What is it like to be a Digital Marketing Apprentice?
For all school leavers, there is an immense amount of pressure to decide what you want to do with your life and career path. Do you go to university and further your knowledge of a subject, or do you apply for an apprenticeship and head straight into the field you are passionate about? Everybody is different, but for me – I chose to be an apprentice, and I am so happy that I did.
I will walk you through how I came to my decision, the process of application, a day in my life today, and a few key takeaways that might make your decision a bit easier.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
Why choose an Apprenticeship?
Despite the obvious of ‘earning whilst you learn’, I believe that apprenticeships today can be more valuable in many fields than degrees. So much so, that a number of university graduates end up having to turn to an apprenticeship after university anyway. This is because your applications to jobs are not only up against the thousands of budding students who are also fresh out of university, possibly from the exact same course as you, but also a whole host of apprentices who have had 1-4 years of industry experience, and a qualification to go alongside it. Whilst it is subjective, a lot of the time the practical on-the-job experience proves more to an employer about your abilities than the degree itself.
This was further looked into by a YouGov Study which asked the public whether a university or an apprenticeship better prepares young people for the future.
As the graph shows, the vast majority of people from all political and educational backgrounds either thought an apprenticeship better, or equally prepared you for the future, when compared to a University degree.
However, taking the above into account, I am not discounting the value of a degree. I wanted to maintain my studies for as long as I could, hence the reason I opted for an apprenticeship, rather than an entry-level job. A particular element that I liked about apprenticeships was the ease of change, and therefore reduction in initial pressure. This is especially key for individuals who are unsure of which avenue they want to take - the lack of financial commitment within an apprenticeship, compared to that of a university course, provides reassurance that you could change your career path far easier than you could after enrolling into university. It also goes without saying that there is always a plethora of transferrable skills that come from industry experience alone, which makes it a lot easier to slot into any work environment, even if you decide to change industry.
The variety of experience you gain as an apprentice should most definitely not go unnoticed. It is required by the UK Government that an apprentice today uses at least 20% of their working hours for ‘off-the-job’ learning. This provides the opportunity for you to be given resources and explore different branches of your role, which are not necessarily prioritised by your employer but are still something you are interested in. It allows you to be more creative and curious with the specificity of your job role and can provide you with a lot more clarity of what you want as a part of your next steps, following your apprenticeship.
Finding Trusted Apprenticeship Providers:
Apprenticeship providers are the organisation that supplies you, as an apprentice, with your compulsory training. It is, therefore, crucial you go with a provider that you trust will give you the highest standard of education, alongside your chosen career path. Every company does this differently. When I was hunting for my apprenticeship, the three main types of providers I came across were:
- Further education colleges: An apprentice may be sent to an external college nearby to complete some theoretical or practical training in a classroom environment, instead of at the workplace.
- Employers themselves: Some employers may be trained as apprenticeship providers In this case, all of your training is likely to be delivered within the workplace.
- Independent training providers: An external company that has partnered with your employer to fulfill the learning element of your apprenticeship. They act as a coach and a support system throughout, however, are not an employee of your business.
Who is my apprenticeship provider?
I signed up to Baltic Apprenticeships, an independent training provider when I was browsing their website and saw how supportive they were of their apprentices, and really prioritised their candidates by finding a job role that suited them. I was able to give them the criteria I was looking for in a role, and they would contact me periodically with any potential vacancies that I may have been interested in.
After sending off my desirability’s, Baltic got back to me with a range of employers who were potentially interested in having me on board and met what I was looking for in a role. I responded and told them which one I was most interested in, and they set up an interview. Fast forward 2 months, and I had my first day at my new job and apprenticeship here at Red Ant Solutions.
I would love to give you a breakdown of my daily timetable and a generic to-do list, however, I have been here for six months now, and not a single day has been the same. As a Digital Marketing Apprentice, I constantly look into different avenues of the agency and want to learn more about each element. As I learn and develop, my manager will throw something new my way for me to get started with – I am never bored or left as a lost puppy looking for work to do.
Whilst my main focus is search engine optimisation, my own interest in creative work has allowed me to spend some of my off-the-job time looking into different design styles and design work I can do to support other business operations. This so far has included work for social media, generation of blog cover images, infographics, and general supporting design. On top of that, digital marketing is a very dynamic and fast-paced industry, so there has to be space in our days to deal with the unexpected for not only our business but all of our clients. The point here is that with an apprenticeship you get a lot of creative freedom to experiment within your role, always expect the unexpected, and most definitely do not expect boring and repetitive days, because in my experience you never get either of these.
Instead of a daily timetable, I am going to give you some insight as to how Red Ant Solutions operates with an apprentice, and how we make it work for everyone. I think this is so important for school leavers to understand because I know that I used to think ‘how much work can an apprentice really do’, and whether the whole thing would be a waste of my time or not.
I remember on day 1, my manager had a big training pack for me to get on with so that I could understand all of the marketing jargon and have an overview of the services we provide here. I was so grateful for this, as my perception of apprentices was that they effectively just shadowed more experienced employees (which would have been insightful, yes, but super boring). Whilst along the way I have shadowed my co-workers in order to learn from them from time to time, the whole team just allowed me to get more and more involved every day. Even by month two, I was allowed to do things that I wasn’t even sure I would be able to do by the end of my apprenticeship
Some major turning points that showed I was appreciated and valued here for me were:
- My first blog upload.
- The first time I was allowed to work on a client site.
- Completing my first exam.
- Completing my first project.
- Publishing my own optimisation suggestions across our website.
- Having large control over our social media accounts.
- Having my opinion listened to and taken into account.
Although to an experienced marketer, and even myself today, these seem like small, insignificant things, as someone who was taking her first steps into the industry, extremely unsure of what to expect and how involved I was going to be, I was overly relieved when I hit these small milestones relatively early on in my apprenticeship. For any prospective apprentices, please rest assured that the experience you will get working with a creative team is completely invaluable, and you will achieve things that you never thought possible after very limited experience.
Of course, there were things that I had to learn before I was just let loose. I had to understand concepts, processes and procedures of the way the company runs and operates. But how did I learn them, I hear you ask?
Outside of my learning courses with Baltic, I am in a very lucky position that my direct manager, as well as other senior members of my team, have been really supportive and open to helping me develop, despite their own busy schedules. As much as the theoretical side of things with Baltic has taught me a lot in terms of industry standards and generalised procedure, the true value of an apprenticeship comes from learning from your environment. Being included in team discussions, getting involved at the early stages of projects, being handed responsibility and being given walk-throughs of complicated software have been the most insightful and for me personally, have led to the strongest development of my industry understanding
I think a key part of all of this has been the revision of my work by more senior members. At the end of the day, I am still new, and I will be ‘new’ to the industry for many years to come, and everything I produce has to be checked and standardised by my superior. This may sound daunting, but operating in this way has taught me so much in terms of adapting my language for a purpose, and how to speak to different audiences. Working with my manager on content such as blog posts for our wide array of clients has taught me that whilst my A-levels in English Literature and Language were valuable, the true art of communicating and writing to meet customer demands comes from experience and practice of talking to that segment. This is something I have been able to pick up from my manager. The placement of her ‘suggestions’ into my work has allowed me to see how the smallest changes can make the world of difference. I truly believe this is the kind of development you can only make from an apprenticeship and not a university degree. My working environment is also extremely suitable for an apprentice, given that I am never made to feel as though I am unable to ask a question. It may be the most simple thing to one of my well-practiced coworkers, I can safely say I have never felt patronised or disregarded in the workplace – the whole team works with my willingness to learn and nurtures my inquisitive nature.
But how do you even know where to start? It sort of sounds as though I went from zero to a hundred, however that is not the case.
Very early on in my employment here, I had my first online courses with Baltic. This, to me, came at an excellent time and introduced me to a whole host of principles that stood me in good stead to continue developing in my job role. Every course is different, however, my first course, entitled ‘Principles of online and offline marketing’ was perfect for starting out in the digital marketing industry.
The understanding of the core fundamentals of digital marketing theory were very applicable to my workplace and the type of work I was doing. It allowed me to better understand the purpose of certain tasks, and also why certain things are done the way they are. For example, the breadth of knowledge this course gave me on marketing strategies alone made me confident to apply strategic suggestions to our 2023 end of year reports to our clients, whose strategies I could build based from what I learnt at the very beginning.
Off-the-job training and the specifics of what you will learn vary between apprenticeship providers and specific courses. However, you can be rest assured that providing your course matches up with your role, everything you learn will be applicable, albeit some areas more than others, however, the cohesive understanding of theory and application will allow you to develop into a well-equipped apprentice, in my case in digital marketing.
How have I found life as a Digital Marketing Apprentice?
I have briefly walked you through the dynamic and fast-paced nature of my job role, however I would like to solidify this and highlight what I think the benefits are of navigating your career path in the way I have done. Whilst I don’t know what the future holds, and cannot say myself whether I am going to be in a stronger position than graduates in 3 years’ time, I am confident that my experience here so far has not only solidified that this type of creative, strategic and analytical marketing work is something I definitely want to continue in the future, but also has taught me a plethora of applicable skills already, only 6 months into my apprenticeship.
I remember leaving college and constantly debating between university and an apprenticeship. In fact, I applied to both and even after getting into my first-choice University, I just knew that it was not right for me. Everybody is different, always keep your options open. However, below I have highlighted some key takeaways I would like you to consider. Possibly use this to write your own pros and cons list to weigh up your options, whilst making it specific to your desired industry.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. My time so far as a Digital Marketing Apprentice has already provided me with rich knowledge and skills which I am confident are as a result of industry practice, and could not have been replicated in the same depth within a University course.
If you would like to see some of the work I have produced right here on this website, navigate through the links below:
- Navigating the ever-changing landscape of core algorithm updates
- 2023 wrapped
- What is Local SEO and why should you utilise it?
If you like the sound of what I have produced in my time here so far and would like a similar experience, contact us today and see what we might be able to offer you! If you are still unsure and would like to keep track of what I produce in my time here, follow our LinkedIn and look out for key highlights I post!
I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose.
By Lara Howie on By Lara Howie on 05 February 2024