The Parent Perspective is a careers podcast by Amazing Apprenticeships and Not Going To Uni. Hosted and produced by the wonderful Steve Keith of The Branding Man, it explores how the world of work is changing for young people today and how parents and carers can navigate career conversations to help them make informed decisions.
The team at The Parent Perspective kindly invited me on the podcast to chat about my own apprenticeship experience, as well as sharing insights from my work as a career coach. In this episode, we discuss how Google has changed career choices forever, beliefs around money and job security, and the role my parents played in my own career journey.
Steve Keith: This is The Parent Perspective, a podcast created to help parents and carers support their children in making more informed career decisions with greater confidence, knowledge and understanding. In each episode, we will share your experiences of navigating career conversations with your children and provide insights into how the world of work is changing from trusted experts, organisations, and employers already working with young people today. It’s time for your perspective to count.
Hello, welcome back to The Parent Perspective. My name is Steve, and I’m your host today. In this week’s episode, you’ll be hearing more about how parents and carers like you can support your children from two young people. Haider and Kathryn will be sharing their experiences of career conversations that they had with their parents when they decided to apply to an apprenticeship, which for one of them led to starting their own business.
We thought we’d kick off with Haider and Kathryn, don’t forget to share your questions for us to put to our team of careers experts. Click the link in the show notes, to record a voice message with your questions.
Hello, both. How are you? Tell us a little bit about your background, your career journey and what you’re doing now.
Haider Ali: Hi everyone. My name’s Haider. I’m currently a Management Accounting apprentice at Rolls Royce. I’m on a four and a half year apprenticeship program, which I started straight after completing my A Levels. I’m currently in the final year of my program at the moment.
As part of the apprenticeship program, I study for AAT, which is an accounting qualification, for the first two years. And then a qualification called CIMA, which is equivalent to a master’s degree, for the remaining two and a half years. So by the end of the program, I’ll become a fully qualified chartered accountant.
Kathryn Monkcom: Hi, I’m Kathryn. I am a self-employed careers coach and digital marketer. I started off as a digital marketing apprentice when I was 18, after I finished my A Levels. That was back in 2016. And I went self-employed towards the end of last year, towards the end of 2020. And I now help people to find their dream career.
Steve Keith: What better job is there to have? So Haider coming back to you and let’s start with some questions. So what were your parents experience and reaction to you doing an apprenticeship? Cause I’ve, I’ve worked in this sector for a long time, and I know that can be a difficult conversation sometimes, that might not be your experience, but I’d love to hear more about it.
Haider Ali: Yeah, sure. So actually, because it was quite an academic pupil in school, both my family, my teachers, pretty much everyone around me was very much expecting me to go to university. The, even for me, I hadn’t, I didn’t know what an apprenticeship was until I actually stumbled across them whilst doing my A Levels. I think it was a sort of careers fair where I saw a stall advertising an apprenticeship and it just peaked my interest.
And once I actually found out a bit more, I found out for the particular career path that I was wanting to go on, for accounting, that actually the apprenticeship route made a lot more sense. It allowed me to qualify completely debt-free and get practical work experience. But when I spoke to my parents, initially, they weren’t completely sold on the idea just because they didn’t know what it was. They saw it as more risky than it was just because it was this grey area.
They were certain that if it had this much value more, for example, their friend’s children or more of my peers for example, would have opted for an apprenticeship. Because I didn’t really know anyone who had done an apprenticeship or was planning on doing one. I had to sort of pitch my case to do an apprenticeship a lot more.
Thankfully my parents were quite open-minded, so while initially they weren’t really sold on the idea, once they saw the benefits, they saw it as a feasible option. And just one that, you know, was a sort of a path that not many people had quite gone down just because of the traditional university pathway.
Steve Keith: As a career path rather than the route going into it, was that something that they’d expected of you or had they had a different idea of what you were going to go and do?
Haider Ali: Absolutely not. So I think, again, I’m linked with some of the stereotypes with being an apprentice and pursuing an apprenticeship. There’s this kind of idea that it’s only for blue collar occupations. So unless you’re doing some kind of practical work as say like a mechanic or an engineer that, you know, an apprenticeship isn’t really say like a white collar occupation, like accounting.
There was also that stigma of being an academic, people thinking that just because you’re getting As and A*s, you know, within school that naturally you have to go to a Russell group university. And again, they were very much on the same page with that. So it was just a case of really debunking all those myths and stereotypes, which was quite hard because I hadn’t really seen anyone do it.
But now that I’ve done it, I’d like to think that it’s a lot easier for say my younger siblings, because I’m the oldest in my family.
Steve Keith: Okay. So do you think they’ve kind of learnt from the experience that you went through and used that to support them as well?
Haider Ali: Yeah, definitely. So my siblings are still in secondary school, so they’ve still got a bit of time before they have to make some, you know long-term career choices. But I think now that I’ve done it, that stigma is just gone now. And another option like university would be. So whilst it was challenging for me, I think once you see even one sort of, one of your peers or potential role models do it it becomes more attainable and less of this kind of grey area. Or a question mark, but no one really knows what lies down that route.
I think that was just the case at the point in time I applied, no one had done it. So it just seemed like a question mark, kind of a bigger risk than it actually was.
Steve Keith: Yeah. That’s certainly a shift I’ve seen in the industry over the last 10 years. When I first started working on promoting apprenticeships in 2010, it was very much a ‘why on earth are you choosing to do that’ conversation rather than a ‘oh, that sounds that’s interesting, I’d like to find out more’ or an acceptable one that some people might even be preempting.
If they’ve got younger children and looking at them, thinking right, what’s the best option for my child? There are skills based jobs or technical jobs that people are going to be much more suitable to because they’re going to be able to apply their skills to that and academics aren’t everything. I went to university, but I don’t necessarily feel like my degree is what got me jobs afterwards from that it was the skills that I built along the way.
What else might have helped you? Was there anything missing from the support that you got from your parents?
Haider Ali: I don’t think, I think I was quite fortunate that my parents were open-minded. So once they did have that, sort of, information gap filled with my own personal research it was easier for them to understand and see from my perspective, why I wanted to do an apprenticeship. But other than that, I think it was just the fact that they were looking to support my choice to do an apprenticeship and just doing what I, sort of following what I was passionate about and not trying to box me in what they wanted me to do and sort of, sort of projecting their own sort of career interests onto me.
It was more a case of what do I enjoy doing? And because the business route was something that I was passionate about, they were quite supportive, so I don’t think there was much more they could have done at that point because they just didn’t have the information to begin with.
Steve Keith: And just before I come to you, Kathryn, Haider what would be your top tips for parents supporting their children with these decisions this summer?
Haider Ali: Yeah. So I think linked to that, I’d say my top tip would be to actually find out what your child enjoys, what their strengths are, and really play to them. Because whilst on paper, there are careers that are obviously sound fantastic, ultimately it boils down to the individual’s passion for that particular career.
So it’s really important from a sort of a long-term point of view that A, your child is really interested in that career pathway, and they’re not being pushed down it. It’s something they actively want to pursue. And B, that you stay open-minded because even apprenticeships over the last few years, the sort of educational playing field is constantly changing.
So it’s important to be open-minded the new opportunities that might pop up. Opportunities that don’t necessarily exist now might exist in a few years time. So just be open-minded. So when those conversations happen, you’re not being too rigid and pushing your child down traditional pathways.
Steve Keith: Yeah. Great tips there, thank you for sharing. Kathryn, let’s come over to you. What was your experience like in terms of your parents’ reaction and support at both stages in your career.
Kathryn Monkcom: Yeah, definitely. So I definitely picked up on some similarities to what you said Haider, but also I was in a slightly different situation. Because when I started my apprenticeship, when I was 18, I’d already moved out of home. I moved out when I was 16.
So for my parents, I guess they had less input over what I was doing. But I still had that relationship there and I still wanted their support and for them to be involved in the decision. And I think similar to you Haider, like it’s not something that they’d come across before.
I’m the youngest child of three, both my older siblings had gone to university. Both my parents were the first in their families to go to university. So they felt quite proud of that. And it was always expected that I would go as well. And I think it wasn’t until I was actually in my apprenticeship and they saw what I was doing and that it had been successful, that they really kind of then bought into it.
But they tried to be as supportive as possible and took the time to Google stuff if they weren’t sure, to ask me questions if there was something that I’d said to them and they were like, oh, what does that word mean? Or how does the structure work or how does this thing work? And just to have that curiosity was really, really helpful.
Steve Keith: I think there, there is a piece isn’t there about access to information. I think when I go back in my own experiences, when I was 14, 16 years old, thinking about what I wanted to do, if my parents had wanted to help me, it would have been much more difficult than it is for parents now, because we’ve all got a device in our hands, or most of us have a device in our hands where you can, as you say, Google something.
How did they react when you, so you’d chosen to do an apprenticeship and then you decided to leave that to go and start your own business?
Kathryn Monkcom: Yeah, definitely. So between starting my apprenticeship and then leaving the last job that I had to go self-employed, I had three or four jobs in between that. And every time it was a pull motivation rather than a push motivation. I was moving on to something better. I was getting a promotion somewhere else. So there was never any necessarily bad reason to leave where I was.
And my parents, they started working in the eighties when the, there was a recession going on and security and job security was a really big thing for them. And both my parents, my mum was a teacher, so she moved around different schools but she was in the same job her whole working life. My dad worked up through the same company his whole working life. So it was kind of alien to them of you’ve got a job that you like and you enjoy. Why would you ever want to leave that?
And the same when I started my business, I had a really successful career in one of the UK top digital marketing agencies. Like why would I want to leave that? And it was a massive risk to take. But I think they’d seen by the time I came to start my own business, all those jumps that I’d made to get there. I think they were starting to buy into it and trust that it will figure itself out. Kathryn’s got this.
And I think that’s one thing that I did say to reassure them is, you know, I started my own business, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out. It’s not a one-way street. I can always go and find work. I can always go back to the digital marketing world. So they were very concerned that I had got everything under control, that I’d like researched what I needed to do about tax and registration and all those types of things. But I think, yeah they were really happy for me and kind of trusted that, once they realised that I’d read up on it and it wasn’t just a whim, they were really supportive.
Steve Keith: So again, kind of the same question that I asked Haider, was there anything that they didn’t do that you kind of wish they had? I know from sharing a bit of my own experience when I started my career and when I’ve moved into my own business as well, one of the things sometimes that I’ve said to my mum in particular is that sometimes I feel like they don’t ask enough questions. Now that might sound ridiculous, but they always say “we’re just confident that you know what you’re doing”, and I’m like, yeah, but sometimes it would be nice just to be asked.
Kathryn Monkcom: Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a few things. I think that’s absolutely right what you’ve just said there about asking more questions. Especially what I do, the digital marketing side and the careers coaching side, both of them are like newish roles that wasn’t really a thing 10 years ago. So for them to have that curiosity and interest to ask questions and find out what it is that I do. And then when their friends, or like my grandparents ask them, oh, how’s Kathryn doing? What’s she up to? And they can explain it. That’s really lovely because it feels like you’ve got that support on your side and that you’ve got a team behind you. So that’s really, really nice.
What would have been helpful for them to have the actually parents now have more readily available to them is examples of people having done it. Because I remember when I started my apprenticeship especially, the digital marketing standard had only been around a year or so, so people hadn’t really come to the end of it and then gone on to do the next steps. So there were lots of people currently completing that apprenticeship, but not a lot of examples of the people that finished and gone on to successful careers.
So they weren’t really able to see case studies of this, does it actually work? What do people end up doing? And that’s something that is a much more readily available. So I definitely recommend parents to go and have a look at that.
Steve Keith: Yeah, I would completely agree with that one as well. And it’d be interesting Haider, if you want to comment on this one as well, I know when I was at work back in a corporate environment, I was always trying to find people in the business that were senior, that had done the alternative path to be able to bring them into the conversation as well. Because there is the stigmas around apprenticeships sometimes can be that it doesn’t get us far in your career. And what your experiences of that Haider?
Haider Ali: Yeah, so again, I think I was in the same boat with not having a lot of case studies to be able to almost just say, oh, look at this particular individual who’s gone down this pathway. If anything, I feel like I found more of those people as I’ve actually done the apprenticeship route and I’ve worked in the corporate environment and there’s so many sort of senior managers that I wouldn’t have even guessed were ex-apprentices that are, so now I have those kinds of case studies to give my younger siblings, for example.
So I think there will always be that sort of lag in the beginning when new opportunities arise with a bit of gap with information. Because with any new initiative, like apprenticeships, it takes time for it to phase and sort of trickle down. And I think like you said earlier, information creates opportunity. So until the information doesn’t trickle down, the opportunities don’t really seem as readily available, or they seem too risky to begin with until enough people have done them.
So I think, yeah, my parents didn’t really have enough information at the time, but I’d like to say all the kinds of barriers I’ve overcome and all the experience that I will have personally has definitely equipped them with a lot more information than they’d get, just from say a Google search.
You know, the saying goes it’s sometimes who you know, rather than what you know, and I think that you can get a lot more valuable information, just interacting with people in a real life work setting sometimes than you would just looking on the internet, for example. So it’s always great to have those kinds of case studies to hand so that you’ve kind of got a strong argument if anyone wants to go down the alternative route,
Steve Keith: Great. Thank you. Coming back to you, Kathryn. What would be your top tips for parents that are supporting their children with their career decisions then given that you’re a career coach now?
Kathryn Monkcom: Yeah, definitely. One thing that I work on a lot with clients is their own hangups around work and money especially, that come from really deep-seated beliefs in childhood. So often we have these beliefs, whether they’re helpful or unhelpful that are passed down through the generations. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just a thing that happens as part of human nature.
And it’s just really helpful for parents and young people to be aware of those things. And be able to question the thoughts that are coming up. So if you think of a job role and you go “oh no, I wouldn’t do that”, really try and question yourself and say “oh, why wouldn’t I do that?”. Is it because it’s something I wouldn’t enjoy? Or is it because I don’t think it’s my idea of success or like, what is it? And start questioning those ideas.
And then when you’re having a conversation as a parent and a young person, you can come at it from a much more critical and objective point of view and try and unpack some of those emotions that are surrounding work. Because really there’s so many emotions surrounding topics of work and especially money as well. It’s a really, really interesting one to dig into.
Steve Keith: Thank you for that. Something that I just want to pick up with both of you actually, given you just talked about emotions there, we’re obviously still coming out of a very emotional period for a lot of people. We’ll come to you first Haider, so how have you been supported by your employer along the way to deal with what has been a massive shift in working for everybody?
Haider Ali: Yeah. So there’s obviously been a huge change with regards to the delivery of a lot of the kind of key parts of the apprenticeship. So for example, with my accounting studies, so my learning provider, they switched. They were fantastic, they switched to remote delivery quite rapidly. I mean, they already had sort of services where they had sort of online classroom tuition.
It was a case of, they leaned into it a lot more. Made the numbers effectively switch from classroom-based to online quite quickly. So I felt really supported on that side of things. And I wasn’t actually interrupted in any point of my studies. If anything it’s allowed me to progress through my apprenticeship faster, because I’m now able to book onto dates where physically I wouldn’t be able to attend, but virtually I can. So it gives me a lot more flexibility with my studies.
And then on the employer side of things there’s a lot of support that we get from sort of managers that look after our apprenticeship, making sure that we’re still progressing and getting the skills that we need from our apprenticeship. So for me personally, there was a slight extension in my last placement that I was in. And again, that enabled me to get more skills and be more prepared when switching into a role. So there was less of a worry transitioning into a new role at the height of the pandemic. That delay actually helped sort of ease some of that anxiety when switching into a new role, which was really helpful.
And yeah, there’s always support available for us to talk to about specific issues that we might face on a individual basis with our scheme. But overall, yeah, there’s a range of sources of support available, whether that be from your employer directly or through the learning provider that you’re studying with.
Steve Keith: Hmm. And Kathryn, what’s the experience been like for yourself having your own business?
Kathryn Monkcom: Yeah, definitely. So for me, it’s been a fun one. I went self employed right in the middle of the pandemic. Kind of, if you look at it objectively, possibly not the wisest decision. But it actually worked out really well because part of my business is digital marketing. It meant I could pivot more towards that side and everyone’s going online at the moment or was at that point in the pandemic. So the industry was really booming and there were so many agencies that had extra work that they couldn’t take on. So I was able to act as a contractor on those projects and pick up any extra work.
So from that perspective it was, it was fine. It was really, really good. I in terms of working with coaching clients, there has been a huge shift in the last maybe six weeks. Since things have started to open back up with people moving house, changing jobs, announcing that they’re having babies, announcing that they’re getting married.
Like it feels like everyone has been holding off on the big life changes and now everything is starting to move again very, very quickly. So there are loads and loads of jobs that I’ve seen being made available, but also the people that were in those jobs are moving on and everyone seems to be having a bit of a musical chairs moment.
So I think a lot of people have taken lockdown as a time to really reevaluate what’s important to them. And that’s something that I work on a lot with my coaching clients. So whenever I get a new coaching client, the first thing we do, even if they have a very clear idea of what kind of job they’re after, we’ll sit down and really dig into that and work out, okay, what is it that you want from this job?
How do you want to feel? How do you want to show up every day? If I meet you in the street in six months time and ask you how you’re doing, what will you be saying to me? What are you going to be wearing? Are you going to be wearing a red power suit with massive shoulder pads? Like how are you going to look? How are you going to be standing? How are you going to feel?
And I think that’s so, so important. There’s so much opportunity out there at the moment. And this is a really, really hopeful time as we come out of, what’s been a really tough year for a lot of people and connecting with the emotion of how you want your job to serve you and not just how you want to serve your job is really, really powerful.
Steve Keith: Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been great chatting to both of you. I can see there’s lots of stuff there that parents are going to be able to take away to help with their career conversations that they’re having. So thank you for your time.