If you had asked me at the start of 2nd year, I wasn’t interested in having an internship, I understood that they were really good to put on your CV but I wanted to spend the summer of 2013 travelling. This all changed when Unilever came and took one of my Marketing lecturers, the graduates giving the lecture were really engaging and the way they spoke about the culture of the company appealed to me. Excited to have found a company I was interested in working for in the future, I started looking at their summer placement scheme as a way to have an early start in the company and I also saw that successful interns would be fast tracked to the assessment centre stage of the Grad Scheme.
When I first started the application, I saw it as practice for next year when I was applying to loads of companies for jobs. To be honest it took a really long time and even though the questions were relatively simple, what was challenging was how I was going to answer them and stand out. I knew how important it was to have met each of the core competencies, so I made sure that I used these as ‘buzz words’ throughout my application.
The next stage after the application form was the telephone interview, I had never done anything like it before and didn’t know what to expect. I prepared by making loads of notes about things I have done relevant to popular interview questions such as problem solving and leading a team and had these scattered around me when I took the call. I wish I had been prepared for how ‘robotic’ telephone interviews are. I thought it would be all about showing personality like a real interview but it was simply a woman asking questions and making notes of your answer.
The final stage was the assessment centre; I went down to Surrey for this and got to see their UK head offices. As soon as I saw the offices my nerves dropped because although completely overwhelmed they were amazing and had things like a Unilever shop and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stand. This was great because it meant I really relaxed on the day and I think this was really important to my success.
Looking back I think I stood out in my application because I was able to pull out really relevant answers to questions through my previous work experience and time at University. I had worked in a bar and this was full of great leadership examples and fit all of the competencies. It was important that I had done so much preparation to be able to remember these examples in the interview. Finally, very clichéd but it was also because I was completely myself throughout the whole process. Unilever was a great culture fit for me and they recognised that on the assessment centre, if I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t I would have been less relaxed and they would have recognised this.
Over my placement, I was given three objectives: helping the team complete a three year strategy for the company on a global scale, introducing a new performance metric with regards to market share and gross margin and creating my own benchmarking approach. Very big objectives for someone who had never worked in an office before and who did not understand Excel. My manager was great at being there when I needed help but gave me a lot of autonomy, it seemed the same across the whole organisation, they had invested a lot in recruiting us and this meant they trusted us to do a great job.
I really enjoyed the placement, I was getting a generous wage, got to live and work in central London and the social side of work was great. It was also brilliant for my CV, although I got used to the exposure of the work which I was doing I did a lot of things which I know sound impressive on a CV, it will also show companies that I have experience in a corporate environment. The only downside is that I know when I get interviews I will be asked why I would rather work for the company in question rather than Unilever, something which I will have to prepare for well.
Following the placement, Unilever have now offered me a job. I feel I had a great advantage having done a summer placement.
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