To work on & support projects for a particular brand over the course of periods including working with markets from all over the world.
It was a really good experience. I learned a great deal whilst I was here, being offered proficient training in many areas, and I was given roles with real responsibility. Everyone was really friendly and the casual dress code, flexible hours and daily free ice cream created a welcoming work environment! The main drawback to the summer placement at Unilever, in my opinion, is the length of it.
By the end of my placement I felt like a valued member of the team. Everyone would ask me to help them out with tasks because they were confident I could help to deliver them. The team even took me out for a meal to say goodbye, saying how great it had been having me around to help over the summer.
The placement scheme at Unilever is great for offering support and guidance. We began our placements with a night in a hotel hosted by grads on the scheme, allowing us to ask any questions we might have and get to know the other placement students. We were introduced to the main co-ordinator of the scheme who made clear we could ask him any questions. We were all given a mentor, someone who we wouldn’t be working with on a daily basis, who we could also turn to with any questions and who set up meetings with us to make sure our placement was going well. All the placement students were given general training to help with our roles and understanding of the company and then my manager ensured I was signed up to any additional courses that might help me. The friendly nature of Unilever employees definitely means that ‘no question is a silly question’ and I knew that I could turn to anyone to ask for advice.
This varied. For the first few weeks of my placement, I was not very busy as my manager hadn’t currently assigned any tasks to me and I couldn’t carry out much work until I had completed relevant training. However, once I was given tasks to get stuck into the days became busier and I made sure that I attended all meetings and additional training so that I could to make the most of my time here.
It is true that you are given real responsibility even as a summer placement at Unilever. I carried out tasks that would be fed back to key customers and to leadership teams at Unilever. A good example of the responsibility I was given is the fact that in my fourth week here I went to a key retailer and gave a presentation to a new buyer.
I think the main skills I will take away from the year are time management and holding people accountable for their actions. There are times where you have to be stern with people if they've made a mistake or missed a deadline, even if they're twice your age. At the same time, you have to hold yourself accountable and manage your time to make sure you meet deadlines set by your colleagues. Also, just the huge difference from a University schedule to a work one is a huge learning point
Very friendly! I wore jeans to work every day, which was the norm, and was able to work hours that suited me – 8.30-5. Whilst Unilever is said to have hot desking, people generally sat in the same seats each day and I built good relationships with the people I worked around. I worked at Leatherhead, which has a great number of employees so there was a sociable canteen and the office was always a general hub of activity (apart from on Fridays when everyone works from home!).
One of the negative points of the placement has been the organisation. While there are milestones such as six month and annual reviews, between these there isn't really much planned. I had to be quite proactive in terms of putting time in with managers. Many people also had issues receiving laptops on the first few days.
The opportunities were certainly there if you took the time to find them. No one is going to force you to train in an area, but there are hundreds of online courses that you can learn from if you make time for them. Some of the courses would teach you skills that normally cost a lot to learn privately.
If you are deemed good enough, there are future employment prospects, but these are only offered to very few people. You can be directly fast tracked onto the grad scheme, fast tracked to the final interview or offered a entry level job. These are very competitive though and not many are offered these.
The company has a pretty good social scene. There were often nights out planned for birthdays or just general socialising. Both going out with the team and other placement students are fairly common place and there are big social events such as the Christmas party which everyone attends. The majority of placement students lived with each other as well, which obviously helps.
This varies massively depending on which site you are based in. If you are in London like I was, costs of living are much higher. Rent and alcohol cost double in the capital than the North. There's also no London allowance for placement students, so finances were a bit tougher in London.
Again, varies greatly depending on office. Central London and Liverpool are great. Lots of bars and clubs are around as you'd expect for major cities. If you are based in the more rural offices, there's almost no nightlife but it isn't a far journey into the city if you would like to have a night out.
The opportunities were there if you bothered to look for them. While some might be more hidden than others, there are work sports teams, choirs, conferences with other companies that you could be involved if you stumbled across the right people. The company could be a bit better at advertising these opportunities though as sometimes it's pure luck that you do find them.