My placement consisted of two very different roles and I spent 6 months both within a Category and Customer role. This provided a great opportunity to gain a deeper exposure of Unilever’s operations and the broad roles resulted in well rounded experience. The initial Customer Finance role was centred on managing customer ledgers and provided core experience in the fundamentals of Financial Management. For example I was responsible for attending to overdues, price claims and deductions and I developed a thorough understanding of cash management. I was fortunate to be involved in a substantial project to implement new trade terms and the Customer placement provided me with a thorough grounding for me to progress into a Category role.
The Spreads Category Finance role can be considered more strategic compared to my first Customer role and I was responsible for Business partnering different functional areas and applying financial expertise to support decision making in the evaluation of Business Cases. Beyond this I prepared monthly reporting packs including commentaries and presented results to the Category team. I was also held accountable for the reporting and forecasting of the Advertising and Promotion spend and helped to mitigate the risk of overspending.
On top of my main responsibilities throughout my placement I was handed challenging tasks and projects which tested my skills I had acquired. For example my most notable project was to prepare an analysis of commodity market price movements and closely liaise with Supply Chain colleagues in order to develop a cost price increase rationale which was used to successfully implement a price increase with our customers. I also developed a Spreads Financial Reporting Pack to provide a platform to help identify insights into the causes driving key movements and trends, reducing the number of adhoc queries carried out by the Finance Team. Overall the two contrasting roles provided a unique opportunity to gain an overview of two very different parts of the business and this allowed me develop relationships with a diverse range of people therefore significantly enhancing my personal development.
I’m delighted to have completed an enthralling, challenging Placement within Unilever and I feel I have been pushed beyond my boundaries and have developed in so many ways. Each day presented a new challenge and I was fully supported throughout my placement and Unilever took great concern in my personal development. I was fortunate to work in two different areas of the business and I would urge anyone interested in gaining well rounded experience to consider making an application to the Unilever Placement Programme.
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From my very first day I was given a warm welcome into the organisation and was valued as if I was a full time employee. My lack of experience did not present an obstacle and I was consistently provided with respect during team discussions and my thoughts were always taken on board.
I recognise that Unilever fully promotes a supportitive culture and at the forefront of my Placement was the need to enhance my personal skills and development. At each stage of my placement I received constructive feedback on areas in which I had performed well and areas in which I could further develop and improve. In particular the Placement provided a stepping stone in order to progress into to a future Graduate role and aimed to develop key skills needed to fulfil a leadership role.
From beginning to end I never felt like a spare part and was continuously challenged with exciting projects and expected to make a real contribution to the team. The Unilever placement is not for the faint hearted and expect to have real responsibility and demanding deadlines from day one. This experience therefore greatly developed my organisational skills and my ability to prioritise without compromising on quality.
During my placement I was handed a number of challenging tasks beyond my initial expectations of what I would be doing on placement. Whilst I was hesitant at first the tasks greatly improved my self-confidence and personal development and provided an opportunity to apply the skills I had developed during my roles. Unilever will push you to your full potential and this helps to ensure that you make the most of all opportunities during the Placement year.
I believe my Unilever Placement has provided me with an experience that I have not had before and I would encourage anyone to consider doing a placement. I have had an opportunity to apply my academic studies to a working environment and have learnt so much about Unilever, myself, the way I work and have identified a career which I believe suits me. My placement has helped me to enhance and develop a number of key skills which I hope to now transfer into my Final year academic studies. My hopes are that this will have a positive impact on my academic performance and I can use my practical experience e.g. organisation skills and apply this across my studies. With regards to starting a future job I feel I will be more confident and comfortable settling in as I have an idea of what to expect and many of the skills I have developed whilst on placement will be applicable and beneficial to any future career. I certainly feel I’m returning to University a different person to when I departed from my second year studies and now have a lot more self confidence which is something I have lacked in the past.
I found that Unilever has a very friendly welcoming atmosphere and central to success is working together. For example in order to make key decisions input is required from Finance, Supply Chain, Customer and Category and therefore there is a strong emphasis on networking and developing relationships throughout the business. Whilst I was on placement I attended a number of team building away days and this provided a great opportunity to meet lots of new people.
My placement was very well structured and this widened my experience and allowed me to experience two very different roles. I was provided with a strong support structure and was assigned a buddy to advice on any problems/ issues during my placement. The programme helped to develop a diverse range of skills and I received a substantial amount of training and also received timely feedback on my progress.
It was clear Unilever wanted me develop to my full potential and therefore supported me in so many ways. In particular I attended numerous training sessions and was invited to attend a variety of visits to Factories, Conferences and to the Global Head Office. Unilever truly treat you as if you are a full time employee and offer you the same opportunities as anybody else whilst on placement.
My placement has confirmed my desire to apply for a position on the Graduate Leadership Programme and I believe very few organisations are able to offer the same broad opportunities as Unilever. In particular the emphasis on personal development strongly appeals to me and the support Unilever offers will be essential for the attainment of a professional qualification. Lastly Unilever is a great place to work and whilst you are expected to work hard the organisation offers many things in return and places a strong emphasis on maintaining a good work life balance.
Whilst Unilever do not recruit large quantities of Placement students I was able to develop both close working and personal relationships with colleagues. I attended numerous team nights out and these were the highlight of my Placement. I was also fortunate to develop relationships with the Graduates and often tagged along on social outings.
Unilever is located in Leatherhead which is located just outside London and therefore living costs were relatively expensive and although I was paid a decent salary I was unable to save much on Placement.
Whilst Leatherhead does not have a lively nightlife most employees tend to live closer to London and therefore there is a venue for everyone’s taste.
There are numerous activities beyond work in particular Unilever places a strong emphasis on community projects and supports charitable events. There is also a free gym on site and many sports clubs are run throughout the week.