Marc Allera, CEO, BT's Consumer Division

Be Work Ready: keep learning new skills and kick-start your career

2020 has turned out to be the year of the unexpected – and particularly difficult for young people looking for a job or wanting to progress their careers.

Lots of businesses are under all sorts of pressure. That means, particularly for young people, it's going to be more important than ever to develop the skills they need to be successful in getting their first job or progressing in the job they're in. Whether it’s a role at BT or any other company, we want to help young people develop those skills.

BT’s Work Ready training scheme has already helped thousands of young people kickstart their careers, providing opportunities for young people who aren't in employment, education or training and preparing them for the world of work. Our Work Ready two-week programme gives young people the experience, knowledge and digital skills they need to take their first steps to a career in the digital world.

A placement is not a practical step for any of us to take at the moment – although we are running Work Ready webinars (which you can find on the link below). As an extension of those webinars, earlier this week we live streamed our Work Ready event from the BT Sport studio, with advice on finding a job, taking charge of your career path, and staying motivated in challenging times from Maya Jama, Chelcee Grimes, Spencer Owen, BT Sport’s Andrew Mensah and the CEO of The Youth Group, Jack Parsons.

They were all eager to share their life experience. Spencer asked me how it was for me when I was starting out. Like many young people might be finding now, I had a few weeks and months where it was a tough time economically. We didn't have emails – we had to send letters to apply for positions. It could often be a long wait to get to the next stage. But in each interview I had, I found a way of saying: 'I may not have this experience, but I can bring you this.'

You can take something from everyone – no one person has all the answers. And, if you're interested, willing to learn and give it a go, you'll find you are given the opportunities you are looking for. Technology is evolving rapidly, with new platforms changing the way we live, work and connect. So you can never say you know everything. It doesn't matter if you're a CEO or if you have just joined the company – you can always be learning!

The most important investment you can make is in yourself. Develop your skills, your knowledge to give yourself an advantage. That's more important than ever. Invest a few minutes every day. An hour or more, if you have it. With the right skills, attitude and mindset, you can be successful.

As an employer, one of the most important things I look for is passion. You want to work with people who care about the business you're in. I also look for different perspectives; people who can bring different ideas and give you the overall picture from diverse backgrounds. Business is about solving problems. We face different challenges, big and small, every day. So I look for people who can think around problems, and people with resilience who are not going to give up at the first hurdle.

Particular talents and aptitudes are important – and you can train for those, often on the job. But so are so-called ‘soft skills’:

Communication: it's a really important thing in business. Being able to convey ideas, or challenges you might be facing.

Collaboration: working with a team, be open to new ideas, being able to work well with others is an important foundation skill.

Learning: that curiosity and willingness to learn. Be proactive about your own development.

Enthusiasm: it can be infectious – people who care about the workplace and the world around them.

Positive energy is one of the things employers are looking for when they ask the classic question: 'Tell me about a time you've dealt with a challenging situation.'

That's about problem-solving, creative thinking and an approach to tackling tasks differently to make things better. Things don't always go well. Resilience is like a muscle – the older you get, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Being able to bounce back when things haven't gone as planned is so important.

These are skills that can be transferred – you'll need them in any job as you move companies, teams and departments. And, if you become someone who other people want to pass knowledge onto, you’ll find you can progress further and faster. As an employer, you don't want to do that with people who don't care. So encourage other people to give you those skills and opportunities when they do come around – whether that ends up being at BT, or anywhere else.

At BT, we connect for good. We're on a mission to help not just young people up and down the UK, but our customers, communities and businesses overcome barriers and release their potential. Work Ready is just one part of our Skills for Tomorrow ambition: by 2025, we’re aiming to help 10m people in the UK develop the skills they need to make the most of life in the digital world.

You can watch our Work Ready Live Event on YouTube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2jPZ06zqhE

And find out more about our Work Ready programme and BT’s Skills for Tomorrow, with free courses to develop your digital skills, here: https://www.bt.com/skillsfortomorrow

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @marcallera