Hello, and welcome to my first blog with Apprentice Nation! My name is Jessica Oghenegweke, and I’m a skills leader with Apprentice Nation. 

Apprentice Nation has created 5 pillars to help you develop your skills, protect your well-being, achieve your goals and bring you closer to reaching your dream career. I’m here to tell you a bit more about Skills for Life.

So, What Exactly Are Skills for Life

In short, these are the skills you need to ensure you are making the most out of your life. They are vital skills that help you navigate the world in both work and personal life. They help equip you with the ability to tackle any challenge effectively and that keeps you moving forwards and we all know how good that feels. In the words of Apprentice Nation artist, Headie One:

“I like being able to think back to where I was a couple of years ago and seeing the progression… That’s the most satisfying part for me. Everything else is just extra.

Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/culture/music/headie-one-interview-o2-academy-brixton-a4276211.html#r3z-addoor

Watch Headie One’s performances and interview with Remel London

You may already know about some of these skills for life but just in case you’re unclear, I’m going to help you out:

  • Communication – We communicate in so many different ways – through the way we talk, body language, written words and more.. But it’s not just about what you say – it’s also about how you listen,,show your respect for others and show empathy.
  • Problem-solving – You’ve probably learned by now that problems are an inevitable part of life. However, the ability to think innovatively and come up with effective solutions, whether on your own or as part of a team is a valuable skill. This works hand in hand with the ability to work well under pressure and as a  leader in order to take the necessary steps to ensure problems are addressed.
  • Resilience – This is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and difficult situations. Unfortunately, life is full of events that will leave us questioning our capabilities and strength, but our level of resilience helps us to keep going with a positive mindset and allows us to learn from these events. One quote I love from Bryan McGill is ‘rejection is merely a redirection’. Without some vital ‘no’s in my life (which I wished were yes at the time!) I wouldn’t have met some incredible people in my life and been exposed to some magical opportunities.
  • Creativity – Being able to approach situations or tasks in a new or innovative way can be really useful. This use of imagination and vision has the potential to transform projects, mindsets and help extensively with problem solving. Creativity can sometimes feel risky and personal, but it is often an enjoyable aspect of life that can have huge rewards. Just look at our successful AN artists who use their creativity to build their brand and music portfolio. 
  • Critical thinking – In this age of fake news and an overwhelming amount of biased information thrown at you on social media, television, books and websites, it’s more important than ever to use critical thinking – using your own mind to think rationally and clearly, questioning ideas and information rather than just accepting them at face value. Amazing revelations, progress and new insights often come out of critical thinking.

So Where Are You At?

Some of you may be reading this feeling  confident in your own skills and others might be thinking you could brush up on a few of them. Regardless of where you are on your journey, no matter how old or how experienced you are, it’s always possible to learn new skills and develop existing ones. That said, gaining and developing skills for life does require moments of discomfort and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone…

The Comfort Zone

You may be very familiar with the term comfort zone, I know I certainly am! It’s our safe place; a place in our minds where we aren’t thinking about next steps or challenging ourselves, but instead where we have decided not to take any risk. It’s easy to get stuck here.

In order for us to excel, learn and grow, we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone (and trust me, I know just how overwhelming this can be) but guess what, when you push yourself out of this place, the things you thought were impossible to achieve become more achievable, and you find a new place to set up camp!

How Pushing Myself Out of My Comfort Zone Changed My Life

When I was 15 years old, my friend Megan from school asked me to join her for a summer of fun participating in NCS (National Citizen Service,  a voluntary personal and social development programme for 15–17 year olds in England and Northern Ireland). If I’m being honest, I wasn’t particularly keen because I knew I’d be surrounded by people I didn’t know, which made me a little anxious, and there were certain activities mentioned that I had never participated in before; such as creating a four week volunteering project with a team of people you didn’t know to help a cause of your choice. Despite my fears, I figured I usually get bored in the summer and at least this would give me a routine, so I signed up.This, hands down at 15 years old, is the best choice I have probably ever made.Let me tell you why. 

This single decision has had a trickle down effect influencing my life significantly for the better. My summer of NCS taught me leadership skills through volunteering and team based activities. This exposure encouraged me to take leadership positions at sixth form (chairperson at my school council), and volunteer to lead tasks when I got into the world of work, which eventually landed me a job as a project manager within a reputable charity. 

At NCS, I was introduced to politics for the first time and learned how to communicate my ideas through debate which helped me become a Member of Youth Parliament for Norwich North, working with my local MP and  discussing how to improve life chances for young people in my local area. This later helped me land a public appointment as a Social Mobility Commissioner for the UK Government. 

During the NCS graduation ceremony, I had my first experience of public speaking. I hated the idea so much and had a shaky leg throughout my whole presentation, but because I felt so supported by my team and the rest of my cohort, when I was asked to speak at another event, to my surprise I found myself saying yes. And slowly and surely, this built a love of public speaking which led me to become a children’s presenter for BBC Earth Kids and now I thoroughly enjoy talking and communicating with huge audiences of people. 

The last skill I’m going to mention is creativity – throughout that summer we were given the opportunity to be as creative as we liked, whether it was performing at talent shows, problem solving or coming up with fundraising ideas. This sparked something in me, leading me to apply for music school and then onto a role at BBC Radio 1 as a Content Assistant Producer.

Jessica Oghenegweke on the BBC Studios

The Pay Off 

So as you can see, every ‘yes’ is a YES to your future. No matter how big or small the step out of your comfort zone, you are putting yourself in a position to grow. Every time you get more comfortable with a new skill and situation, you are creating new comfort zones that were once out of reach for you. Not only did I learn new skills for life by breaking out, I found new places of comfort, and then continued to push myself further and further. 

Take it from me, it’s very exciting to look back and see just how far you’ve come. You may think that saying yes to one thing may not seem like a big deal at the time, but you have no idea what magical opportunities can arise just by being brave and giving something new a go. 

Did I ever imagine that my 14 year old self, who refused to put their hand up in class because they were so embarrassed, would EVER in a million years become a TV presenter? Absolutely not! But it’s amazing what you can achieve when you just give yourself a little push.

Check out the Apprentice Nation Skills Hub now to watch the latest videos and register for upcoming live webinars.

You can also watch one of Jess’ Apprentice Nation Quick Set’s introducing social action below!