There were times when I thoroughly enjoyed the work placement at Aldi, but also times where I did not enjoy the placement. Whilst I was working in head office doing various projects with massive responsibility and value to the company, it was a very enjoyable experience. However, whilst I was working in stores it was far less enjoyable. This would be down to the work/life balance as during store time you do a mixed bag of shift work, varying from 4am-2pm, 12pm-10pm and also night shifts including working on weekends. The nature of work was also very demanding and took it out of me physically and mentally at times. Whereas during project work at head office it was Monday-Friday and I had time to socialise and relax in evenings and of course make plans for weekends. Although don't get me wrong, I did enjoy working in store at times because it is very rewarding!
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I felt extremely valued by my colleagues throughout the whole year, whether it was my colleagues whilst working in stores or during my time at head office doing project work. During store time, I had the responsibility to manage other colleagues who were far more experienced than me, yet they always treated me with the upmost respect and the hard graft I put in during store time was appreciated and valued by my colleagues, store teams are very tight knitted and I got a feeling that you're all in it together. During head office project work, again I was working with colleagues who had over 20 years of experience at the company and they always listened to ideas I had and were very grateful of the work I carried out. The amount of responsibility you are given throughout this placement year kind of makes it very difficult not to be valued by your colleagues as the work you do makes a real difference to the company. Furthermore, I got a lot of exposure to all levels of people in the business and worked fairly closely with directors of the company as well as with stock assistants in the stores.
I had fairly regular updates with the store operations director (once every couple of months). These updates consisted of a general chat about how everything is going including my welfare, if I have any feedback for them, how they can improve my experience and if I had any requests to see certain parts of the business that I hadn't had much exposure to. I was also supplied with a mentor who was an area manager. My mentor was extremely supportive and always went out of his way to answer any queries I had and to improve my personal development within Aldi. Your mentor will always be happy to answer any phone call you send their way and you can go to them if you have a dilemma and they will guide you through it. Overall, the support and guidance I received was very good.
There was never a moment during the whole placement year with Aldi where I wasn't busy and sat there twiddling my thumbs. During store time it is extremely fast paced and I barely stopped moving throughout a whole 10 hour shift, I had to stock shelves, handle cash, take phone calls to the store, manage staff, work on the tills, tidy the store, clean floors, there is always something to do. Whilst in head office the projects I received along with my colleagues on placement with me were substantial pieces of work so the days were always busy with something to do at all times. During my time out with my area manager mentor it doesn't change in terms of business. Again, there is always something to do whether it be a personnel issue, various audits or resolving issues within you stores. If you want a non-stop year and don't like sitting around waiting for someone to give you something to do then this is definitely the placement for you! I will score this an 8 because at times it did get a little bit too much.
An unbelievable amount of responsibility. This is not the type of placement where you will ever be doing photocopying or making tea and coffee. The reason Aldi pay so well for a placement year is because they are paying you to make an actual difference to how the company performs. In store time, I trained to become an assistant store manager so in absence of the store manager, being the assistant manager meant that I stood in for the store manager and had full responsibility at that moment in time for the store. It was surreal at times because I was 20/21 it was my first proper job and I was responsible for managing people with years of experience behind them. Furthermore the projects I was given at head office were very important projects and made a real difference to the company and saved them money. During the time I had shadowing my area manager mentor, I was sent off at times to visit the stores in his area by myself and give feedback to store management. I even had the opportunity to interview potential candidates on my own for a role in store varying from stock assistant to deputy manager roles. I was told before I started the year that I would be given a lot of responsibility but I didn't realise how much I would actually be getting until I was in the situation. I can't imagine there are any other placements in the UK that will give you as much responsibility as the one at Aldi.
I will certainly be able to make 9am lectures next year after having to wake up at extremely early hours in the morning! The year has definitely massively improved my work ethic and my ability to motivate myself to work very hard and to the best of my ability. My degree is business related and I had a big exposure to the whole business and how a business like Aldi works, from everything from putting products through the till with excellent customer service to seeing how the products are brought in by suppliers on a logistical side. I would say the placement year has given me skills for life that are far more applicable in the real world and not so much for my studies next year. I am far more confident as a person in terms of speaking to people of all ages and experience and am more confident in my abilities. Again, I doubt there are any other placements in the UK that will provide you with better life skills and make you more employable in the future because of the wide variety of things you do during the year and the amount of people you deal with and work with.
The atmosphere in head office was very pleasant, yet very professional. If you are looking for an environment where the fun never stops in the office then this perhaps isn't the placement for you. There is a lot of work that needs to be done so certain amounts of concentration are needed, however it isn't like robots tapping away at the computer all day long. Although most of the year you won't be spending in an office so if you like being out and about and not sat down all day at an office, this is the placement for you.
I was given a general plan of the year at the beginning of the placement but this plan changed countless times due to unforeseen circumstances. The work placement did lack a bit of organisation at times during the year and communication was sometimes poor. Also, if you didn't take responsibility for your own learning you could easily fall behind other placement students in terms of your personal development.
I have been offered the opportunity to go back on to the area manager scheme as long as I achieve a 2:1 in my final year. They treat the placement year as a kind of year long interview for the lucrative area manager job and as long as you impress them and have the characteristics they desire there is a very good chance you will be offered the opportunity to come back. The area manager scheme is hugely competitive so this placement year is an excellent chance to get on to the graduate scheme and will also give you a big advantage already over the graduates who get the job but haven't had the experience at Aldi that I did. I am definitely considering accepting the offer providing I get a 2:1.
There were 7 placement students including myself but we rarely saw each other when we worked in stores because we were all in our own stores and had different working schedules. However during head office I was with some of the other placement students where we worked closely together and this was very good in terms of socialising with them in and outside the office. However during store time it is difficult to socialise with fellow placement students and at times during the year I did feel a little lonely and like I had nobody else to share the experience with.
This is something I felt the placement completely lacked and was disappointed that there weren't many opportunities to get involves in activities outside of the workplace. This is due to the fact that the staff are constantly busy and because it is retail it is rare for people to be free to set up and participate in activities outside of work. I understand why there were pretty much next to nothing in terms of activities outside of the workplace because of the nature of retail but nevertheless it was disappointing for me and something I wish I could've got involved in if it were possible.