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When I left school, I felt ready to begin work right away, so I took a receptionist position at a doctor's surgery. 10 years and plenty of experience down the line, it was time for a change. I hadn't really had time to consider what I wanted before, and I wanted to take control of my future.
I started to look for my next move and came across an advert for an Essential Banker role at Barclays. I applied and was thrilled to be offered the job. It felt like the first step in a career I'd chosen for myself - and my new career path was just beginning.
As an Essential Banker, I worked closely with our customers, perfecting my customer-facing skills as well as learning how to manage the cash machines and balance the books. Then, I came across the Barclays apprenticeship programme: an opportunity that could help me take my career to the next level. With my team's support behind me, I felt ready to take the plunge, so applied. As an apprentice, I'd be fast-tracked through the business, experience all the bank has to offer and study for a degree, which I'd never thought possible. I couldn't wait to get started.
At the time, I was 27 years old and was a little worried that everyone on the scheme would be school-leavers, but this wasn't the case at all. The diversity of people on the programme was incredible - my colleagues came from all walks of life. Those who had come straight from school were able to support me when it came to our studies, whereas I used my 10 years of professional experience to help them settle into their new role. Our diversity gave us all the tools to support each other when needed, and I can honestly say I've learnt from them all.
As a Barclays apprentice, I've progressed, challenged myself and experienced areas I never thought I would. I started my apprenticeship within Premier Banking - a team focused on supporting customers with more complex banking needs. In this role, I worked alongside senior colleagues who took the time to pass their knowledge onto me. This meant that I had to step up to the next level, and I enjoyed every second.
I haven't just learnt on the job though; I'm also studying for a degree. Going to university had never been on the cards for me, so when I was offered the chance to obtain a degree as part of my apprenticeship, I was overjoyed. I've just started the third year of my Relationship Management degree and I can't wait until the day when I receive my qualification. What a milestone that will be - one that's becoming a possibility because of Barclays.
Despite being in the early stages of my apprenticeship, I've been able to make an impact right from the start. During my first rotation in the Premier call centre, it was my responsibility to check in with customers to ensure they were getting the best value for their banking needs. One customer I spoke to said he only had five minutes to talk and asked that I be quick. In the end, we spoke for over an hour, and I was able to save him up to £900 a month on his mortgage and bills. He was expecting a baby, so this saving would make a real difference.
A few months later, I followed up with this customer. We spoke all about his new-born baby and the impact the saving had made to his family. I couldn't believe it - I was in the first year of my apprenticeship and already helping real people with real families. I had never been more certain that pursuing the Barclays apprenticeship was right for me.
At Barclays, the opportunities to develop just keep coming. All colleagues - from those in branch to those in head office - are encouraged to take'development days'. These dedicated days give you an opportunity to explore different career areas, speak to new colleagues and learn about the progression routes available to help you carve your own career path. With this flexibility, I've explored different teams before my next rotation has been set.
Here, I really am in the driving seat of my future. The business is adapting and changing, and there's always room to grow as a Barclays apprentice. The programme has been running for 10 wonderful years, and though I might be at the start of my journey, I can't wait to see what my future will hold.
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