The placement scheme was very enjoyable, although equally challenging at times. There are a lot of highs and lows throughout the placement and maintaining a positive outlook is essential. While at times working as a manager within store felt difficult, it was extremely rewarding and provided a great opportunity to manage and lead a team. Additionally, project work at Head Office also provided a good opportunity to improve my skill set. However, sometimes long hours are required to complete certain tasks and depending on the projects assigned, could involve a lot of time spent travelling. On the whole, The year has been very pleasurable, with a few difficult spots along the way, but these do not diminish the overall experience
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Within store you are immediately a member of the team as you start at store assistant level, while you learn how the store operates and what is expected of management. Within this role I felt very accepted and welcomed by the team. However, depending on the people in your store, the transition to manager can be very difficult. I felt at times I was questioned within my role due to my age and inexperience with the company, although, this is all part of the learning process and provided a great opportunity to establish myself as a leader and gain the respect of my more experienced peers. At head office, people tried very hard to make the placement students feel welcome and this could be shown through our inclusion in events such as charity fundraisers. Overall, I felt that my work and effort was valued by the company
At times the placement can feel quite isolating as for the first 7-8 months in store as you do not work alongside other placement students. Equally, you do not work very closely to your mentor (Area Manager) within these months, so it is important to get to know them when shadowing in the first few weeks in order to establish a relationship. Generally, I know if I had a question I could ask my mentor and they would be able to help me or direct me to someone that could. Feedback is also central to the placement scheme and this acts as guidance for future improvements. However, on the whole, the company are not great at providing positive feedback and at times can focus too much on constructive criticisms.
Store time was extremely busy as there was always something that needed seeing to. This added to the enjoyment within store as it became a challenge to get everything completed on time. Its a very fast paced environment and the 10hour shifts go a lot faster than you think. Equally during project work at head office, your days can be very full, but that depends on the particular department and project you are assigned. Some departments naturally lend themselves to hands on experience, whereas others are mainly observational due to the nature of the work. All the work you complete is relevant to the operations of the company, so you never have time to clock watch. However, at times I did feel the work assigned and what was expected was too much, especially with uni work to complete, and I don't feel the company took this into consideration. Working 50-60 hours a week and completing essays and presentations with the little spare time we had was very difficult to balance and I feel this could have been managed slightly better by the company. However, on the whole, the balance was just about right.
Placement students are given a lot of responsibility throughout the year. This starts as a manger in store, as about a week into my management training I was handed the full keys to the store and the safe key. You are expected to run shifts independently, order stock for sale and create rotas. While this was daunting initially, the responsibility granted provided the opportunity to learn freely and openly. However, if I was ever unsure, I knew I could ask someone for clarification and they would be more than willing to help. We were also presented with a lot of responsibility at head office, as all the projects we were assigned were live within the business and contributed to the running of the region within each department.
I feel I have improved in so many different areas because of my placement year with Aldi. Time management will prove to be extremely useful in final year when juggling group work coursework and exams, as will the leadership skills I have gained throughout the year. One of the key areas of development has been my attitude towards work and university. Throughout the year, I have found that positivity is vital within the workplace, especially when working within teams and I feel this outlook will help me during my studies and beyond.
The store is a very laid back environment and provides the opportunity to get to know your peers very well. However, when at Head Office and with your Area Manager it is a lot more professional. The overall atmosphere of the office was good, chatty enough to keep you interested, but not too much that you couldn't get your work completed. People are generally friendly at Head Office and this made it easier to approach people when we had any questions. However, everyone at head office finishes work at around 16:30, whereas placement students work until 18:00. This meant between the hours of around 16:00 and 17:00 there were only directors and placement students within the office, which could be strange at times.
Aldi provided a plan for our year stating key dates and times we would be moving through the various stages of the company. However, this frequently change due to events outside of the company's control, which could be slightly frustrating at times. Although our exact plans were never concrete, the different stages of the placement never changed and these were clear from the beginning.
The company invest heavily in placement students, such as providing an advanced driving course before driving the Audis and sending us to a hotel for a national placement student conference. Additionally, a great deal of time is set aside by everyone you work with to train you and guide you through each step. This was very much appreciated by all students and could be seen when compared to the offerings of other companies.
Aldi are very keen to hire from within, so the placement year provides the perfect opportunity to secure a graduate role with the firm. Equally, it provides students with a 'trial year' within the company to see if the role is something you would be interested in post graduation. The graduate scheme is very highly praised and provides great opportunities within the retail sector.
The company did not promote socialising with fellow colleagues outside of work, apart from fellow placement students, however this could be difficult to arrange due to the varying shift patterns within store and the workload at Head Office. I had a good group of fellow placement students that were all keen to socialise outside of work, and this made my time with the company a lot easier. Although, if this hadn't been the case, the year may not have been as enjoyable.
I worked within the northwest region, meaning the cost of living was relatively cheap. However, the company provide placement opportunities within all of their regions so this will vary depending on what part of the country you are based.
I was based in a small northern town, so had to travel to Liverpool to have a night out.
The company promote a professional working environment and as a result don't often invite placement students to external events to maintain the professional standard. This can often be quite isolating and frustrating but did not effect my enjoyment of the year.