I recently celebrated my 4th ‘birthday’ at IBM. Don’t ask me how four years have gone so quickly, because I don’t have an answer (and I’m trying to ignore the fact!).
With that in mind, I thought I’d share an updated 5-point plan that I use every day, that will help you get the most out of your apprenticeship and indeed, your career.
- Get a Mentor – I can absolutely assure you that there is no point in your career when having a mentor is a bad thing. And when I say ‘a mentor’ – I mean collect them like Pokémon. Having a ‘council of advisors’ means that whenever you have a difficult decision about your career or how to handle a tricky work situation, the act of listening to people you trust will, I can guarantee, show you the right path
- Stay Excited … but not too excited – To this day, I still don’t understand people when talk about ‘that Monday morning feeling’. Talk to people (your manager, your colleagues in other parts of the business, your mentor), and find the role that suits you (you’ll know when you’ve found it, trust me). But remember, you are starting off in your career (and building your understanding of technology, your role in the company and the machinations of office politics) so you are at a slight disadvantage to some of your colleagues who have done it before. I have found that, in cases where I don’t know everything about a subject, I need to remain conscious of that fact and not allow myself to make assumptions or assertions that may end up coming back to haunt me or my client. Which brings me on to my next point …
- Do the Reading – I cannot understate the importance and value or taking the time to do some education (formal or informal) in and around your area of expertise. Subscribe to development newsletters … most of the time you’ll just delete them, but even if you only read one white paper a month that teaches you one new thing, you’ll benefit. All of this provides you with the foundation to start implementing your own, new and innovative ideas that could change an industry – and the next time the client asks a tricky question, you’ll be the one coming up with the answer
- Work Hard and Earn Your Place – Put in the hours. It’s that simple. You won’t always be the most intelligent person in the room (I rarely am), but you honestly don’t need to be. If you build a reputation for putting in the work, being personable, approachable and diligent, important people will soon start coming to you. At first it will ‘only’ be to help do some research maybe, but then you’re helping them author a white paper, and then you’re implementing what you wrote about and changing the face of your business or industry (trust me, I know what I’m talking about on this one!)
- Chill Out! – Relax. ‘Wellness’ may be an annoying buzzword but really, the simple things still work best:
- Avoid working from home (that’s where you go to in order to be with your family and turn your brain off!)
- Work should start and end at specific times (obviously there are exceptional circumstances, but don’t get into the habit of answering emails whilst settling down to watch the next episode of The Walking Dead)
- Have lunch away from your desk (sounds silly, but it dramatically increases your productivity over the whole day)
- When it all gets a bit much and you’re juggling 15 tasks at once, step away from your desk, get some fresh air, write everything down and tackle the priorities one-by-one
I hope that helps – I can honestly say that I use most, if not all, of these points on a daily basis. I really think it helps, and I really believe that you can start an amazing career as an Apprentice by implementing these in your day.
Thanks for reading, and let me know if you’ve got any other ideas that I can implement in my day!
Oliver Pope-Mostowicz, IBM Cloud Architect