Graduate programmes are a well-structured and reliable way of entering a large company at a relatively advanced stage.
We've spoken to Beth, a Graduate Management Trainee in the second year of her graduate programme at an international Retail company, to see how she is finding the process so far, and asked what advice she would give to those thinking of following in her footsteps.
What was it that drew you to Management as a career choice?
"I wanted a career in Management as I’m a strategic thinker. Every day on the programme I’m required to use my resources smartly, in order to beat targets and achieve good results. As a manager, you not only have responsibility over the running of the day, but more importantly, you are responsible for the development of the employees. I get a lot of satisfaction from watching people grow.
I love the reactive environment of Food Retail. Having an interest in food has been a real asset, especially when it comes to making business decisions about how to merchandise certain products, evaluating food trends, and assessing the impact seasonable changes will have on sales. Even something seemingly as small as advising a customer on the best way to cook the new baby cauliflowers has a big impact on customer service – you could have just secured a loyal customer for life!"
Were you aware of competition, or pressure, from other applicants during the application process?
“I think it is important to focus on yourself and not others as you go through a process like this: your attitude is far more important than technical knowledge.
I have found that, during the scheme, having a positive mentality and a resilient personality, as well as a desire to learn a variety of skills, has allowed me to make the most of the opportunities available.”
How has the programme benefitted you so far?
“As part of my payment package, I got a brand new company car and a fuel card, which gave me a great level of independence. I have also made a lot of strong friendships with other graduates on the scheme; we’ve been through a lot together and supported each other along the way.
I have been given a lot of responsibility early on, and this has helped my personal development to progress rapidly: I have learnt so many new skills and received a lot of formal training as well. There are also a lot of great mentors among the senior team in my region, and they have always had time to give me advice.”
What has been your biggest highlight, and biggest challenge, from the last year?
“The biggest highlight for me was helping to the open a new store in my region. It’s not every day you get to meet the MD of a huge international company and have a chat about football.
However, not every day is like that. After my first rotation in the Sales department, I undertook a new project focussed on rolling out a new ordering system to stores in my region. I took complete responsibility over the retraining of employees across multiple stores: it was a huge challenge, but also a great opportunity to practice training people. The project also gave me the opportunity to work closely with the Sales Organisations department, and one of my ideas was ultimately approved by Head Office and adopted into company-wide procedure.”
What’s the biggest difference between your time as a student and graduate life so far?
“The graduate scheme I am part of requires 100% commitment in order for me to get the most out of the experience.
This can be a bit of a culture shock after the perhaps more relaxed environment of university, but if you raise your game then you will see the rewards.”
What advice would you give to graduates and final year students looking to secure a similar position?
“Whilst at university, I had a part-time job in a student bar. This helped me a lot in the application process, as I was able to give specific examples of how I’d added value within a workplace.
Experience of training or mentoring someone, either at university or in the workplace, is also a great asset. As a manager you are responsible for the training and development of your team, so being able to demonstrate experience in this department is brilliant."