By Hannah McCormack
For many individuals, opting to embark on a career hiatus can be a daunting choice.
However, for 37 year old Business Operations Manager MJ Mullane, this decision proved to be a gateway to fresh opportunities in the public and third sectors, leading her to a profound understanding of her fundamental principles.
MJ, who lives in Edinburgh, explained: “I decided to take a break in between jobs where I consciously went through my personal core values. I wanted to figure out what it was exactly I wanted to do with my life, what meant the most to me, and where I really wanted to focus my attention.”
“I discovered that, at the core of everything, I really wanted to give back to others in any way I could.
“At that time, it just so happened that I saw a Facebook ad for UK Boardroom Apprentice urging people to sign up.
“Because it was the first round of applications, there wasn’t a long sign up period so I knew it was somewhat of a now-or-never situation and applied immediately.”
Established in 2017 by Eileen Mullan, UK Boardroom Apprentice is a unique board learning, development and placement programme which enables those who would like to serve on a public or third sector board to learn and gain the experience that they need to take that step.
For her UK Boardroom Apprentice experience, MJ was placed with UK-wide SeaFfish Industry Authority, a non-departmental public body that supports and enables the seafood industry to thrive.
MJ elaborated on her experience on the board: “I met a number of the people involved in the Northern Ireland fishing industry, went on a harbour tour and got to know the people who are impacted by Seafish’s work.
“I now know more about Nephrops than you ever need to know in your life, I’ve seen how scampi is made. But all of that was super useful to get the context because otherwise you’re just sitting in a boardroom talking through a pack and the personalities aren’t on the page.
“You can have a lot of expertise around you sitting in a boardroom, but it’s so much easier when you can see the people out there doing the work. So that for me was really an amazing experience.”
For MJ, taking part in the UK Boardroom Apprentice programme was less about learning new skills and more about reaffirming what she already knew.
“Compromisation is a skill I knew I had but it’s a skill I didn’t tap into as often as I’m frequently looked upon as the decision maker in my work life. It was nice to be able to compromise more.
“Our work preparing for the group presentation reaffirmed for me that whether the ideas brought forward are the ideas you wanted to do or not, if it’s not a wrong idea can make the compromise.”
For anyone thinking of applying to the programme, MJ explained that if you are confident in why you want to be on a board, you should apply.
“If there’s something in you that wants to give back and you think you have the time commitment to do it, ignore every other little voice in your head and all the reasons to not do it.
“None of those are relevant because you’ll be proven wrong on them anyway. Tell the voice in your head to be quiet.”
Applications for the programme are open to people of all ages, from 18+, and all backgrounds and abilities.