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12/02/2019 - Views

Life as Talon's first apprentice

Alfie Whiting is Talon’s first apprentice. Six months in to the role, he has already made a lasting impact, working across a few departments, and now working as a fully-fledged planner on our biggest agency partner. We asked Alfie to give us the lowdown both on starting an apprenticeship and the path he took to Talon. Read his thoughts below...

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” was a daunting interview question until just a few months ago. Fresh out of sixth form – and having changed my desired career path with more regularity than I change shoes – I was unsure where to start by way of answering that question for the next year, let alone the next five.

If I were to be asked the same question now, as I approach the six-month anniversary of me walking through Talon’s door (notably overdressed on my first day), the confidence I have in my present and future has risen monumentally, having been warmly inducted into the Talon culture.

Starting an apprenticeship

From the age of 15 I had always had a job of some description; from catering in a pub, to working in a gym, to bar staff and so on. I was even coerced into door-to-door sales where I lasted the best part of a week after getting told to “go away” or worse around 100 times a day. It wasn’t for me.

When the end of the line came for my time in full-time education, the initial feeling of freedom during the summer was replaced by a fear of inertia and the unknown. I’d been adamant about not going to university, despite pressure from school to study to become a lexicographer (someone who makes the decisions about what goes in and out of the dictionary – exactly!).

I was naïve enough in the beginning to think that a career would simply land in my lap because I had decent A-Levels and work experience. After the first summer free from homework passed me by, I realised it wasn’t so easy. Fast forward to January 2018 and I was starting my first day as an apprentice, with little knowledge of the concept besides a certain gentleman yelling “You’re fired!”. After a few months in my first role – all prior to joining Talon – I realised it wasn’t the right environment for me. I said goodbye and resumed the search. After this big learning curve, I was job-hunting again with no real direction. Having been discouraged by my first experience, I had lost confidence both in my own ability and in the belief that an apprenticeship was right for me. I hadn’t found Talon yet, readers.

The last role my contact at Apprenticeship Connect sent me was for Talon Outdoor. My research generated a positive perception of the business; fast-growing, independently-owned, an emphasis on creativity and culture along with an array of perks (called benefits, I would soon discover) designed to encourage and empower employees. It seemed worth a closer look. Regardless, the Out of Home industry itself interested me as I’d heard snippets about it in my Media Studies A-Level. 

I arrived at my first interview on a sweltering summer’s day with no real expectations. From the moment I entered the office space, my favourable impression was confirmed. There was a group of people sitting on the sofa next to me discussing solutions over a spread of breakfast food and another group enthusing about an awards ceremony. There was a positive buzz around the place – people who’d never met me before were asking how my journey had been and so on, which always helps with interview nerves.

The interview affirmed my initial positive perceptions. The questions asked were more about my views of the industry – much better than the usual grilling you can get in interviews. This gave me an indication of what they were looking for and the values that underpinned Talon as a company. Three more interviews (I put this down to my magnetic personality) and a positive phone-call later and I was in! It was the first time in a while I had a genuine sense of “I’m onto something good here” as opposed to “I wish I was still at school”.

From my first day on the job it’s been an enlightening experience. There’s a genuine sense of being an asset to the company and in particular the team I’m a part of. The context and importance of my work is explained to me, along with real progression being nurtured by those around me, all eradicating my generation’s stereotype of “going in to earn your money and leaving” or “only being an apprentice” in my mind.

I find my work both purposeful and stimulating. I’m not being mismanaged or cast to the bottom of things (or even asked to write this blog in a certain way). The ingrained collaborative values of this company make it so we all understand each other’s roles. I never feel that I can’t ask that person that question, whether to help me complete a task or just to learn. I thought I was just here to learn; in fact I’m contributing so much more.

I really hope I can be a positive role model for apprentices everywhere by showing that within the right organisation it can be the start of something mutually inspirational for both parties.

I’ll leave it there by answering my question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. For the first time, I know it’s not too far away from where I am now.