Somebody recently asked me why I do what I do? Why am I focusing now on young adults, graduates and students and leaving the world of client events and internal communications behind me? It was quite an easy answer – I wanted to go back to my roots!
Starting my career when leaving university was quite straight-forward. I had chosen to qualify as a teacher, and I realise now what that gave me. The year-long course provided me with both support and challenge, it allowed me to gain experience in my chosen profession, and through a strong mentoring system helped me when I struggled, gave me the tools and techniques to use and allowed me the time to practice.
Once the year was up, I was confident. I knew what I was good at, my strengths and weaknesses and also how I coped in stressful situations. I’d been a part of teams who had performed well and of those who’d ultimately failed. I didn’t appreciate it at the time but I had been given the core skills of my profession and a glimpse into the behaviours needed to be successful.
So if you’re not a teacher and instead you want to go into business, do you have a similar process to follow? A programme where you’ll learn, where you’re supported, you experience challenge, you fail in a safe environment, you try again? A programme that is all about the practical, somewhere that you can easily acquire the tools and techniques you really need in the world of business?
Whilst teaching, I was also playing and coaching a great deal of netball both in England and overseas. It became apparent that coaches and teachers weren’t really given much support in training. Since netball was often a sport they didn’t know but had to coach, many of them lacked confidence, ideas and therefore motivation to be the best netball coach/teacher they could be. So I set up Spring Coaching 21 years ago, where I ran courses for teachers, coaches and players to learn new training ideas and techniques and to gain their confidence. These sessions were taught in an experiential way, and my netballers learnt by doing. It was so different to the majority of courses out there at the time and created a massive buzz in netball in South East England (and also in Bermuda where I ran my courses for all the coaches on the island and coached their international squads too). I still coach these workshops today and England Netball now deliver their coaching and tutoring in this way – it is well recognized that experiential learning works.
After teaching, I did indeed move into business; fascinated to see how that world worked and how business was done. As a PA in a sports company, (sports was and still is my passion), I quickly learnt how progress was made in business. I discovered that I was pretty good at ‘getting things done’; I was always seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’, a ‘doer’ and a ‘team player’ and I moved through the company quickly.
Thereafter I was able to find work quite easily as colleagues or clients would bring me with them when they needed ‘to get things done’ in their new roles. One such request came from an entrepreneur – who needed a ‘safe pair of hands’ in their small company – and what an enlightening experience that was. We relied quite heavily on young talent (as they were cheap!) and I was often struck by their intelligence but also by their lack of general business acumen and confidence in certain situations. For me this meant I could thrive on being a teacher again, mentoring them through running effective meetings, setting up a budget or project managing and delivering impressive events. I remember the positive feeling that gave me. I so enjoyed enabling these young adults, who were full of such great potential, to release it and become of huge value to the organisation early on in their careers.
What I’ve learnt from my netball courses and through my business life is how experience, practice, understanding and self-awareness can really have a positive impact when you go into any situation. If you have the tools and know how to use those tools, (because you’ve been able to practice in a safe environment), you become much more confident and most likely more successful.
There are plenty of long business courses and degrees, yes, but wouldn’t it be great to get this practical ‘on the job’ grounding on leaving university or school? Not a whole year therefore, but a skills-set delivered in one or two weeks so that new starters can enter the world of work with the confidence that comes from knowing what’s expected of them, their strengths and weaknesses and understanding how to add value to the business from Day One. What a generation of confident and self-aware young adults we would have!
We know, at Flying Start XP, that by running such courses, putting our time and energy into training and developing people at the very start of their careers, we will be playing our part in creating a generation who are keen to keep developing and growing. So much has been in the press recently about millennials and how although some of them may reportedly feel entitled, they want to make an impact and they want recognition. Well, let’s invest now. Let’s give them the development that we know will benefit both them and their business enormously – let’s start building the next generation of business brilliance.
So why do I do what I do? Well because I care. I was lucky to have both the challenge and support of a great course when leaving university so I started with confidence in my trade, which then helped me in business too. I’m still learning now, surrounded by incredibly knowledgeable business mentors and I love it. I want to be able to give this confidence and self-awareness to others, to be able to release their potential and make them the best they can be.
By Alex Webb, Course Director. Flying Start XP