Customer Account Executive is a role within the Sales team, consequently enabling you to work on analysing sales performance, portfolio and promotional recommendations, negotiating investments with the clients as well as dealing with invoices and creating internal data bases.
I really enjoyed my placement at Unilever; it provided a great opportunity to learn about a corporate business and to develop my skills in many areas. The environment is very relaxed and everyone is approachable, making it easy to learn on the job. The work I did was interesting and I felt I was able to make a business impact throughout my year.
I was involved in several projects, all of which had a lot of team members. The responsibilities I was given were vital to keep the projects moving forward. Teams had to rely on me to produce reports and drive processes, so I knew the work I did had value. This was emphasised in the encouragement I got from colleagues who were all eager to be supportive of me.
Unilever has an excellent support programme. I had a week’s handover with the person I was replacing which taught me the basics. My line manager was able to guide me through my work plan goals, which were clearly set out at the start. I also had a contact manager to talk about career progression and things outside of my work plan. Unilever provides buddies to give extra support too. Alongside all this, there are seminars and workshops to ensure you feel supported and that give guidance about future career paths.
I always had something to do, though naturally, some days were busier than others. I never felt completely overwhelmed with work, and I was able to complete all my tasks within the 9-5.30 time frame. The variety of the work meant I didn’t get bored of working on one thing, as I was always able work on something else if I felt I needed a change.
Unilever makes sure its placement students have responsibility from day one. In my first week I was sending reports out to the customer teams and following up on any actions with them. My manager made sure I took the lead on some projects; so I represented the UK when building a European reporting system, and I took the lead on presenting and proposing a project to a customer.
This placement has helped me develop many skills; from communication to business awareness. This will help me going forward into a career after my degree, especially if I work in a large corporate business. The work itself won’t influence my science degree, but time management skills will definitely have an impact in the final year of my degree.
The UK&I head office is an open plan space with over 800 people working there. Everyone is accessible, including senior managers, meaning it is easy to ask questions and glean experience from those around you. It does depend on your team as to how social things are outside of work. My team was a bit older so we didn’t go out in the evenings much, but we always got on and were able to have a laugh together.
Unilever has a well-established placement programme. There are over 50 placement students each year so there is a set induction plan to help you settle. There are also mid-year and end of placement reviews which assess you on your work plan goals and standards of leadership. There is plenty of opportunity for feedback throughout the year too.
I felt Unilever invests a lot of time and resources into developing its trainees. My manager made sure I had the opportunity to develop in the areas that I wanted to develop- such as tailoring projects to allow me to present my work. There were also sessions where senior managers gave advice from their experiences, for people starting their career. There were a few workshops to sign up to to teach you about technology systems you would be using.
Unilever has a highly rated graduate programme which is appealing. Within this there are plenty of opportunities to get a broad experience of the business through it. In 3 years you get exposure to 6 business areas on the Supply Chain programme. But getting onto the scheme is competitive and is not guaranteed from doing the year in industry.
There was a really great scene amongst placement students! We all became close friends and would spend most lunch times together, when we didn't have meetings etc. We would often go out and get food from somewhere nearby the office and, in the evenings, we would go for drinks after work. My team was also quite sociable and I went for dinner with them several times.
The cost of living was high being in Central London. My biggest two expenses were accommodation and travel costs. Although I had a reasonable salary for an intern, I do not think that it reflected the cost of living in London and there was no difference in salary for interns based in London and the north of England, where cost of living is clearly much lower.
Being based in Blackfriars, Central London, the night life was really good! There are so many nice bars and restaurants nearby, plus the added benefits of being so close to the beautiful St Paul's Cathedral. It is also really easy to get to other parts of London, such as Shoreditch, where there is a really great night scene.
So many opportunities to get involved in activities outside of work! There is a really great free gym in the office, which offers fitness classes. As Unilever has implemented a system of agile and flexible working, we were encouraged to use the gym throughout the day. There were also a number of sports teams that employees could join. Furthermore, there were so many charity events to get involved in, as well as, community outreach projects.