I am currently in my first placement on the HR Scheme working in the Leatherhead office. I business partner Food Solutions where we focus on selling our food brands to other commercial organisations such as restaurants, schools and distributors. It’s a really exciting part of the business to work in because it feels like its own little business within Unilever and means I have been able to get exposure to business partnering all of the different functions (sales, marketing, supply chain etc).
With a tightening job market, dwindling public support, and cuts from government funding, arts and humanities degrees are struggling to assert their relevance in today’s commercial environment.
Or so people often think.
Whilst students become increasingly concerned about employer opinion and their degree’s potential to land them a job post-graduation, and rightly so, pursuing a degree in the arts or humanities still allows you to develop a wealth of skills, and affords you many experiences on which you can draw, that you can successfully apply in the workplace. Whilst there are a few graduate schemes that demand specific degree subjects from applicants, Unilever is a great example of a business that welcomes applications from any degree type for most of its programmes.
In your time at Unilever as a graduate or placement student, you are set your work goals under a framework known as your “3+1’s” which are linked to the Standards of Leadership (you can find out more about here: http://www.unilever.co.uk/careers-jobs/graduates/application-process/). Typically, the “3” of the goals are on “main role” at Unilever and the “+1” is your chance to support and develop Unilever’s graduate recruitment goals. This could mean being a part of an on-campus team promoting Unilever at a university or managing the onboarding process for the next group of students and graduates to join. From now on, you’ll also have the opportunity to work in developing Unilever’s relationship with Enactus UK.
So it’s been just 3 months since I embarked on my UFLP journey, and what a blast it has been so far! For those out there that think HR isn’t a strategic part of the business I compel you to keep reading, as my first placement has seen my working on exciting projects that directly contribute to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. I am part of a team that looks after programmes that we run nationally, from diversity and inclusion to mental health and wellbeing, and in my case youth employability.
Hi everyone, I’m Lianna and I am currently just over half-way through an HR Summer Placement. For the last 8 weeks I’ve been working at the Kingston office.
The first person you’re sure to meet at Kingston is Bob. Bob is Kingston’s Security and is known for his cheery greetings every morning and evening. Bob’s polite and friendly manner is typical of everyone I’ve met, not only at Kingston, but at Unilever as a whole. Whatever your question, role, department or length of visit, everyone will go out of their way to help you making Kingston a wonderful place to work.
The office is completely relaxed, people turn up in comfortable clothing (jeans are in, suits out); there are also comfortable chairs and sofas for coffee breaks or informal meetings. Desks are first come first served, whatever your work level, you’re free to choose your desk each day meaning you work alongside a wide range of people. Bookable and non-bookable rooms are also available for larger meetings or more sensitive phone calls. Importantly, you never struggle to find a room or a desk, whatever the time of day.
Each of the six floors has a drinks area offering a wide range of complimentary coffees, teas and hot chocolate. There’s also a fridge if you wish to bring your own lunch, but most employees take advantage of the reasonably priced and high quality food produced by the Catering team in the Cafeteria. A free selection of fruit is available daily, but most importantly various flavours of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream are also available!
And for when you think you’ve taken advantage of the ice cream too much, there is an on-site Gym free to all employees. The gym offers a wide range of equipment, classes throughout the day, good showers and newly renovated changing rooms. I started off going to the gym several times a week, though I might have slipped a little lately…
And then there is Eben. Eben is the magic guy to whom you take your poorly laptop and he clicks a few things and there you go: it works like new! I have a reputation for being useless with computers, but Eben has managed to solve all my issues (for example fixing excel for me only yesterday). He runs a walk in session each day, which makes it easy and convenient to get anything you need fixed.
And finally – the shop. The Kingston shop stocks a wide range of Unilever products and sells them for below-the-high-street prices. It’s perfect for gifts to friends or stocking up for yourself!
Virtual and Agile Working
No matter where you are based, you’ll quickly find that your colleagues are all around the world. For example, one of the two people I work with the most sits next to me, while the other is in the Netherlands. As a result most Unilever meetings are virtual (people dial in via a conference call). This also means that we have the opportunity to work from home under Unilever’s agile working policy. Despite being a Summer Intern, this is still something I can take advantage of and you’ll find, especially in Kingston, that most people work from home 1-2 days a week.
Additionally, the vast number of Unilever factories and offices means that travel is integral to working at the company. So far I’ve been fortunate to visit and work at both Port Sunlight and Leatherhead. You may also have the opportunity to travel abroad.
Living in Kingston
When looking for a place to live I decided that I’d rather live within walking distance of the office than commute in. This means I live right in the heart of Kingston which offers an incredible shopping area and high street (I walk past it on my way to work, not good on pay day). The area also boasts many riverbank restaurants as it is located along the River Thames; in fact all Kingston interns are meeting there for a meal tonight. There’s also a leisure centre, cinema and Richmond Park to explore – and don’t forget the Belgian Waffle House.
At weekends I often meet up with friends located around London and set off on some sightseeing. Living in Kingston is perfect for this because it is on a direct line to Waterloo and only takes around 30 minutes. I’ve been lucky enough to experience Centre Court at Wimbledon (just a couple of stops on the train from Kingston); posed with Benedict Cumberbatch at Madame Tussauds and been to a Gladiatorial Fight, a Magic Show and a Stand-Up Comedy performance, as well as exploring many other major sites and museums.
The fact the office is within walking distance of the train station also means that if you wanted to live in an area with greater nightlife or a little more rural, you could easily commute in each day. Kingston also has a major bus station a few minutes’ walk from the office.
This summer has flown by. I was very nervous before I started, but everyone has been so welcoming, kind and helpful. I hoped I would be based around London and Kingston has been perfect. I’ve been given so much responsibility which has boosted by own skills and confidence. But what has made this internship incredible is everyone I work with!
I’m Becky and joined the HR UFLP in September 2014 and I’m currently based at Leatherhead as an HR Business Partner to Customer Management (Sales). So, what have I been up to since joining? Well it’s been pretty busy!
My name is Ailsa McKinnon, I am currently 7 weeks into my industrial placement in Leatherhead within the Human Resources Expertise team. The most important thing I have learnt so far is that HR is so much more than hiring, firing and red tape. The HR Expertise team handles, in my (bias) opinion the most interesting segment of HR. They deal with Early Career Talent Acquisition and Learning and Development for the UK and Ireland, this means they look both inside and outside the business to find the best candidates to fill positions within the business and help to develop them to their full potential.
Although based in the UK and Ireland HQ my role does have European and Global focuses, within my current work plan I am heavily involved in the Unilever Future Leader’s League a global marketing competition. One of themain benefits of working for Unilever is the amount of responsibility you receive and the opportunities you are given, all of which have their own impact on the company. Currently I am working with an external agency to redesign the European website used for the competition, this will be seen and used by candidates around Europe and I have the privilege of saying it is my design and my ideas. In the process of creating this website I have linked with members of several Global Unilever teams including Vietnam, China and Singapore.
Another of my responsibilities is the organizing and running of the Unilever Future Leaders Program induction, whereby we introduce the new graduates to Unilever by showing them the best of Unilever. Organizing accommodation, catering and travel for 45 people has been a challenge, but a great learning experience. I have learnt the importance of time management, forward planning and negotiation techniques. In addition, I have had the opportunity work with a wide variety of personnel of different work levels and from functions including members of the Country Leadership Team. Unilever offers an amazing level of exposure which you can’t find anywhere else and staying in some lovely hotels isn’t a bad perk either!
Unilever focuses on the development of its Industrial/Summer placements. It is important we see a wide variety of areas for our own benefit and learning. This is why we are given ‘+1’ in order to not only utilize our knowledge of our target markets (Undergraduates and Graduates) but also allow us to see how we communicate with the rest of the world and how important this is. My +1 role is the Digi(tal) Team, within this team I will have full control of the graduate YouTube and Google + pages. Again this responsibility is very big, it is important that we communicate to potential employees and the world in general with the right tone and portray the correct messages and ideals we have at Unilever.
These ideals are based around the 5 standards of leadership; growth mindset, consumer and customer focus, bias for action, accountability and responsibility and building talent and teams. Despite only being 7 weeks in (which has flown by!) these have been at the forefront of all my learnings. Since arriving I have had certainly had my hands full with various projects but the support from my team has been incredible. From day one I have felt welcomed and comfortable in asking questions, developing myself and trying new things. So far I have already tackled jobs that prior to starting sounded incredibly daunting and I have enjoyed them immensely.
Unilever offers an opportunity unlike others presented with a focus on developing us as employees. From day one you are integrated into the culture, you become part of the Unilever ‘we’. So far it has been very enjoyable and I cannot wait what awaits for me in the remainder of my placement, with a great team and the daily free ice cream I am sure I can tackle any challenges that I will face.
I hope you all had a fantastic Holiday season, and you’re all ready to start back at University today!
My name is Hannah and I am an industrial placement student on the HR scheme at Unilever. I want to talk to you today about my experiences on the HR placement programme! If you have any questions, then feel free to post them in the comments below, or tweet me directly (@imhannahyoung, using the hashtag #unileverHRplacement)
When I first joined Unilever I was nervous and unsure of what to expect. I was introduced to the Expertise team which handles Learning and Development and Early Career Talent Acquisition for the UK and Ireland. This year there were three other industrial placement students that were in different teams, and none of us knew what teams we were going to be in until our places were confirmed. The team were really kind and considerate, and gave me as much support as I needed to settle into the role fully (I know this was also the case for the other placement students in HR).
As part of the programme I have the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of personnel of different work levels and functions (all the way up to the Vice Presidents across the globe!) It is really exciting being able to interact with such a variety of people, and I really enjoy a lot of the projects that I work on (and trust me, there are a lot!) I also have the opportunity to lead the projects and this way I get to make a real impact on the business, on a national and international level, which is really great.
I have learnt a lot about myself and what I can cope with, I’ve learnt about my strengths and had a chance to improve on my weaknesses. Unilever is definitely a company that tests you and your abilities. I am still learning every day, which is also wonderful.
A lot of the work that I personally do involves European connections, and some of the work that I do is solely based in Europe, this means that I do not need to be in the office every day if I do not have face to face meetings and means I can work from home or virtually. I love this flexibility and the trust and confidence that my line manager has in my ability. Which makes this placement even more exciting and enjoyable. Another great thing about the flexibility of Unilever is that you have the chance to travel with them, in the first three months of my placement I travelled to four different sites in the UK, hosted events and ran workshops there, as well as having the opportunity to go to external locations with the company and partake in volunteering days in the local community. Unilever really is a company that gives back.
Finally, I quickly want to talk to you about the reasons behind why I applied to Unilever, and whether Unilever has lived up to those expectations. I was recommended to look into Unilever as a prospective employer by a friend of mine who began his career at Unilever in the HR team and it has opened many opportunities to him, he is now extremely successful and to this day, still credits his success to the things he learnt at Unilever. After looking at the company, I liked the work ethic, management styles and focus on ‘a brighter future’. I was also influenced by the working environment, agile working, and performance and development focus. Since joining Unilever, this hasn’t changed – in fact it has strengthened my beliefs in Unilever, we are indeed a very ethical company and everything that I do on a day to day basis always raises the question: Is this sustainable?
*Additional* Top Tips if you want to apply!
Be confident in yourself and your ability. Research the role, our Standards of Leadership, our sustainability plan, and our Project Sunlight, know them well and know if you would fit into an environment where these concepts will be reflected in everything you do. If you are right for the role and the role is right for you, everything else will come naturally. The biggest tip I have for you is to give as much as you want to get back, from the beginning of the application all the way up until your final day of the actual placement, give as much as you can, because Unilever really does give back, and you get what you give.
Photo Credit; Ken Teegardin
So, it has been a number of months since I completed my first blog. Since then I have relocated to Dublin, Ireland, and am currently seven months into my second placement which is a local business partnering role. I currently business partner the Customer Development (sales) function here in Dublin, and am also the business partner for our Lipton factory in Cork. Here they manufacture the powder kits that form the basis of Lipton Ice Tea, which is sold all over the globe. If you’re wondering what exactly business partnering means, essentially I work closely with Line Managers and Directors to help achieve organisational objectives, particularly those based around HR processes (e.g. training, recruitment, people strategy).
Firstly, relocating to Dublin has been an incredibly valuable experience, both personally and professionally. Living by myself for the first time, and exploring a new city, as well as acclimatising to the different nuances in working culture Monday to Friday. Whilst I have enjoyed many brilliant experiences since I moved to Dublin in April, the one I wanted to highlight for you here was my recent attendance at the global youth summit that is One Young World.
One Young World is a global forum which gathers young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections and develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. One Young World host a summit each year in cities around the globe, in 2013 it was been held in Johannesburg and it will move to Bangkok in 2015, this year it was hosted in Dublin. Unilever, a key partner of One Young World, sent 30 Unilever employees as well as 10 representatives from our foundation partners.
The four days were a brilliant blur of inspirational speakers including Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof and Mary Robinson, as well as our own Paul Polman who spoke passionately about making sustainable living common place. You can view Paul’s speech here. Topics of discussion throughout the summit included Climate Justice, Human Rights and Peace & Conflict. Dame Ellen MacArthur’s session on the Circular Economy stood out for many delegates due to the inherent practicality of the model, and later, resonated with all that Paul Polman had to say also. You can view Dame Ellen’s speech here.
Unilever representatives left Dublin on the Sunday exhausted and with no voices left, but inspired and with many new friends and connections made, setting each individual up to really drive positive change in their own corner of the world. The Summits of One Young World are not the focus of the initiative however, what is crucial is the action that happens in-between Summits. One Young World ambassador, also an ex-HR UFLP, Maisie-Rose Byrne launched her own initiative off the back of One Young World when she attended in Johannesburg entitled, #onemansnote. Check it out on Twitter to find out more.
I now have just over a month left in my placement in Dublin, before I head back to London to commence a global expertise role, my final placement on the UFLP. More updates then…
Photo credit; www.CourtneyCarmody.com/