Ciara Smith, 20, Buckinghamshire
When COVID changed Ciara’s plan for her gap year, she got involved with Apprentice Nation to explore her career options, and find the path for her. After lots of hard work, she landed a digital marketing apprenticeship at Sky, where she’s looking forward to combining her creative and analytical sides.
Mentor Sessions at Apprentice Nation have been a great opportunity to help me forge my own path. I was lucky to speak with Sandy Ko (EMEA Consumer Product Marketing Manager at Google) and Pete Jeavons (Group Brand & Consumer Marketing Director for BT and EE). I found both sessions extremely helpful, and felt really accomplished afterwards. They both gave me personalised advice and feedback, like how to better phrase my answers in interviews, and podcast recommendations. I’ve been using all of this in my work and apprenticeship applications, and definitely feel like my path is becoming clearer.
The creative challenges and group workshops that I did as part of the Youth Advisors Network helped to solidify my passion for digital marketing. I developed my existing skills, but also explored and discovered new skills. I definitely noticed a change in my mindset in the group workshops. In the past, I would have felt embarrassed when sharing my work in front of people I had never met before. But since the workshops, I’ve felt myself develop in confidence, and I now realise that stepping out of my comfort zone is the best opportunity for growth.
Since taking part in Apprentice Nation, my motto is apply, apply, apply! I definitely feel more confident when applying for jobs, and can feel myself consciously adopting what I’ve learnt in Skills Hub videos and Into The Booth events, into my daily life. After a lot of hard work, I managed to get two Digital Marketing Apprenticeship offers, and decided to go for the apprenticeship with Sky, which I’ll be starting in September 2021.
Have you spoken with your family or friends about alternative career paths like apprenticeships?
When speaking to my family, they are very open and accepting of alternatives to University. They have the view that as long as I’m happy in the decisions that I make, then they’re happy too, and will support me every step of the way. Soon after completing the Skills Hub, I was quick to recommend Apprentice Nation to my cousin, who is in Year 13, and explained how it developed me as a person and helped me to shape my future.
What caught your interest in Digital Marketing?
Admittedly, I’ve never been that lucky person who knows, from a young age, that they want to pursue a certain career. My discovery only came about recently when I was studying for my A-Levels in Psychology, Maths, and Business – digital marketing was the common ground!
During both my Business Studies and Psychology courses, I was particularly fascinated to learn about what makes people behave in the way they do, why consumers purchase in the way they do, and how, through the use of clever marketing tactics, people can be influenced to change their behaviours. My keen interest in studying people’s behaviour, along with interpreting data in my maths lessons, showed me that digital marketing was the perfect combination of creative and analytical, and this was something I wanted to pursue.
How has 2020 and the impact of COVID changed your perspective on your career and future?
That main challenge that I faced because of COVID, was the difficulty trying to find an apprenticeship. At the start of the pandemic, many companies seemed to put recruitment on hold due to all the uncertainties ahead. So there were less job vacancies to apply for, and less opportunities to get involved with. Initially, I felt quite stuck, and that I was falling behind my peers who had gone to university. But worrying about something completely out of my control wasn’t getting me anywhere. I managed to change my perspective and realised that the time I had off from my cafe job, while on furlough, was actually a blessing in disguise. It gave me an opportunity to learn and grow as a person, add to my skill set, and build up my profile. As we’re now (hopefully) coming out the other side, I feel fully equipped to apply for jobs; I’ve accepted an offer for an apprenticeship at Sky, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me!
What challenges did you face in shaping your future, whilst at school?
The biggest challenge I faced in school regarding my future was the imbalance of promotional activity surrounding apprenticeships. We were all encouraged to apply to university, with UCAS being the main focus and apprenticeships being the ‘back-up option’. Throughout the UCAS application process, I still hadn’t convinced myself that university was what I wanted to do, but deep down I felt that I had no other option, because I didn’t know much about apprenticeships. After leaving Year 13, I decided to take a gap year to figure out whether or not university was right for me. It was during my year out, after thoroughly researching into apprenticeships, that I realised doing an apprenticeship was the way forward.
If your lifestyle could be represented in music, what would it be and why?
The artist and song that best represents me is Dave – Hangman. This song is a wake up call to really take a step back and see your environment for what it is. Dave as an artist is known for being “woke”, especially for his age and that’s mainly due to his upbringing. Instead of him following the typical stereotype, he aims to bring light into the world and produce music that is really just a reflection of the life we live. I am able to relate to a lot of the lyrics in this song such as “The first to the motives, and last to the meetings” meaning everybody is ready to be there when you celebrating wanting to be the first to congratulate, but when it comes to the time to work for those moments the room suddenly feels empty.
How has your confidence ever got in the way of going for an opportunity or pursuing a goal?
When I was in Year 12, I had the opportunity to go on a four-week volunteering trip to Peru. The thought of spending a month away from home, on the other side of the world, absolutely terrified me! So many doubts went through my head such as not knowing many people on the trip, never having been away from home for longer than a week before, and being so far away from my family. I explained my worries to a teacher and she completely changed my mind. She convinced me that we were all in the same boat, and it was the perfect opportunity to grow my self-confidence (which was something I lacked). Now, two and half years later, I can honestly say that going to Peru was the best decision, and I am so grateful I got to experience that opportunity.
If your lifestyle could be represented in a music artist, song/track or genre, what would it be and why?
The music genre that best describes my lifestyle is disco house. It’s upbeat, happy, and makes me feel warm inside. I love to get stuck-in to all activities, and believe that a positive approach drives positive results. I have a real zest for life and ultimately live life as an adventure!
I also find Rihanna’s promotion of inclusivity and body positivity really inspiring. In her Savage X Fenty fashion shows, she features models of all sizes, ages, and ethnicities. This has inspired me to realise that beauty is found in confidence and acceptance, and to ignore society’s unrealistic body standards.
What do you do to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down or need some motivation?
Whenever I feel down or demotivated, I can always rely on my sister to give me a boost and make me feel better. She always knows the best thing to say, and I always end up feeling much better after we’ve spoken. I’m so lucky to have her!
Ciara’s top tips to keep on growing:
- Look for opportunities to step out of your comfort zone
- When applying for jobs, apply, apply, apply! There’s so much to learn from ‘unsuccessful’ applications. The more you do, the better you’ll get.