Reflections on my first year as a trainee
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This September marks the start of the third seat of my training contract, which makes me a second-year trainee. I'm looking forward to not being quite so new and to meeting the next set of first years (for whom I will be acting as a 'trainee buddy'). I've started thinking about where I might want to go for my last seat and where I might want to qualify next year, which is exciting although a bit nerve-wracking. It's also a good time to look back at what I've learnt over the course of the last 12 months and hopefully apply some of what I've found out to the next year.
1. Every seat is different
Even though both seats I have done so far were in the same office of the same firm, they were not similar experiences at all. Of course they were in different departments and so required working in a new area of law, but the differences ran much deeper than that. I found that the teams had very different ways of working and attitudes towards their work. For me, I found that the working environment of my first seat suited me well, but my second seat was a steep learning curve. Both were good learning experiences in their own ways and it's helpful to know that, even if you struggle in one seat, it doesn't mean that you won't excel in the next one.
2. It's hard to tell how well you are doing
As a trainee, it's hard not to feel like you are undertaking a two-year job interview and it's natural to be a bit preoccupied with how your team might be judging your performance. I found myself second-guessing how I thought I was doing and spent a lot of time focusing on the mistakes I made and problems I had instead of the good stuff. When it came to appraisal time, I was sure I wasn't doing well, but I was (luckily) proved wrong and got mostly good feedback, with some constructive suggestions for improvement. It's pretty difficult to judge how you are getting on during a training contract, but usually if you are trying your best, it will be appreciated and included in your feedback.
3. It's good to get involved
When I was at school and university, I wasn't really one for joining lots of extracurricular clubs and teams. I'm still similar and value the time I can spend with my partner, friends and family more highly than time spent on hobbies or organised activities. However, as a trainee I have tried to show more interest in non-work events at my firm, as I think it will be good for me (and I might even enjoy it!). I haven't gone overboard, but over the year I have helped to organise some charity events (mostly involving baking), attended several drinks, lunches and networking meetings, and gone along to volunteer with Citizens' Advice. I was also lucky enough to be invited to a colleague's wedding. I've enjoyed being more involved with the firm and it's nice to meet colleagues I might not ordinarily have bumped into through work.
Of course, I've also learnt a lot about the areas I've worked in, and developed my own skills, resilience and confidence. Overall it wasn't the easiest year of my life so far – it's actually been one of the most challenging – but I'm optimistic and looking forward to the next 12 months with a bit more experience under my belt.