Niamh is a data and insight assistant at Pearson College London. She’s also studying towards a degree in business management at the college. She tells us what it’s like to be an apprentice – and her top tips for boosting confidence at work.
Name: Niamh Mulhall
Company: Pearson College London
Job role: Data and insight assistant, and chartered manager degree apprentice
Length of time in role: Three years total
University: Pearson College London
Degree subject: Business Management
Apprenticeship: Business and Administration Level 3 NVQ
AS Levels: psychology, Spanish
1. What was your very first job?
I started working at Waitrose once I turned 16, following a year of volunteering at Barnardos. It was a very fast-paced environment and I learned a lot, from teamwork to always keeping a professional manner and putting the customer first.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
When I was at school, I wasn’t sure exactly which profession I wanted to go into. I remember always enjoying languages, especially after studying French and Spanish for six years. At one point I debated studying both languages at university but as I grew older I preferred learning about business and the working world.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
By chance, my tutor mentioned the degree apprenticeship programme. I looked online and found Pearson.
4. How did you get to where you are today?
I think volunteering from the age of 15 and working in three very different companies (Barnardos, Waitrose and the NHS) gave me significant work experience and specific skills such as customer service, time management and strong communication skills. I’ve always enjoyed business, especially marketing and finance, so always had a passion to learn more in that environment.
When I came across this job, I didn’t think I would pass the first stage. I wasn’t sure exactly what they were looking for and assumed I needed A-levels. During interviews and workshops, I portrayed my passion to learn more and was ultimately successful.
5. What is a typical day like?
A typical day for me can differ depending on the time of year and the stages of the academic cycle. It normally includes research of some sort, whether that’s looking into new courses and understanding the market for that course, or looking into a new system for students to improve our student experience.
I also analyse the external relations team targets and update these throughout the year by writing fortnightly key performance indicators (known as KPIs). Other features of my role include supporting the wider team with enquiries for the Pearson College: this can mean answering the phone or responding to emails. Using our customer relationship manager (CRM) system to record customer data, I update leads, track which stage they are in, and pull reports on various factors, for example the number of leads achieved at a UCAS fair.
6. What’s the best thing about your job?
As well as the inspiring people I work with, the opportunities are amazing: you have the chance to progress within your job and within Pearson. I’m also a Young Apprentice Ambassador, which has given me the chance to go into schools and tell students about my experience. I have a mentor and a sponsored senior mentor within the workplace to support and guide me throughout the apprenticeship; they highlight further opportunities and events so I can improve my personal development.
7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
I think working for a smaller institute makes it harder at events and networking when trying to promote the college as not everyone has heard of Pearson College London. However, this will change with time as we gain more students and increase our course portfolio.
8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
Always try to improve your skills in and out of the workplace; employers like to see you have initiative and drive. There are plenty of online courses and free events which can expand your knowledge. Gain any work experience you can, even if it means volunteering for free for a couple of months; you will gain a lot of knowledge and make connections for life which will be invaluable when joining a corporation.
9. What’s the number-one most important transferable skill needed for your job?
Communication: I need to be clear and precise about the work I am producing to ensure there's no misunderstandings.
10. How did you develop your confidence at work?
Everyone says it but practice! Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and engaging with new people can only improve your confidence and always remember that everyone was in your position at one point in their career.
11. What do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
All experience is good experience. Having a positive outlook on life and partaking in opportunities that arise will benefit you further down the line.
12. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
In five years I hope to have completed my degree and a master’s degree and hopefully progressed in my career. I would also like to work in a similar position in a different sector to further my skills and understanding.