Carly's Social Mobility Blog

At Standard Life Aberdeen we are committed to offering our people opportunities to develop themselves on a personal and professional level. Over the past 12 years, we’ve supported the skills development of over 1000 apprentices through a myriad of different programmes such as IT, Business Administration, Customer Service, Management and Leadership and Software Development.

Carly Taylor joined us in October 2018 on our Edinburgh Guarantee Scheme and now works as a Communications Assistant. Carly wanted to share her story with the aim of showing the value our initiatives have added to her career, dispel some myths about them and provide some advice or those who may be interested in applying in the future.

When people say the word ‘intern’ our minds automatically go to the terrified millennial chasing after a manager with coffee in hand and fear in their eyes. No real responsibility, no voice, and no sense of happiness in where they are or what they’re doing. Let me be the one to break the stigma.

Being on the Edinburgh Guarantee Scheme, and being an intern at Standard Life Aberdeen is the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Coming into a workplace straight from school was always going to be daunting. I had no idea where I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do. I knew school wasn’t the right place for me however. The qualifications I had were average at best due to struggling in the overall environment I was put in. I wanted to have somewhere to thrive, but I hadn’t found that. I had more to give but no one and nowhere to give it to, which in itself is a really frustrating feeling.

It was then, at a really hard time in my life, that I was introduced to the Edinburgh Guarantee Scheme. This presented me with the chance to apply for an internship in a business (in my case - Standard Life Aberdeen) where you’re judged not on your qualifications and experience, but on who you are as a person and your determination to succeed. A chance I feel like more people should be aware of and grab with both hands.

As soon as I walked through the doors of Dundas House I knew this was nothing like what I was used to. A place that always smells like coffee and biscuits, and you can’t walk down a corridor without saying “hello, good morning” more times than feels normal. I knew it was going to be an opportunity I couldn’t take for granted. So if you’re thinking of taking on the same sort of experience as I did, here’s my advice to you.

When you’re told its okay to ask questions, it really is okay to ask questions!

It can seem quite intimidating coming into a workplace where everybody seems to know what they’re doing apart from you. At first it can seem like everyone speaks in jargon and you’re always trying to keep up in conversations. And even though you can sometimes feel like you’re being annoying by asking what might seem like simple questions, everyone is happy to give you the answer and it is all about adapting to a new environment. I quickly realised that no one expects you to learn everything overnight. Take every opportunity to learn and to grow.

Take note of everything.

It’s important that when meeting new faces or taking on new tasks to remember the details. Especially if your placement is time sensitive, noting your achievements and areas for development is really going to help. This enables you to look back at the end and really appreciate the work you’ve done and what you’ve learned along the way. I would recommend creating a monthly diary or a spreadsheet to take note of all your contacts, achievements and development needs. Find a way that works for you and then stick with it throughout your placement, because before you know it you’ll be near the end of your placement and want to relive and reminisce about your time. You will also reflect back and see just how far you have come in such a short period of time.

Remind yourself that the work you do matters.

Like with the stereotypical idea of an intern, it’s easy to think that the work given to you is low level which other co-workers just don’t have time to get round to or want to complete. I can guarantee you that that is not the case. Whether it’s completing important data analysis or organising your teams Secret Santa, everything you do in your time in the business will help develop you as a worker, as an adult and can even be fun! Each opportunity you have gives you some aspect of responsibility and/or personal development that you shouldn’t underestimate. You may not be at university training to be a doctor, but you can still be doing work that matters.

We are all a part of a society fixated on the idea that after high school, going to university or college is the only career path we have if we want to be successful. The pressure to pick one or the other at a young age can be an unnecessary burden, especially if you are unsure of where you want to be in five years. Learning on the job, gaining exposure to the world of work is a legitimate option and one that I couldn’t recommend highly enough. For me, we need to be educated on all of our options, and not to be treated as though there are only two we can really take.

There are people who sit in the same office as me who went to university and we are now at the same place in our lives. This doesn’t make them any less intelligent or me any more superior. It means that there are more options open to us that need to be discussed and accepted because as long as you work hard, it’s possible.

For me, we need to start conversations and share what we know from our experiences with people who are looking to start their own. We need to create more of an online presence alongside taking our stories into school to promote the additional routes we now have for our careers.

Lewis Grice