This past year has been very enlightening. It has shown me what I like about a company and also what I don't like. I've enjoyed understanding how an FMCG company works and what role my function plays in the overall business structure. I've enjoyed getting to know the other placement students as well and seeing what work they've been doing. I also worked on a big project on my team and got to see it 'come to life'. It's been a great experience! I don't know if I would pursue a career at Unilever as I would prefer a smaller company, but for those who want a big company that cares about its people and the environment, then I would recommend it.
I felt very valued by my team especially as they gave me a big project to lead. They listened to what I said during meetings even though I have a lot less experience than them and they never saw any of my questions as stupid. I truly felt like a valued member of my team this past year and I'm grateful for that.
Within my team, I was given support and guidance. However, the central HR team that is in charge of industrial placements didn't offer any form of support throughout the year. The graduates get 'career sponsors' who they can meet with and talk about their career. However, we didn't have anyone checking-in with us to make sure we were ok. I was quite lonely at the beginning of my placement, yet no one outside my team checked if I was ok. Sometimes it's easier to open up to someone who isn't part of your day-to-day team, but we weren't offered that option.
I was quite busy on a daily basis. Obviously there will be days when you have way too much work and then others where you barely have any. But on average, I was kept busy with the work I was doing and made sure I asked me team if they needed any help from me.
I was given a lot of responsibility during my placement which I wasn't expecting. Unilever makes use of every available resource they have, so they really make sure you're involved in an importance piece of work. Sometimes it was hard to be given a lot of responsibility as some people didn't view placement students as important, but it really pushed me to my limits and I learnt so much from it.
The skills I developed over the year will definitely assist me in my degree studies and beyond! I learnt a lot about excel and all of its different features. I also learnt how to work in a global team and how to manage stakeholders. This improved my business acumen which is a vital skill for any future jobs.
The general atmosphere of my office was quite relaxed. The dress code for Unilever isn't formal, so you can wear jeans and trainers and I think this helped with making you feel more comfortable at work. We get free ice cream and coffee and there's a staff shop, so the work environment is great! It really shows that they want their employees to enjoy coming to the office.
The organisation of it was quite good! We had an induction event prior to starting and that was a lot of fun as we got to know the other placement students. Our laptops were ready when we started and our manager's met us on our first day. My manager could've put more thought into my initial tasks, but they gave me more meaningful work once they understood what my strengths were.
We had sessions put into our calendars for training, but a few of them were cancelled and never re-scheduled. Some of the sessions were helpful, but others were fairly boring. With the sessions, they kind of felt like the bare minimum that they could do in terms of training. However, Unilever does use an online learning platform, but that's more personal training rather than the company investing in me.
Based off what some of the graduates have said, the graduate scheme does not suit me. You have to relocate every 6-9 months across the country and the roles you are given are very demanding. Also, the programme is 3 years and that seems a bit long for a graduate scheme. However, I would prefer a direct hire role as they expect a normal amount of work from you and there isn't as much competition & pressure like there is for the grad scheme.
A lot of us tried to meet up for a drinks every couple of months, so I would say there was a good social scene amongst the placement students. My team would also go out for drinks whenever anyone was leaving team, so that was a lot of fun and a nice break from work!
London is not cheap. If you're moving from a university in the North, be ready for the cost of living to be a lot more. Try and share a flat or house with other placement students as that'll be somewhat cheaper. Luckily, we have a salary, but make sure you have a budget. Also, as we get to work from home on some days, you can save money as you won't be travelling into work.
The Nightlife was good as the role is near London, so you could get the train or tube into central London. However, it will be a lot more expensive than going out at University so be ready for £20 entry to some of the clubs! If you're looking for a cheap place for drinks, then there's always Spoons!
Each office has a gym which is free for employees, so that was really good for my physical health! There are also a lot of volunteering initiatives outside of work such as WE day, Dove day, etc. If you do some research, then you'll definitely find opportunities outside of work to get involved in.