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"What I Never Expected To Learn On My Graduate Scheme"

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By the time I finished university and started applying to grad schemes, I had lots of interests and a variety of work experience on my CV. It felt a bit daunting to choose a career path that, at the time, seemed like it would shape the rest of my working life. So, I looked for rotational grad schemes to gain different experiences and skills. I opted for Post Office’s Graduate Management Scheme because of the variety it offers and the small number of grads it hires every year. I was really impressed with the level of interest and attention we were given from senior leaders across the business. From the outset we were encouraged to challenge the status quo and seek opportunities to voice and implement change.

I knew working life would be a change from the university lifestyle, but I didn’t realise just how tired I’d be. A few months in I think I slept for an entire weekend. There were lots of great experiences throughout my scheme but naturally there were also some challenging and testing times as well. I expected these but they’re still a shock to the system. In hindsight though, the hardest tasks and the things I struggled with the most have provided the most important lessons; these have and will continue to shape me. Skills and experiences are important to gain but intangible behaviours like resilience, drive, self-awareness, and empathy are just as significant. The hard lessons have made me value the importance of stepping outside of my comfort zone and pursuing opportunities to learn new things. Initially, I did this because I was inquisitive and was unsure about what I wanted to do after the scheme. Now I realise how important it is that we continually seek new experiences and learn new things, regardless of experience, position or age.

Seeking feedback from mentors, managers, colleagues and coaches has been so useful and has given me more self-awareness of my strengths and development areas. I’ve learnt that positivity is the key to resilience; it’s important to not let others’ negativity and cynicism cloud my own outlook. I’ve also learnt the importance of empathy, to put myself in the decision maker’s shoes. Partaking in negativity adds no value, we rarely know the full context and none of us are perfect anyway.

I’ve witnessed some great displays of leadership and some scenarios where things perhaps could have been handled differently. The best leaders I’ve come across have been those who are consistent, true to their word, inquisitive, open to new ideas and do things like asking the quietest person in the room for their thoughts. Emulate the best bits and remember how you felt about the worst. It’s important to be authentic and to be yourself, but it’s equally important to identify your own and others’ less endearing behaviours. Be conscious of your impact, particularly when under pressure or in stressful times. I’ve learnt as much about people as I have about specific skills and business areas.

 

Overall, I knew that a well-run scheme would give me plenty of opportunities to learn some great transferable and role-specific skills. What I never expected was how the exposure and experiences on the Post Office grad scheme would shape me as a person. People are often measured by their output and what they do at work. In reality, how you go about doing it is just as important.

GRB Blog Author and Student - Michael Bratt

Mike joined Post Office in 2016 on its rotational Graduate Management Programme. Having finished the programme, he’s now working to develop the strategy for parcels business and create customer-centric, value adding digital solutions.

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