Exclusive Interview: The Apprentice candidate and NCL alumni Joanna Jarjue

Image: @joanna_jarjue

The 13th series of The Apprentice kicked off last month with a new cast of egocentric, strong-minded candidates all hoping to become business partners with Lord Sugar. From event planning to retail pitches, this year’s series has been filled with unforgettable moments such as Mathematician Jeff’s business break-dance to Harrison’s rendition of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. 

One of the candidates fighting for Lord Sugars investment is Joanna Jarjue, a Newcastle University Alumni who graduated with a politics degree in 2015. The twenty-three-year-old is the youngest contestant this series and in a recent episode led her team to victory following a fast-paced purchasing and negotiation challenge. We caught up with Joanna to discuss everything from her time at university to the pressures and nerves of the infamous boardroom:

How do you think studying at Newcastle University prepared you for the real world once you had graduated?

I think as a student it was my first time moving away from home so it was obviously being thrown into the deep end and my first big real-life challenge. But I think Newcastle University is quite good at preparing students; I do think there is a good kind of community spirit within the uni and with me studying politics as well the school is quite small so I think that there is a community there as well. I think it is more the atmosphere and the aura that you get when you go into the uni, with so many kind of historical aspects to it it’s just a bit more of a homely uni I think compared to others which is one of the reasons I picked it after doing the tour there.

There is a good kind of community spirit within the uni … it’s just a bit more of homely uni I think compared to others

You studied Politics at University, what inspired your move into the business sector?

I think it was more just because of my own personality, so politics you know I was interested in because of different aspects of my personality and different things I was interested in in terms of international relations, but in terms of when I started thinking about a day to day job I kind of saw myself more in a corporate environment.

The business idea that I actually brought forward to pitch to Lord Sugar actually came to me in the middle of second year and at that point I knew I was going to do it eventually but obviously because I was so young I kind of thought maybe I will do it when I am about 25.

I remember going to some events in the King’s Gate building about setting up a business and I went to Innovation Elevator, an entrepreneur hub kind of thing. I went there and I was considering doing that because I know the uni has got some spaces somewhere upstairs in the building where you have little booths to work from so I considered all of that.

I also even looked into a Dragon’s Den style competition in the business school, like a mini one, so I was really kind of heavily considering it while I was at uni. I was considering all the things that Newcastle uni had on the table to support people like me who want to start a business as well but I just thought I would leave it a couple of years to kind of work first and then do it.

You’re the youngest candidate in this series, do you believe that worked to your advantage?

I wouldn’t say that being the youngest candidate worked to my advantage at all. I think particularly in the first couple weeks I really had to kind of battle to get my point across or even be heard. I think from the get-go when you come and have only been a graduate for two years and you haven’t run a business before, I think it takes a while kind of somehow find your place within the process and I guess gain that respect so it definitely did not help me in that sense, but I always tried to stay resilient.

Obviously, you can’t say much but how was your overall experience on the show?

It was tough, I had some good points and I had some bad points, personally on tasks as well as in the house because it is one of those things where you’re never gonna really enjoy it fully and all the way through because you are thrust into a little bubble away from everything and it is so pressurised. But overall I probably would say that I enjoyed it, yeah.

It was tough … you are thrust into a little bubble away from everything and it is so pressurised

What advice do you have for any students just starting Newcastle university?

I would say, particularly if you don’t know what you want to do, just thrust yourself into little things. One thing that I realized more once I graduated is the importance of going to events and networking. If you don’t know what you want to do but you’re interested in certain industries, just jump on Eventbrite; there might be something where someone might be doing a talk on it which is just one hour of your life.

Your friends might be willing to do that with you, even if you set yourself ‘ok once a month I’m going to try and go to an event’ you don’t know when you’re going to meet your next mentor or when you’re going to hear someone speak or find out more about a different industry and actually kind of fall in love with it.

I think it is best to slowly get yourself into it and find out what you want to do because I was really panicked when I first came out of uni and like most people I thought ‘oh if I don’t get a graduate scheme I don’t know what I am going to do’ so start looking at different things in your own time but maybe make it fun and attend some events and some talks.

How do you think it is best to deal with nerves, whether it’s in the boardroom or in an exam?

I think the best way for me has been to just remember either the reason that you started in the first place or what the end goal is. I think if you focus too much on the present you end up kind of sucked into that situation then you end up letting your own thoughts overpower everything.

If you focus on whatever is important to you, whether it was the courage to get started in the first place or to even go to uni, or whether it is that end goal in terms of your job, I think whatever that is spurs you  on and reminds you of your intentions. Focus on that and I think it kind of helps to relieve the pressure.

Visit www.joannajarjue.com for more details on Joanna’s time on the show, as well as to see fashion looks and read detailed personal accounts of each episode.

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