1. To what extent did you enjoy your work placement or internship?
To begin with, I found the placement a massive challenge and was very overwhelmed therefore I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it for the first four or five months. However, as time went on I definitely started to enjoy my placement more. My enjoyment grew with my confidence. I enjoyed being placed in a smaller high street store much more than the large retail park stores I was originally placed in.
2. To what extent did you feel valued by your colleagues?
This was inconsistent – I felt my opinion was very valued by certain employees, but not so much by others. However I would say that I was definitely actively encouraged to offer my opinion. When I moved around stores, I was thanked to a great extent for the hard work I had put in, so this effort was definitely valued.
3. To what extent were you given support and guidance by management/your supervisor(s)?
I had regular review meetings with each of my mentors at the four different stores I worked in. Some of my mentors were more helpful than others. The first mentor I had was too stretching, I believed therefore I felt as if the job was impossible. My second mentor did not really spend much time to sit down and formally review my progress, however there was a lot of on the job coaching. The last Store Manager I had as a mentor was excellent in giving me feedback and coaching, as well as a review with areas to improve on halfway through this final attachment. I always felt as if I had support should I need it.
4. How busy were you on a daily basis?
The majority of the placement I was very busy, as is expected in a retail environment. To start with, as I didn’t have that much accountability I sometimes wondered what to do, therefore it’s important someone who does this placement has a lot of self-drive. As I was given departments to look after, I was very busy! Some days I felt as if I had too much to achieve. So I’d definitely recommend this placement to someone who enjoys being busy as retail is long hours, and on this placement you have a salary so there is no overtime. A lot of the time you are on your feet on the shop floor rather than office-based.
5. How much responsibility were you given during your placement?
I was given a lot of responsibility. I was live in role as the Commercial Manager for the Food department for a High Street store for 3 months as my final attachment, so I had a lot of accountability. When the Store Manager wasn't there for whatever reason, I had responsibility for running the whole store. However I believe this was the best way for me to learn. There was also a lot of support on hand for me if I had any concerns.
6. To what extent did/will the skills you developed, and training you received, assist you in your degree studies and beyond?
The training I had with M&S will definitely help me in my future career. I developed my confidence and ability to lead a team massively, as well as my ability to spot opportunities and act upon them in a timely manner. I enhanced my people skills, communicating with line reports, other commercial managers and my own line manager in different ways to adapt to individual personalities. I also feel I have become much more organised in terms of planning ahead.
7. What was the general atmosphere in your office?
Generally good. I felt as if the majority of people really enjoyed their job and definitely put in extra hours when they didn't always need to. All the managers I worked with were passionate and engaging. I also had a lot of fun.
8. How well organised was the overall work placement or internship set up?
Not overly. To start with I was given a mentor for all the placement students and grads on my region, but I only ever met her once and she left the company after a few months. After this, another mentor took up this role and was a lot more helpful in terms of regular meet ups with other placement students and grads doing the same programme as me, as well as regular contact with my Line Manager. I would say that my different attachments in various stores were pretty last minute i.e. I was told I'd be moving stores in a week's time which didn't feel particularly well organised.
9. In terms of personal training and development, to what extent did the company or firm invest in you?
M&S definitely invested in me with the intention of me returning to work for the company after I graduate. I went on multiple courses including one in London which the company paid for. There are multiple workshops and e-learning courses available for all M&S employees which I found really useful.
10. What were the perks on your work placement?
Staff Sales/Staff Shop
Above 25 days holiday
11. How appealing are future employment prospects within the organisation?
I have been offered a job when I graduate. Returning to the company as a Commercial Manager does have some appeal however I'm not completely sure it is the job for me. I would be interested in exploring what other roles the business could offer me for example marketing in Head Office.
12. Was there a good social scene amongst any fellow placement students/colleagues?
Not really. We only met up as a formal situation within work. However I did go out with other M&S employees from a few of the stores I worked in. I would've liked there to be more social events with other placement students potentially on different regions as there were only 2 on mine.
13. What was the cost of living and socialising in the area you worked in?
I lived in Birmingham so the costs were ok. however I will say that cost for travel was pretty expensive as when I had to move to one store for 3 months this was 26 miles each way, and I actually had to buy a car to get to this location as it was impossible on public transport.
14. What was the Nightlife like in the area you worked?
Birmingham nightlife was excellent - I loved it!
15. Were there many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work?
Not particularly. In one store we had a cocktail making evening and there was a regional gala dinner which I went to. We also had one charity event but I missed out on this as I was on holiday. I would've liked more sports/social activities.