Appreciate other people around you and don’t be afraid to lift them up
  • Take your time and trust the process
  • Work your socks off
  • If you don’t want to put 100% of your heart and soul into something, then it’s not for you
  • Reflect on where you are and where you’re going

I once went to a talk with playwright Simon Stephens. He said, if he couldn’t write every day and do it for a living, he’d never be completely happy.  And that’s exactly how I feel about my interests. So, find something you can’t live without and run for it, go for it, and never say no. 

Lifting the lid on Apprenticeships

Finding the right career path is tough. But one thing that makes it easier is knowing what all the different paths have to offer.  And we think that not enough people are confident about what modern apprenticeships have to offer.  Especially when you have companies like Google, Facebook and Universal all heavily investing in apprenticeship opportunities.

Apprentice Nation invites you to take a fresh look at Apprenticeships. Check out the Go Far section of our website and discover some helpful links to resources and companies that are there to support your apprenticeships journey.



Want to read more?

6LACK’s Inspiring Story

RockCorps and the Power of Music

Action Days: Get Networked, Get Ahead