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Trading for Good

What we're talking about...

The Life of a Young Professional

Little Fish, Big Pond...

One of the Government’s key focuses recently has been around youth unemployment rates in the UK, with 917,000 young people aged 16-24 unemployed in October-December 2013, according to parliament.uk. With this focus on young people, the Government are looking towards small businesses to help out; however, as stated in the Holt Review in 2012, ‘Whilst apprenticeships offer undoubted growth opportunities for businesses, not enough SMEs are taking advantage...This is because they have an outdated view of apprenticeships and are often in the dark’. It is hard to see what benefits a young person can have in your organisation and the wide range of roles they can fill, without having one.

I hope in telling you my story, I can demonstrate the potential young people have, the value they can bring, and persuade you that they are worth more than the time and effort it takes to create the environment to support them.

In The Beginning...

My Business Studies teacher once said to me, ‘whatever you do, do a work placement at university – you will never look back!’ I’m glad I listened to the advice of this wise man.

I studied BBA Management at Lancaster University, which was a 4 year sandwich course, allowing me to do a year out in industry as my third year. Getting onto a placement though was far from a walk in the park. The application process was daunting, with essay long online applications, timed numeric and verbal reasoning tests, interviews and assessment centres.

By the time my Fujitsu assessment centre came around I’d been answering competency based questions so much, I could answer them in my sleep. The role I was applying for sounded perfect - managing marketing and communications for a global account, not many 20 year olds can say they’ve had the opportunity to do that. I wanted this. Only a couple of hours after my final interview with my potential manager, I got the call. I’m sure all of you have had that incredible feeling at least once in your life, when you’ve been striving so hard for something for so long and the hard work finally pays off. The job was mine.

The Life of an Intern Part 1

Being a country girl from a tiny village in Lincolnshire, moving down to London was a little overwhelming at first; however, as soon as I moved in I loved it! I joined Fujitsu on a global account, acting as Communications Manager, under the guidance of my Manager Cat Howard. Cat constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone, whilst always being there to support me when I needed it. A truly inspirational people developer.

My role saw me running global webcasts with our teams in Asia, Europe and America, managing all communications, running large scale customer and partner events and also a joint Corporate Social Responsibility programme with our customer, focusing on volunteers running career days for young adults. I also felt there was room for improvement with the current communications, which led me to rebrand all communications, making them more readable and up to date with branding guidelines.

When Fujitsu exited the contract with our customer, I managed all communications during the transfer (TUPE) of over 200 employees worldwide, including creating and running a website to handle meetings, Q&As and important updates throughout. This was a tough challenge but hard work paid off and I received an internal award for my efforts.

The Life of an Intern Part 2

Due to my work on the global account, I was given the opportunity to act as Communications Manager for the entire Private Sector Division (PSD), with the backing of Cat, who assured me I had what it took. In this new role I worked for the Managing Director of PSD, organising and ensuring smooth delivery of his road shows across the UK. The success of the road shows, including a 48% increase in attendance from the previous year, opened up the opportunity for me to run the road shows for the CEO across the UK and Ireland. As well as this I ran monthly sales calls for our UK Sales Director and was part of the team who organised the Private Sector Kick Off 2011. The Kick Off was a large scale conference and team building activity for over 100 members of PSD, where attendees were taught how to play instruments and came together to play as an orchestra within two hours – a logistical nightmare but the results were amazing.

On the side, I was again part of a CSR programme, leading a group of interns to raise, in total, over £8000 for Barnardo’s, the children’s charity. This was achieved through numerous fundraising activities, including running an Art Gallery on Brick Lane in London, exhibiting young artists’ work, most of who hadn’t exhibited before. Wanting to have more marketing and advertising experience, I also asked and was given the opportunity to run my very own advertising campaign – a dream come true!

All Grown Up

My internship year flew by so fast. I went in as a terrified, not very confident student and came out a confident business woman, equipped with the knowledge I needed to excel in my final year at university. I now had the hands on experience that made everything I learnt come alive and seem actually relevant to the business world – it was truly invaluable.

My internship also helped build confidence outside of work. In my spare time, I was an ambassador for ASDAN, an internationally recognised educational charity and approved awarding body. I attended conferences across the country to speak about the importance of soft skills to teachers and education bodies. This escalated to being invited by ASDAN and Baroness Walmsley to present in the House of Lords, to launch the Employment and Skills Forum (ESF). Standing in a room of such influential people was an honour and an experience I won’t forget, and I was proud to have the confidence to stand up and vocalise my opinions to such a crowd.

Back To School

Finishing off my final year, I applied to come back to Fujitsu as a Marketing Graduate and was successful. However, whilst celebrating a 2:1, I received a call from our Chief Operating Officer, Gavin Bounds. Slightly unnerved, thinking they’d decided they didn’t want me back after all, I was relieved to hear Gavin had heard good things about me from our CEO and gave me the opportunity to work with him for a year, to gain a broad overview of the company.

The Real Deal

One and a half years after taking on this rare opportunity and I’m still living the dream. I have been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to make my own role under Gavin, enabling me to build upon my skill base and broaden my experiences in areas of interest. As I have always been passionate about making a difference, I really wanted to be involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which has been the basis of many of my experiences.

I represent Fujitsu at numerous CSR initiatives, such as the Business Compact meetings, set up by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, to help improve social mobility and create a fairer society. I’ve also worked closely with the Business Disability Forum, organising their President’s Group Dinners, which is a gathering of board members representing over 20% of the UK workforce, working together to improve conditions for disabled employees.

Whilst helping to run the communications for Gavin’s part of the organisation, I have acted as communications manager on investigations and projects and written articles for external publications, one of which highlighted the huge change programme Fujitsu has undertaken, in an Institute for Turnaround (IFT) publication. I’ve also project managed the creation of a Future Technologies video, highlighting our innovations from Japan and how they could enter the UK market in the future. This video, starring our very own graduates, is now used by our colleagues in Japan and I was given an internal award for my work.

I still make time for a lot of fun between the serious tasks. Whilst helping to run Fujitsu’s Children in Need campaign, which raised over £50,000, I got to be Pudsey in THE Pudsey costume and had the honour of gunging my boss, which was definitely a highlight. I also help out with campaigns for our charity partnership with Shelter, making my Granny’s famous Tiffin and dressing up as Mrs. Santa, as well as being awarded runner up at ‘Fujitsu’s Got Talent’ for my rendition of Adele’s ‘Make you feel my love’...the things we do for charity....

The Big Challenge

One of my biggest challenges to date was to help manage Fujitsu’s presence at the three political party conferences. Two months before the event I managed the completion of Fujitsu’s ‘Growing a Responsible Business’ report, which highlighted all the fantastic stories around our organisation, showing how responsible business is good business. I also managed the visual element of the report, which was a 20 minute video, to be played in the Fujitsu Lounge at all three conferences, both of which are still being used in our organisation today, to share both internally to our people and externally to our customers the great stories we have.At the conference I had the joint responsibility of making sure both the Fujitsu Lounge, (an area where MPs and delegates could have meetings, check email, and have a break from the conference), and the fringe events we were holding, ran smoothly. We also had to use every opportunity to publicise the work of Fujitsu. This led to meeting Nick Clegg, and, most dauntingly of all, standing up and speaking in Fringe events, one of which, led me to having a conversation with Esther Rantzen around the important role big business can play with charities.

At the Conservative party conference, we also part sponsored the Start-Up Hub, a stall of 12 start-up companies who won the opportunity to present their products and services at the conference. Some of the ideas they had were fantastic, such as a very simple and easy to use Skype system for the older generation, so they could keep in touch with their family.

The conferences saw my colleague, and I out the business and working every hour for 3 weeks, including weekends. Although we were very tired and in need of a holiday afterwards, we loved every minute of it. The experience was incredible, and thankfully the conferences were a great success, with each of us being given an internal award as recognition of our efforts.

What Now?

At the party conferences I worked closely with Kay Allen, another fantastic role model, who ended up acting as our mentor throughout, again pushing us out of our comfort zone, challenging us to stand up at fringe events and also helping us to get our heads around the world of party conferences, which was nothing like anything else I’ve experienced.

Fujitsu are keen supporters of Trading for Good, and offered to help through having an individual from Fujitsu seconded out to Trading for Good on a part time basis. Now buzzing from the conferences, I jumped at the chance and was lucky enough to be successful in applying for the role.

So again I’m hurriedly getting my head around a new challenge and already thoroughly enjoying it. Trading for Good is such a fantastic opportunity for SMEs to shout out about the good that they do.. Although in its infancy, the potential of what Trading for Good can achieve is already visible and I hope you agree with me that this is an exciting venture to be a part of.

Takeaway

I hope you take away from this at least one very important message. Young people can really have a positive impact on your business, bringing enthusiasm, new ideas and a new outlook on your operations – they are invaluable.  Not a month goes by when I hear about another graduate or apprentice in Fujitsu whose achievements and experiences are something extraordinary.

Although I worked hard, I was also incredibly lucky to have such a supportive company and manager behind me, who weren’t afraid to give me a chance to see what I was capable of. If you put your faith, time and effort into young people, you will reap the rewards and they will continue to repay you and help you grow your business for years to come.

Melody Wilson
About the Author

Melody Wilson

One of the Government’s key focuses recently has been around youth unemployment rates in the UK, with 917,000 young people aged 16-24 unemployed in October-December 2013, according to parliament.uk.

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