Carrying my notepad in one hand and a small ripped piece of paper with two addresses scribbled on in my other, I walked through Manchester City Centre to the closest cafe. I have around 50 minutes to spare before I'm due to arrive at my first interview of the day and have planned to get in some prep time... and coffee.
As I arrive at the cafe, order my coffee and seat myself outside; I begin to read through notes I had made prior to that morning. The next few hours I will spend being interviewed by two in my former (and slightly naive) opinion - very similar businesses. Both located in the City Centre. Both Recruiters. Both apparently fans of my CV.
Although many of you will surely be able to relate to this exact situation I am describing – it was fairly new to me. This was around two years ago and I was 17 (maybe 16) at the time. Before this day I had previously attended a few interviews with completely different businesses in an attempt to gain a position that offered me the chance to study for an apprenticeship alongside employment. It was at this point that I already had offers from the other interviews – all corporate and legal firms. Now, I am fully aware that accepting those offers would probably have been a good career choice, training within a law company would have had great prospects and I've heard some wonderful success stories from people who did take that career route. However, never one to make things simple I decided to wager my offers and fall of their recruitment radar for a few days in order to attend just two more interviews...
At the time I was fully aware that my decision to lay low on the legal firm front was not entirely loved by the recruiters I was dealing with, and stereotypically I can understand why... after all I was just a teenager who had recently parted ways with her college due to... my...Ahem, lack of commitment to the place... (Reliable, I know). Truth be told, the reasons that had led me to this day, sat in the coffee shop waiting to begin my interviews, was I suppose my inability to just listen. I much prefer to listen first and then go ahead and do whatever it is I had learned, hence why I decided to join an apprenticeship.
If we skip forward a few hours – post interview. I had left the meetings a little wiser not only on the recruitment side but also in terms of knowing my own goals. The first interview consisted of being seated in a small (box like) room with windows for walls to ensure that all occupants of the office could fully observe me being interviewed. I was greeted by a very formal suited and booted type of guy who despite acknowledging that I too was dressed very formally couldn't take his eyes off my nose ring... The conversation itself was extremely corporate however seemed to go rather well, ending with me being introduced to the rest of the team and showed to desk that (on accepting an offer) I would be adopting.
My second interview was... on the other end of the spectrum to the formalities of the first shall I say. So different in fact that there isn't much to tell about it - but for the sake of telling the story - it was around a 30 minute informal chat. A little bit about me. A little bit about them. Simple. It was in fact so different to the first interview that I left having somewhat convinced myself that surely I must not have appeared 'good' enough to warrant a longer interview and I must admit I was left feeling a little disappointed with myself.
The only real positive I can recall from this interview was the last comment I received from the interview, which was quite simply "See you soon." This phrase I questioned for some time after the interview, was it just a figure of speech or had I actually performed better than originally suspected?
Moving forward to present day. I should hope that it was not just a figure of speech as I have now been at that very company (The MRJ Group) for around two years.
The day following my interviews, I received two phone calls. Both offers from each recruitment agency, and call it a gut instinct but I had already made a decision despite how very different the interviews had gone. So you may be wondering why exactly I accepted the MRJ offer, after all the first interview did appear to be a tad more successful.
The truth is, the purpose of this whole process was to join a company that would kick-start my career in a big way. I was desperate to secure myself a position within a great company that I would grow with... but I was also desperate to find a company that suited me. Would I have gained success from the corporate recruitment agency? Possibly... but I now am a strong believer that without MRJ I would not have had the platform to achieve all that I have...
The reason behind telling you this anecdote is quite simply to understand how significant these events have become. From that very day (in the short space of two years) I have held a number of positions within MRJ from my beginning as a general assistant to admin to fully developing the digital side of our business to my current Marketing Executive role (It's been an eventful few years).
For me the term, "working your way up from the bottom" has been very literal but I wouldn't have done it any other way. Just as the route of an apprenticeship many not be for everyone, I believe that my career journey is living proof that throwing yourself in at the deep end straight into a job can pay off in the long run.
So, most importantly, going back to the day I received the offers. Did I make the right decision?
I'm pleased to say that I did.