I have just completed my first week as a cyber security degree apprentice at Amazon, which is often known for its poor work life balance. This doesn't match my personal experience so far, however I wanted to prepare myself for the worst and try and plan and manage everything going on in my life early on, so I wouldn't struggle if the worst came to worst.
Personally, I dedicate several hours each week to volunteer work, including ambassadorial and mentor roles, as well as some light digital and technical support tasks. These commitments can quickly add up, especially if you're involved in sports, clubs, or maintain a busy social life, leaving you feeling overwhelmed.
In my initial week, I often found myself leaving home at 6 am and returning at 10 pm due to various social and voluntary commitments. I made the mistake of not planning my time effectively and saying "yes" to every last-minute plan out of fear of missing out. Only now am I realising that learning to say "no" to some things, even early on when you might feel pressured to attend social events, can significantly improve your mindset and overall well-being.
Prioritise Your Time Early
While you might not have your time and commitments perfectly organised from day one, a few weeks into your apprenticeship you'll develop a better understanding of how to cope with university, work, and social life. Establishing a routine will be beneficial in the long run, allowing you to manage sudden changes and say "yes" to last-minute plans more thoughtfully.
Prioritisation involves setting both short and long-term goals within and outside of your work. For instance, if career growth is a primary goal, allocate time outside of work for voluntary commitments, which can help you develop valuable skills and enhance your CV. However, if your goal is to maintain a work-life balance or pursue other interests, that's perfectly valid – as everyone's journey is unique.
Embrace Virtual Opportunities
Don't feel obligated to attend every commitment in person. If possible, consider utilising virtual opportunities, which can be especially beneficial for work-related meetings. This flexibility allows you to optimise your schedule and make it easier to attend other commitments. In my case, I arrange most of my volunteer and mentor work to be virtual, reducing the need for physical presence and simplifying my schedule.
Seeking Mentorship or Guidance
If you find yourself struggling or need advice, take advantage of any resources that your company provides, such as virtual support or mental health support. Many companies assign onboarding buddies or mentors to assist apprentices in their early stages. If you've been in your apprenticeship for a few months or years, still don't hesitate to seek advice from friends or work colleagues.
Never be afraid to ask for help, with work related questions or if you are struggling to balance the demands of your apprenticeship with everything else going on in your life. If you are coming straight out of sixth form straight into an apprenticeship, your whole life and daily routine changes and you need to remember to give yourself credit for being successful for one of these very competitive programs!