Five Ways to Succeed as an Apprentice

Five Ways to Succeed as an Apprentice

Welcome to the latest PHD Marketing blog! I’m Ben and I started working at PHD in 2018 as a fresh-faced apprentice, with no clue as to what the future would hold. Skip forward three years and I am now an Account Executive where I work on many things for many clients – too much to mention and no two days are alike!  

University was never something I considered when I was in sixth form. Truthfully, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that time in my life. I knew that an apprenticeship with hands-on learning was the perfect route for me, but what industry? I had no idea!  

As someone who performed well in sixth form, I assumed that companies would jump at the chance to hire me, little did I know that I’d actually have to build a CV, apply for multiple jobs and work hard to get a job – the arrogance of youth! 

After a lengthy search for a job, applying for a wide range of roles in many industries, I found myself sat in the boardroom of a repurposed army barracks, across from two digital marketing gurus at PHD Marketing and I never looked back! Emma and Vicky were very welcoming, open and honest and I instantly knew that this business was the one for me.   

Thankfully, PHD took a shine to me too and hired me as its Digital Marketing Apprentice. 

More than ever, apprenticeships are an enticing option for younger workers leaving schools or colleges, so how can apprentices grow, shape their careers and flourish? Well, here are five top tips from someone who’s ‘been there and got the t-shirt’ as they say! (It’s actually a pink polo shirt from PHD Presents in 2018!) 


1. Come into your job with an open mind… and patience! 

Something that took me too long to realise is that apprenticeships are nothing like school, sixth form or college. I came here with the attitude that I’d pick things up relatively quickly and everything would be plain sailing, however PHD was unlike anything I had imagined (in the best way possible!)  

You’ll learn an awful lot in a very short space of time. I had never even considered that the flexographic industry existed or that packaging was such an interesting, intricate and in-depth topic.  

Reading about companies such as Creation ReprographicsContact OriginatorsGraphic Packaging International and Parkside truly opened my eyes to a whole new world that I didn’t even know operated. 

Having an open mind is important as you need to accept that you won’t understand everything at first – after all, you’re entering an industry that you’re not familiar with. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time to grow. There will be things that you have never heard of, and you will have to adapt to a way of working that is completely different to school or college – especially if, like me, your apprenticeship is your first foray into the real world of work! 


2. Always be willing to learn 

On the contrary, this is something that I was good at from day one. I came to PHD with limited knowledge of digital marketing – my only experience being self-taught via YouTube or one social media module of my I.T A-Level.  

I knew that I would need to learn a lot to succeed and it’s something I thrived on. I believe that your attitude is everything and coming into an apprenticeship with a genuine will to learn and improve is the best way to grow your role within the business. Ultimately, it will convince your employer that you’re worth keeping around after you complete your apprenticeship. 

Of course, the learning journey shouldn’t stop once you pass your apprenticeship. I have been fully qualified for two years now and I still have the hunger to learn and develop, be it my digital marketing knowledge or learning about our clients’ industries. 


3. Use your colleagues for support 

Agency life is busy, fast-paced and won’t be for everyone! There are no two ways about it; the majority of workplaces are very busy and it’s easy, as an apprentice, to see your colleagues pushed for time and be hesitant to ask questions or use their expertise to develop yourself. At PHD Marketing, I’ve been really lucky to work with some extremely talented people and use their knowledge of marketing strategy, public relations, digital marketing – and just about everything else! 

The most important thing I can say is that, as an apprentice, you are there to learn. It is part of why you were hired in the first place, as the company is often seeking to develop you into a full-time employee, where you can help grow the business and take a share of the work from your colleagues.  

I guarantee your colleagues want the best for you and want you to learn and succeed – no question is too stupid and if your colleagues aren’t willing to support you, you’re probably working for the wrong business! Always remember that everyone in the business is rooting for you to succeed and will gladly give as much support as needed. 


4. Use your 20% off-the-job training wisely 

As an apprentice, you should get 20% of your course time to work on off-the-job tasks such as learning, college work and developing your portfolio. This works as one day per week, which is more than enough time to get your work done. However, it’s important to use your time wisely. 

Speak to your manager and make sure that you actually use this time to learn and develop as it is an important time in your career. It is typically a time when you won’t have a large workload and you will have time to do your research. I highly recommend that you use tools available online to learn more about your industry, be it digital marketing or otherwise.  

It’s perhaps the only time in your working career too that you will get dedicated time to do this, and I know from experience that I didn’t always use my 20% off-the-job training. I was so busy supporting clients that I almost neglected this part of my apprenticeship – so be sure to use it. Spend your time researching the latest trends, developments and news in your industry and you will undoubtedly benefit from it! Even if you feel yourself getting lost in technical terms, you’ll be absorbing information without even knowing it. 


5. Communicate with your line manager 

Finally, my last tip is to keep in constant communication with your line manager about your progress and development path. It can be tough to feel you are developing but they have a great birds-eye view.  

Only you know what you’re enjoying and where you want to go in your career. Particularly, in the marketing world, there are so many disciplines that you can master, such as SEO, PPC, social media, copywriting, email marketing, marketing strategy and lots more! If you enjoy one area more than another, or dislike something, it’s best to mention that to your line manager so you can mould your development plan based on your strengths and what you enjoy doing – it may be that you want to become a jack of all trades!  

Your happiness matters, and life is way too short to be working on things that you don’t ultimately enjoy. I would recommend that you communicate your progress, as there may be additional things that your company can do to support you. For example, there may be opportunities for one-to-one tutoring with an expert within the team, or there may be budget for a course to help develop your skills. This will also help you in your journey to becoming a valuable member of the team. 


Why should businesses hire an apprentice? 

I will conclude this blog by explaining why I believe businesses should hire an apprentice. I’m aware that many people reading this will work for our clients or work for a business that would potentially be interested in hiring an apprentice. I’ll keep this short but sweet! 

I believe that as an apprentice, coming to a workplace environment provides a very fresh perspective, without habits from a previous employer. This means that you can mould an apprentice to suit your workplace with best practices and methods that work best for your business.  

A great number of legacy industries around today, including print and packaging, face the challenges of a workforce ageing out of employment and taking key knowledge with them. Apprenticeships are a great way to get fresh blood into an industry and government grants can be used to support on costs.  

Finally, youthful enthusiasm and motivation isn’t something that you can’t teach! Having a diverse workforce is important as people from different backgrounds have different ideas, different experiences and unique ways of working that everyone can benefit from.   

At PHD Marketing, our team is made up of a wide variety of ages, demographics, backgrounds and experiences – and we all bring something unique! Our business sees difference as a major strength – our perspectives and skillsets help to deliver the highest quality work for our clients and every team member has a part to play in our success. 

In fact, we have hired three apprentices over the past four years, all of which have passed with flying colours, first time, without having to resit any exams. A fantastic achievement!  

Each apprentice has progressed to become a valuable member of the PHD team, helping to deliver bespoke marketing plans to global businesses, to ensure that all elements of our clients’ communication strategies and marketing campaigns are delivered seamlessly and on time. 

Are you an aspiring apprentice who thinks that PHD Marketing would be the perfect fit for you? Send your CV and covering letter to [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you!  


If you have any questions about apprenticeships or this blog, feel free to contact [email protected] – I’d be more than happy to answer any questions! 

Posted by: Admin