Back in July, I graduated from The University of Birmingham with a degree in Business Management. I had managed to secure myself a place on the Virgin Media Business (VMB) grad scheme which I was super excited about, especially having previous experience in the B2B tech industry.
This Friday marks the end of my tenth week on the VMB grad scheme and I can honestly say I’ve learnt so much more than I ever thought I would in such a short space of time – not just about the company and the industry, but about myself (forgive my cheesiness). I came onto the scheme viewing myself as an eager grad who just got lucky. My knowledge of the telecoms industry was limited and I felt silly for not knowing how the internet worked or what a network actually was, that’s not to mention being totally clueless to the meaning behind thousands of TLAs that were being thrown at me left right and centre (that’s right, TLA is a three letter acronym for three letter acronym – confusing right?). But I soon learnt that it didn’t make me stupid for not knowing everything and began to realise the value I could bring as a total newbie.
Knowing next-to-nothing about the industry and even less about the way things happen internally within the business, I thought the best way to learn and get myself up to speed was to ask questions. I ALWAYS ask questions and absolutely swear by the mantra that “the only silly question is the one you didn’t ask”. I’ve even developed the name ‘Miss 21 Questions’ I ask that many. That is definitely a key piece of advice I would give anyone transitioning into a grad role: ask questions – as wild, as weird and as whacky as you like. It’s going to help you learn and will allow you to do your job better in the long run. I like to use analogies, too, to help my understanding. The other day I compared the unwritten rules of how companies like Virgin and BT let each other pass through one another’s network to ‘girl code’ – because everyone can relate to girl code, right?
As a new grad fresh out of uni, I knew the expectation of me was going to be high, so I had to bite the bullet and be brave. I used to be quite a nervous person but I’ve learnt to be brave, speak up and take the lead – grad tip #2. If you’ve got an idea, voice it. If you see something that doesn’t work, fix it. If you can see that people are stuck in their old ways, shake things up a little. Don’t be afraid to be brave and make a change. A lot of people are afraid of change, especially those who have been in the business longer than Ian Beale’s been in EastEnders, but change is good and grads are great at recognising a need for change – that’s why companies love us.
Companies love us for the exact reason I doubted myself just a few weeks ago – for not knowing everything and wanting to do things differently. During a recent team meeting, I introduced myself as “just the new VMB grad”, something that rolled off the tongue subconsciously and sent the room into absolute uproar; it was like I had confessed I like pineapple as a pizza topping or something outrageous like that. And that’s when I realised that I wasn’t JUST the new VMB grad. After that, I took some time to reflect on what I had achieved over the past few weeks and realised that I’ve learnt a hell of a lot and (hopefully) added value to the areas I’ve been working in. I can now see that I’m not just a new VMB grad, but a grad who was hired to ask questions and put a spin on things, which is exactly what I’ve done.
I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s okay to be nervous and not know everything when starting out a grad role, or any role for that matter, but if you stay curious and be brave, you’ll be flying high in no time. Most importantly, never doubt yourself. You were chosen for the role for a reason so have confidence in yourself and your ability, because everyone else sure as hell does.