In supply chain there are numerous different roles you can undertake on the grad scheme and as such many locations you could possibly be based in. To make it a bit clearer for anyone thinking of applying for supply chain let me try to outline the roles you could do and where you could possibly end up. Read more “Supply Chain – Where Might You Work?”
My name is Emilia and I have just joined the UFLP in Customer Development, or Customer Management (Sales) as it’s called in the initial stages of application. I’m currently based in Leatherhead, as a Customer Account Manager on Impulse and Out of Home Ice Cream. Like Alex did, I’m going to give you a bit of an insight into what I’ve been up to in my first few weeks and provide a glimpse into what life is like on the UFLP!
I joined the UFLP following a placement year in 2013/14 between my second and final years at Sheffield Hallam University, where I studied Business and Enterprise Management. On placement I was part of the eCommerce team working with ‘Pureplay’ customers (online only retailers), which was completely different to the current role I’m in!
In the build up to your first/induction week at Unilever, Unilever have a real hands on approach. Whether that’s through providing you with a functional buddy to provide an informal way to answer any of your questions, to relocation support, to organising events/times to meet others beginning the UFLP. By the time I reached induction week I had already met quite a few of the other people joining the UFLP which was great for dispelling any initial nerves.
This year the induction week kicked off in Liverpool, where amongst other activities we were given a tour of the Port Sunlight Factory, which was amazing. This year’s intake all had a photo on the steps of Port Sunlight. It was surprisingly difficult to get a group of adults to pose for a photo, all looking the same way and with our eyes open!
The evenings of the induction week were filled with activities to help us all to get to know each other, from a murder mystery to a night of bowling and karaoke. It was great to not only meet those who were beginning the UFLP alongside me, but also to meet those further on in their UFLP path and talk to them about their experiences so far.
For CD and Marketing, our first few weeks are structured slightly differently to all the other functions, in particular because we complete a field sales placement prior to beginning in role. Field Sales involves many aspects, from checking stock, to negotiating activations with store managers and everything else in-between. Field Sales is a great introduction into Unilever as it provides real exposure to our brands, consumers and customers. I gained invaluable insight into the operational side of our products in store and it’s proved a great platform to build upon.
Whilst on Field Sales, I had the chance to meet my team prior to fully beginning in role, at a team away day in Newquay. Amongst team meetings, we also explored Newquay, looking at what Out of Home Ice Cream looks like in a seaside town. Newquay is also home to a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Parlour, where we stopped for a photo and an ice cream, or two! It was a great way to begin the transition into my new role, as I was able to meet the team on an informal basis, learn more about what is happening within ice cream at Unilever and also, at a more operational level, get out and about and have a look at what is currently going on in the wider world of ice cream.
Flash forward to my first couple of weeks in role, my first day involved introductions and inductions with the wider team. Everyone was very welcoming and happy to answer all my questions, no matter how stupid I thought the question might seem (Tip: whilst you’re still getting to grips with your role at Unilever, there is no such thing as a stupid question!). I was also introduced to one of the many benefits of working within ice cream from day one… free ice cream! Although everyone here at Leatherhead can have free Ben & Jerry’s every day, the Ice Cream Team also house a freezer full of even more products, which we can help ourselves to, it’s making for a great mid-afternoon treat.
During the first few weeks, amongst getting to grips with my role and responsibilities, I have also had the opportunity to take part in a lot of training, from sessions covering broader companywide initiatives, to specific training for my role. Alongside this, as part of the UFLP, there is a specialised training and learning roadmap for each function. This roadmap builds upon the Unilever training and sets out the further opportunities for training and development all UFLPs have. It’s a really great programme that not only focuses on core development, but also aims to help all UFLPs develop skills that will prove invaluable in the future.
It has been a great few weeks and I’m looking forward to the next few months and beyond!
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.
I have degrees in Music and Musicology from Birmingham Conservatoire and the University of Birmingham, and yet I now find myself on the Unilever Future Leader’s Programme (UFLP) in my first placement as a Global HR Business Partner. This role places me directly at the heart of one of Unilever’s more recent acquisitions, the premium haircare brand TIGI, where I’ve been given immediate responsibility and accountability: instead of score analysis, my days are filled with data analysis, capability projects, and managing End of Year employee performance assessments. Of course I don’t have specific training in business or Human Resources, but Unilever doesn’t expect you to be an expert – that’s where the UFLP steps in.
So if you’re wondering if you can apply, or if you can compete with slick Business graduates for what are highly competitive programmes, the answer is yes – I would encourage you to apply and leverage the different experience your degree has given you to mark yourself out from other applicants. That’s not to say that it won’t be tough however, and so here are my top tips for making an application:
- Know the business; know Unilever. There is never an excuse for not doing your research, and you will be expected to be clued up with how the business is performing both in the UK and further afield. What are our challenges? What is the marketplace like?
- Know why Unilever is right for you. Why are you convinced that you belong here and not Nestlé, Proctor and Gamble, or L’Oréal? What is Unilever all about as a company?
- Leverage your experience and make it unique. Don’t simply refer to group projects or typical university situations when answering competency questions, but try to use something more interesting or unusual that not all students will have been able to do, especially as an arts and humanities graduate. If you can relate your example directly to the question being asked whilst making it different and memorable, this will help to put you ahead.
- Know the function. This is particularly important if you’re not from a business or science background, as you might need to do some additional research, but this is time well spent as you need to know as much as possible about the business area to which you’re applying.
- Be confident. This sounds like such a flippant thing to say, but being confident enough to articulate yourself well is crucial – don’t let nerves prevent the interviewer from seeing your potential.
Toi toi toi!
I’m Alex and I’ll be writing a few blogs on my time in the graduate scheme (UFLP) at Unilever. I’m on the Financial Management programme and I’m currently based in Leatherhead on my first placement. I thought I’d give you a bit of an insight into my first month at the company, and let you know what I’ve been up to and what you can expect when you get here!
So I studied Marine Biology at Southampton University before applying for Financial Management. Like you’re probably thinking now, my initial thoughts were “I’ll never get a job in finance with a science degree”, but Unilever look so far beyond your degree class that it’s almost irrelevant what you studied (with the exception of R&D where a science degree is pretty useful!). We have financiers with science degrees, marketers with history degrees, BTM grads with English degrees. Unilever are looking for the kind of person that they can turn into a future leader, whether that’s in marketing, finance, customer development or anywhere else. They don’t at all expect you to be able to manage accounts or balance profit and loss spreadsheets from the start. Rather, they believe that they can teach you everything you need to know – all they want from you right now is a willingness to learn and an ambition to succeed.
The first thing that you’ll do with Unilever is the induction week. This is a very full on but very fun 5 days involving lots of talks, social activities, dinners, visits, tours etc. We visited Port Sunlight in Liverpool, 100VE in Blackfriars and Leatherhead. The induction week is great for getting to know not just people on your workstream, but people from all over the intake. It means that when you get to your first placement, you already know a good number of people and absolutely do not feel like you’re lost! You’ll also spend time with the years above you from your workstream, so the second and third year UFLPs. This is really useful, and probably your first minor introduction into networking. Certainly, I realised that you can never have too many people to ask advice from, so definitely don’t be shy and make sure you ask every question you can!
After a week of late nights and early starts on induction, I didn’t at all feel nervous for my first week in the office. I’m based in Leatherhead which is a really easy commute and there is a free bus run by Unilever from the station to the office which is great. When I arrived, my manager and I sat down with a coffee and chatted about both of our life/experiences so far (his certainly went on for longer than mine!). It was really informal and my first taste of the management style at Unilever. He had organised at least twenty 1on1 sessions with various managers/directors around the building which again was a great way to network and build up a bank of people that I could go to for help, whether it was work related or otherwise.
A lot of the first couple of weeks in the office were spent learning the systems and software that Unilever use. I found it frustrating at first that I wasn’t able to crack on with work right away, but soon realised that the projects I was working on were very long term and that it was important to build a base of knowledge rather than blindly charging in. It takes time to get used to just how big Unilever is, and you will be emailing people in different offices in different countries for pieces of information. Of course, your managers are fully aware of all of this so don’t worry that don’t have anything to show after your first day! My manager and I have regular catch ups where we will sit down and talk about everything from the projects I’m working on currently, to England’s fiery exit from the Rugby World Cup.
Leatherhead itself is an amazing place to work. I’d spent a year before Unilever working for a small company in Bath and initially thought that the workplace itself wouldn’t have much of an impact on me. But once you’ve spent some time at Unilever, you will fully appreciate everything they have to offer! Massively discounted staff shop, free gym membership, free Ben and Jerry’s, discounted canteen – the list goes on!
I will write another blog soon that’s a bit more finance focussed, but hopefully I’ve given you some insights into what to expect in your first couple of weeks at Unilever from a more pastoral point of view!
Hello all, my name is Fleur and I was a member of the Benelux team earlier this year as part of the Unilever Future Leaders League. Experiencing the Global final of the Future Leaders ‘ League in London was really fantastic and surpassed all my expectations. I met students from (30!) different countries around the world, from the Ivory Coast to Iran to the Philippines. What an incredible international experience! During the UFLL we had conversations with Unilever’s top executives like Paul Polman and, of course, we also attended social events in breathtaking locations during the program. I feel really lucky to have had this experience and to have got to meet so many beautiful and different people from around the world. Even though we were so different, every student shared the same passion to make a positive contribution and create a brighter future.
It is extremely valuable to meet Unilever professionals and to get personal and professional advice. In a very passionate and casual way, they told the participants about the leadership qualities that will be required in the future. It was inspiring to see what an impact such leadership can have on an organization and its people. We noticed that everyone uses this common goal as a guideline to decision-making in all layers of the Organization, creating a more sustainable future with every small steps.
I had always felt that leadership is only leadership if you have an impact on a lot of people and at least made it on to the 8pm News. Unilever’s FLL showed me that leadership can also be in the small things; in the inspiration and enthusiasm that you transmit to people in for example your sports association, your job or towards your fellow students. Sometimes you give others the nudge in the back without knowing yourself!
Why did you signed up for the FLL
I wanted to orient myself for a worldwide career within FMCG. I did not feel like applying for all the different business competitions organized by the many companies, with students who were most likely just like me (same background, in study and extracurricular activities). When I heard about the Future Leaders ‘ League at Unilever I was extremely excited. A unique concept: a week long global challenge in an international city, trainings and personal talks at the highest level and that together with students from all over the world. Who does not want that?? Looking back on this week, I’m sure that no one should miss this during their student days. I want to encourage everyone to apply, because if you don’t you will regret it for a long time!
Of course I’m going to apply for the UFLP! After participating in this week there is no doubt about it. If only it is to see all the participants and the organization once more. All participating students are very supportive towards each other, we hope to encounter each other again soon as trainees within Unilever.
(AND SHE GOT IN! SHE IS NOW A MARKETING TRAINEE FOR LIPTON, AND STARTED ON THE 1st OF SEPTEMBER)
If you’re interested in joining the UFLL visit https://unilevereuropefll.com/
My name is Petra and this summer I have been lucky enough to join the ice cream Marketing team. I have been working on various brands such as SNOG, Carte D’Or, Viennetta and Wall’s. I feel very nostalgic about the amazing experience I had at Unilever.
You probably heard many amazing things about Unilever- how everybody is very welcoming, how you are given full responsibility from day one, how exciting the industry and brands are and especially how much you learn in such a short space of time. I did not expect all of this to happen, but the reality is even better than it sounds. I am working in a multimillion corporation, in a team full of intelligent and experienced people and I still feel relevant, heard and important for business performance.
When I was applying for this role, I did not have a clear image of what marketing at Unilever really was. I would now sum it up as a managerial role that requires you to be on a constant move, communicate with a lot of stakeholders (creative agencies, customer managers, market research, and your team) and be really good at task switching. By that I mean, within one day I can work on an organizing an event, preparing a presentation, ordering samples and going to training sessions to learn more about the company. Essentially, as a marketer at Unilever you get to decide on what, when and how a product is presented to the consumer. But do not worry- it is not stressful, it is exciting! You can never get bored at Unilever. Being able to execute brand strategies and see the results in the markets is such a great motivation! Besides that, EVERYONE in the ice cream team is always happy to take a break and help me out, teach me new skills and support me if I feel insecure.
I was assigned to 4 brands, hence I am learning so much about different management styles, brand personalities and their executions. I am working on many different projects for very different brands. All of these projects are new to me so you can imagine how much I got to learn in such a short period of time!
But enough about serious stuff- Unilever is a FUN company to work for! Everyone is always smiling, joking around. People always find time to unite and celebrate big occasions, for example by going to a Zoo or to a team meal. We have a gym where I meet people from various departments, a shop where I can buy lots of products, the ice cream team has free ice cream in the office, we have flexible working hours, frequent new product tasting sessions and often attend brand events! But most importantly, I met so many inspirational people, that I will never forget and hopefully keep in touch for longer than the internship lasts.
Unilever really is a company that feels like home and has helped me to grow immensely. I have a lot to remember and am now looking forward to working in marketing in the future.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hello there my name is Arjun Mistry, I’m currently on the 12 week summer placement in the Customer Development function based in Unilever’s head office in Leatherhead. My full job title is ‘Customer Executive for Out Of Home Ice Cream on The Co-Operative account’ – a bit of a mouthful I know! Basically my main responsibilities are coordinating ice cream sales and promotions across every single Co-Operative store in the UK. This includes liaising with buyers, supply chain specialists and the marketing team and making sure everyone knows what they are doing – communication is key!
What have you enjoyed most?
Working in the fun, dynamic, creative ice cream category during the roasting summer months has been a real treat. One personal highlight have been attending the ice cream brand cascade at London Zoo where we got to see and taste all the unreleased products set to come out in the summer of 2016 – it was great to see new innovations in my category before anyone else. Another highlight was regularly visiting Manchester to conduct meetings with the Co-operative’s ice cream buyer – being able to negotiate and speak in a personable yet persuasive way is one of my strengths so it was great to be able to put this to good use in my time at Unilever. I also had a chance to visit the Walls Pop Up store (see the photo). The key factor that has made this entire experience enjoyable has been the people I work with: the welcoming and friendly company culture that Unilever breeds has made me feel right at home.
What has been the most challenging?
The biggest challenge I encountered was the degree of independence and responsibility that you are trusted with from day one. For example, I was trusted with conveying all the data between our field sales team who work across the UK to the Co-Operative head office in my first week. Although this may sound daunting, the degree of responsibility you are given is beneficial in helping you feel like a valued member of the team and also in your own personal development. You learn a lot through actual project work, including a whole range of transferable business skills.
What advice would you give to someone about to start their placement?
I would say don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to as many people as possible. Everyone in the company has their own specialist knowledge and if you can learn to tap into it, it will undoubtedly benefit you. Also I would recommend that you be as proactive as possible – if you see a project that you believe you could contribute to then get involved! Don’t let opportunities pass you by.
A photo of a pal at the Walls Ice cream store
Hello, my name is Laura and I am currently on my summer placement as a Category Executive for the hair team. When I applied to the Customer Development summer placement I had no idea what category management was – or that the role even existed! However, 7 weeks into my placement I have already given an induction on the category to a key retailer and made recommendations on how they can improve their performance.
Working in category management my team are in charge of overseeing the whole hair category, looking at how the market is performing and working with individual retailers to help them grow the category and meet customer needs. The category team support both the brand teams with how their products fit and are performing within the category and customer teams in order to build relations with retailers.
It is key to our role to ensure we look at the whole category as well as Unilever brands. For Unilever the hair category includes TRESemme, Dove, Vo5, Alberto Balsam and Toni & Guy. Part of my role has involved having inductions with all of the brand teams who look after these in order to understand their products and how they sit within retailers. Hair is a particularly exciting category to be involved in as there are always new products coming to market! One task I recently completed was looking at new products for 2015 across the whole category to see who has performed well and what has been a success. The information I provided on this was then fed back to the Unilever Leadership team.
In my category role I have had the opportunity to work on projects both internally and externally. For instance, internally, I completed a piece of work analysing product exclusives to see if this is something that the brand teams should consider pursuing. Externally, I created a styling update for a retailer so they could track the progress of brands this year. As placement students we are given real responsibility – I know the tasks I carry out are having an impact on important decisions!
I have had the opportunity to learn so much whilst I have been on my summer placement and I am sure that this learning will continue in my final weeks! Even though I knew very little (almost nothing) about category management before I started, I have received proficient training and guidance so that I now feel integrated into and a key member of the team.
I’m Charlotte from Exeter Uni and sadly my summer placement at Leatherhead is almost over. I’ve been working in the ice cream marketing team on Cornetto which has been amazing and I can’t believe how much I have learnt in such a short time! Everyone has been so supportive and I was made to feel welcome and part of the team from day one.
As Unilever operates in the FMCG sector I was attracted by the fact that our products are in 9 out of every 10 UK homes, so I’d be exposed to so many brands I use every day! I didn’t have any previous marketing experience and was excited to be given the opportunity to help organise and attend lots of cool events. They say every picture paints a thousand words, so I thought you might like to see some of the things I’ve been up to over the past 11 weeks…
I travelled to Birmingham to an after prom party with Rixton. The Twitter competition winner said the party was ‘the best night of her life’. It was interesting to see how a brand deals with an artist through PR and the legal side of organising an event for under 18s.
I helped organise ‘Cornetto Beyond The Screen’ an experiential at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford where we had a pop-up cinema for a month. It included an immersive theatre surprise for consumers where the actors appeared from behind the big screen after the film to act out further scenes in a secret room. One day Tom Daley popped in with his friends which was a great picture to post on Twitter!
Once a month the ice cream team have a meeting where sales and performance of our products are discussed with the customer account managers (CAMs). We had a trip to the SNOG bus on the South Bank, visited the Magnum Pleasure Store in Covent Garden and finished the day off by going through Cornetto’s unique experiential!
London Zoo was the venue for the ice cream brand cascade, where each brand presents how their year has gone and then introduces all the new products for next year to CAMs and our agencies. I helped out by setting up the room with props, pull up banners and handing out the products for the audience to sample throughout the presentations. At the end of the day we had time to explore the zoo!
I had the opportunity to ‘hawk’ at Thorpe Park, suitably dressed in a promotional t-shirt, selling Cornettos to excited consumers enjoying a day out. After a successful day of sales we had some down time to experience the rides!
I’ve visited PR companies and media agencies, liaised with designers and printers to create vouchers, leaflets, posters and props for events and not forgetting sampling lots of ice-cream. My placement has been challenging with long hours and tight turnarounds but I’ve loved every minute of it and really hope once I’ve finished my business degree I go from uni-leaver to Unilever!
My name is Arjun Mistry, and I am six weeks in to my summer placement at the Unilever head office in Leatherhead. I belong in the customer management function – which is where the execution of products lives or dies. Specifically the responsibilities of my role are looking after all the Ice Cream that goes to The Co-Operative supermarkets.
As an avid ice cream eater myself, being able to work with well recognised and popular brands such as Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s, Vienetta and Cornetto has been an engaging and interesting experience. Before I started my role, I had no idea about the amount of careful planning and negotiating that goes into all the products you see on supermarket shelves! From the way that products are set out, to the type of promotion, to all the co-ordinated marketing, it was great to learn more about how multi-faceted the FMCG industry is.
Before I had even begun my role, I was contacted by a current graduate at Unilever who put me at ease with all the various questions I had about the company. It was comforting to know that I had someone to talk to about the intricacies and also the simpler queries I had about the role. Then it was on to our induction at a sumptuous hotel in Dorking: all the industrial placements and summer placement students had a chance to meet, socialise outside the office and really get to know each other. This meant that on my first day within the office I already knew a bunch of people which was useful.
When I met my team I was made to feel welcome and we had a nice lunch on the first day. What struck me was how friendly and sociable everyone is – ask anyone for help and they will give it to you. My line manager had a laptop and mobile phone waiting for me and I was able to crack on with getting settled in straight away. Straight away my calendar filled up with meetings and I became immersed in the day to day business activities that gave me hands on experience.
In terms of responsibility, Unilever is like no other employer. I was given a set of projects that I could work through in any way I liked, and by week 4 I was presenting the findings of my project work to the buyer at the Co-Operative headquarters in Manchester! By being given this level of responsibility, it really made me take pride in my work and also meant that I could demonstrate my own effectiveness to my manager. It was great to not be micro managed or having someone constantly breathing down my neck, yet being able to talk openly and honestly with anyone in my team, if necessary.
So I am now just beyond the halfway point of my placement and I can honestly say there has not been a dull moment. I have fully acclimatised to the getting up and doing a working day (something I was nervous about before starting!) and feel very well settled in to my team. In fact, I am dreading the thought of having to leave come September! Some highlights for me have been the regular meetings with the Ice Cream buyer in Manchester; attending brand cascades and trying new flavours of ice cream before they have been released and helping co-ordinate the winter range. Again, I am amazed by how the scope of my own involvement will make a tangible difference to all the Co-Opertaive stores throughout the UK.
Every day is a new challenge, and I hope to learn more and more in my time here. Bring in the next 6 weeks!