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"The new apprentice" - by Kelly Shepherdson

Kelly Shepherdson, a Bolton at Home employee has recently changed her job to become an apprentice at 32 years old within our Learning & Development Team. Here she tells us her story.... 


I start my Learning & Development journey filled with excitement, anticipation and a little bit of relief that I finally have a career plan in mind! When you leave school you're supposed to know what you want to be, in my opinion you need to DO a bit of life first to understand what you want out of it. How can you possibly know at 16 years old what you want out of a life you haven’t really started?

So after having what some would call a varied career so far - previously working as a Team leader, a Project Officer, an Administrator, a hairdresser, a singer… 2 kids, a husband and a dog later I decided I need to really find out what I want from my life and from my career.

With the help from a mentoring programme, a few brutal conversations with myself such as ‘you’re 32 with 2 kids now make a decision Kelly’ and some honest chats with my current team members and manager I decided that my "thing" is people.

I like finding out about them, understanding them, helping them and seeing results these things are what make me tick!

What better way to get all of this from a job than move to the People Development Team.


As the apprentice.....

I wouldn’t say this was an easy decision. I’m 32 and just the title of Apprentice reminds me of someone leaving school who’s been talked into an apprenticeship by their parents because they refuse to go to college. Been there done that. However, I knew this apprenticeship was going to be so much more than that and I can live with the title :-).

I’ve not even started and I am enrolled on a Firewalk for charity! WHATTT?? This was my inner voice reaction when Paula, my new manager, asked me to take part. The other was IS THIS A TEST? Obviously I said yes just like that - I shocked myself! I don’t do mud and rain let alone walking in my bare feet on fire in front of a load of spectators. You’ve done it now Kel, the start of things to come.

1 March 2017 - Day 1 begins with a big smile. I believe the most nerve wrecking part of starting a new job is meeting the team but I already know them so hurdle 1 doesn’t exist in my happy little head. However, starting a completely new job is still as scary as starting your first day in a new school. I'm  greeted with happy smiley faces and I instantly feel like I'll fit in here. Brew duty is on me as I need to develop some training on my specific requirements (at the request of Paula, who remembers how fussy I am from my early days in our old office - Adelaide House).

First on my to do list was to find out what each of the team members are working on. I said that I'd do this in my interview so you have to follow up on what you say don’t you? Haha. No seriously, this is where the ‘getting to know people’ bit comes in for me. I need to understand why people do what they do, how they're motivated, what their opinions are, how they feel they fit in, what they're doing, I am super nosey to be honest and I was learning so much already!

One by one the team told me what was on their to do list and already I am sensing that they really don’t do the ‘bigging themselves up thing’ AT ALL! Pages of notes later and after asking so how much of your time does that take I’m hearing ‘’that will just take about 2 hours’’ ‘’that might take me a few days’’ ‘’this one is ongoing’’ ‘’ yes there’s loads on at the moment but we’re fine with it’’.

WOW they are all so busy but all so calm at the same time, how do they do it? Previously busy to me meant panic, deadlines, stress, silent working and lots of coffee. Now I am talking to a team who have obviously been able to train themselves into not letting things have an effect on their wellbeing. Now, this is what I like - I want some of this!

Over the next week I settle in completely, it was honestly that quick! After having a training plan discussion I am getting involved in the Personal Development process review, meeting the Bolton at Home's group partners, Better Together, contributing to the induction review plans and getting to grips with what my training courses will involve. I also have to plan for something else that Paula thought would be good for me… a presentation at my mentoring group. So we book some time in to discuss what I could present and she hits me with it, ‘’what about doing something around the visual alphabet Kelly’’?

Erm? Never heard of it. So this is the start of my next challenge. It’s fair to say I’m not the quietest in the group and being a singer, far from scared of crowds. However, standing in front of a group of people talking about something I know nothing about is something else! I need to get learning so over the next day or so I start practising the visual alphabet.

I start to realise, as Paula had told me, that drawing really does help with your mind set- Mindfulness and mindful drawing were introduced to me. Something about the concentration and not having drawn a thing since the dream house picture I drew repeatedly as a child, was so relaxing. Whilst I was considering how to influence people into thinking about drawing for the mind, I started researching looking into Mindful doodling and before long I had created my first ‘learning session’ without realising – how exciting is this?

Firewalk night arrives and I’m more nervous than I was before. I'm actually doing it. After a pre walk session with a very excited man who actually made me feel worse by mentioning the scary things I hadn’t even thought of at this point, we went to the fire! Everyone was clapping, cheering each other on and before I knew it I had walked over the fire and was working out if my feet were frozen or burnt! I HAD DONE IT – WE HAD ALL DONE IT! Talk about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone if I can do this, what else could I do? Then it hit me- Paula must have asked us to do this to show us that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

Mentoring day came and I felt well prepared. I opened the boot of my car where my colourful, look what I made earlier flipchart presentation was hiding… it was SOAKED! Rain had seeped in and turned my pretty little pictures into smudges! Arghhhh!! Was pretty much what I thought.

So I'm a natural planner, and this was definitely not the plan BUT you have to laugh or cry. Usually I may have sat crying but this time I opted for laughing. I tweeted Paula (by the way I’m soo into this tweeting malarkey now) and in usual Learning & Development style she turned the smudges to rainbows. I continued my journey smiling away and thinking I can do this and I did! The session went well, everyone gave it a go, some said it wasn’t for them but others took details of the ted talks link I gave to them and laughed about the adult colouring sheet they could take home - I bet some of them have a go!

Next on the training plan was ‘raising my profile’ and ‘networking’ how many times do we hear we should do this and never do? This is all about me and my development now so I am doing it. As they say on the mentoring session – Just do it. I needed to get a grip on Twitter and the queen of tweeting (yes Paula again) was at hand to help me get started. Next was to build a LinkedIn profile then network with people – tweeting pictures, learning what the funny hashtag things are all about, understanding how to set up a linkedin profile (thanks to my Team and my colleague Laura) this opened up another world for me. As people connected with me or retweeted my tweets I started to get giddy. I’m all over facebook but twitter and Linked in are a different ball game –this is work in progress so watch this space.

All in all, on reflection I have had a seriously busy, informative and inspiring 8 working days with the People Development Team. After being asked today what I have been getting up to, I actually did what I never thought I would do and played it down. Just as my colleagues had previously done when asked what they were up to. Its great what reflection does for you and it will continue for me now.

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