How Do I Decide What’s Next?

Thursday 30th Apr 2020

What odd times we are living in. I mean seriously odd. But amongst all this madness, why not take some time to stop and pause – have a proper think about what it is you want to do once you leave school, and the pathway you’re going to pursue to get there.

There are hundreds of options out there and it can be incredibly difficult to choose which one is right for you – but that is okay, and that is totally normal! Whether you’re thinking about further education, getting a job, starting an apprenticeship or combining some of those options and aiming to secure degree apprenticeship – it’s going to be a tough decision to make! The only way to make this easier is to do your research and start it as soon as you can.

Work out what you definitely don’t want to do and then weigh up the options with what is left. Remember, not every university, apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship is the same. They will all be different, so don’t rule anything out based on one bad experience!

So, what was my starting point?
I started sixth form, studying English Literature, English Language and Business at A level – I chose those subjects because I loved them, not because I thought they would look good on a CV. I knew I wanted to go into something business related and I started my research around this. Take a look at Pathway CTM’s Upcoming Events and start your research journey today.

What was my strategy to ensure success?
From my research, I worked out pretty quickly that apprenticeships were a great option, if not a better choice over university (in my opinion). I stumbled across what is known as ‘The Big Four’. This term is used to refer to the four largest professional services firms in the world (PwC, Deloitte, EY, KPMG) and I couldn’t quite believe that these types of companies were offering a foot in the door for someone who has just walked out of school.

I started attending careers fairs to find our more and to confirm that these were a safe bet for my future! I was struggling to find the insight that I needed from my school and that’s when Pathway came along! They signposted careers fairs, hosted employability skills sessions, offered individual mentorship and helped me to discover that my realm of the ‘The Big Four’ was just the beginning. There were hundreds of employers out there wanting to employ apprentices and at some of the most highly thought of companies in the world!

As you can imagine, these apprenticeship places are not easy to secure. They are highly competitive and have rigorous selection processes. So, here’s where the strategy came in:

  1. Apply to a range of apprenticeships. There is no limit to how many you can apply. That being said, you need to think carefully about what you are really interested in as considerate research is for each application for you to truly demonstrate an understanding of each company and the services they offer. Think about how you will manage your time to do this – on top of school studies – as a successful application should be not generic and will require specific insight.
  2. Apply to university too. There is no harm in applying even if your preference is an apprenticeship. I used to think of university as my ‘back-up plan’. This way, I had all bases covered.
  3. Practice your psychometric tests. These will be used to assess you in most apprenticeship selection processes but luckily for you, there are tonnes of websites that offer free practice papers. This step is crucial to your success chances and I would even go as far to say, without practising, you are setting yourself up to fail. You wouldn’t go into an A Level exam without revising and expect to get an A*. You need to put time into practising these skills and learn the types of questions to expect as well as how they are usually phrased. To give you an idea of how much I practised, I would spend almost an hour every evening after school for about two months; doing practice papers, going over core GCSE Maths etc before taking the real ones. You might not need as much practice as this but I wanted to be extra sure I would pass them!
  4. Keep studying hard. Get the best grades you possibly can! Even if your apprenticeship only requires you to obtain CCC (for example), you never know what you might need your A Level grades for later in life.

What was the outcome of my story?
I applied to total of 8 apprenticeships:
PwC, Management Consultancy Apprenticeship
Offered me a place on the scheme
EY, Business Consulting Remediation Apprenticeship
Rejected at the second stage
Deloitte, Management Consultancy Apprenticeship
Removed myself from the application process as I obtained a place at PwC
KPMG, KPMG360 Apprenticeship
They filled all their places before I could reach the last stage
IBM, Management Consultant Apprenticeship
Offered a place on the scheme
JP Morgan, Level 6 Financial Services Degree Apprenticeship with Exeter University
Removed myself from the application process as I obtained a place at PwC
Fidelity international, Operational Management Apprenticeship
Removed myself from the application process as I obtained a place at PwC
BDO, Accountancy Apprenticeship (ACA)
Rejected at the third stage (psychometric tests)

And, I got offers from 5 universities:
University College London
St Andrews
University of Bath
Aston University

If you then compare my successes, I only got 2 offers out of the 8 apprenticeships I applied to, whilst I obtained all 5 university places. The UCAS application required nowhere near as much preparation, effort or research as the apprenticeship programmes I applied to and apprenticeships are certainly not the easy route but they are incredibly rewarding and should be viewed as equally – if not more – ‘impressive’ as university.

So, how did I make my decision and where am I today?
Having completed work experience at PwC, completing 6 stages of their recruitment process, (including travelling to Birmingham for a 4 hour final assessment stage) I was pretty damn invested in working for them! My choice suddenly became very easy. I loved the people, I loved their values and I loved their ‘family-feel’ despite having thousands of employees. I accepted my offer at PwC in Junior Management Consultancy and received my A Level results of A*AA.

I am currently 7 months into this journey and wow – what an incredible experience it has been so far. I think it would take another blog entirely to even begin to explain just quite how amazing it has been. But, in summary, I have learnt an immeasurable amount of skills, knowledge and behaviours – both tangible and intangible – met incredible friends, inspiring mentors and most importantly, gained invaluable Management Consultancy experience from a world-class Professional Services firm that no university course or degree could have ever replicated.

Written by Abbie Truman, Junior Management Consultant at PwC, Chairperson of Pathway CTM Student Advisory Board