Why did you choose to do a one year placement?
To gain invaluable workplace skill and experience which I knew would be beneficial when applying for graduate schemes, there was also the potential to come back to final year with a graduate scheme already secured. After hearing from and seeing older friends who had an amazing year, working for exciting companies, I wanted to challenge myself and take on a new experience.
What companies did you apply to when seeing a commercial placement?
L’Oreal, John Lewis, Unilever, Rolls Royce, Microsoft, Santander, Porche
What were the challenges you faced in the application process?
Rejections! I found perseverance to be key throughout the placement application process. Lots of the online applications, psychometric testing and interviews take a long time to complete, so spending subsequent time to then receive a no could be very disheartening. I also found it quite difficult to set time aside to complete applications alongside university work, however if you are determined you find time… lots of late night library stints! Also feelings pressured into getting a house with friends who were staying in Newcastle. After a few rejections, I believed I wasn’t going to get a placement and almost signed for a house… don’t!
Which company did you work for? What was your position? (Describe the nature of your role: responsibilities, projects you worked on, etc.)
L’Oreal – Retail and Category Development Intern.
Assisting in the creation and conceptualisation of the Skincare & Cosmetics category, my duties involved execution of category updates, regularly attaining and analysing data from various sources (including Nielsen, Kantar, JDA), alongside other area of category expertise.
Having captaincy to the self-tan category, I held large amounts of responsibility. I became the port of call for both internal and external requests, regularly presenting category insights to aid the ambition of sales and marketing teams, allowing me to further develop my networking skills. Similarly, responsible for the success of the Boots account, within the tight retailer team, I worked on various exciting projects including store reinvention, and helped design the shelf design/flow, when NPD were launched. I was given responsibility to be involved across a wide range of projects including Maybelline cleansing analysis, Christmas analysis, Medicated deep drive and Key future retail trend projects. I further worked with various agencies including McKinsey, and Board of Beauty in which I ran an online consumer insights project.
What was the highlight of your placement year?
Working and living in London was such a fun experience, especially in such a young fun, company as L’Oreal. Leaving work early on a Friday, where everyone when to the local pub in the sunshine was always a highlight, closely followed by bar 255 on a Thursday and staff shop! On a serious note, a highlight was working with the Garnier team who were launching their exclusive Michelle Keegan Ambre Solaire Self Tan. I was responsible for presenting to Superdrug buyers an overview of the self-tan category, alongside key consumer insights, and providing a platform on which the marketing and sales teams could secure a product exclusive within store.
How has the placement experience helped your own development?
It has definitely helped me grow in confidence, aiding both my presenting and ability and networking skills. I met so many amazing people on my year in industry, from peers, graduates, to category managers and marketing directors, and now have connections in various business functions and positions. I developed strong commercial instinct, analytical skills, and have become a lead user in several data tools, beneficial within all future commercial roles. I learnt the importance of making quick decisions in a fast-paced environment, the power of negotiation for a mutually beneficial outcome and putting across my point of view in a constructive way. Completing a year in industry has definitely helped with completion of my degree, as I am now able to understand all academic literature from a different perspective and input my personal experiences. It has given me aspirations for my future career and the drive needed to progress.
What elements of the placement have been most useful in helping you move towards your career goal?
My current aspirations involve gaining a commercial graduate scheme, in a fast-paced, ambitious company. In the long-term I hope to have rapid career development and become a future leader. The placement year has helped me not only grow as a person, but gain the relevant skill and experience needed to apply for many of the graduate schemes. As I had the opportunity to be involved across a wide range of business functions, I have experience working alongside both sales and marketing, I understand their functions, and can apply this when completing applications. As much of my day to day work was ad-hoc analytical, I have become confident in analysing numerical data, and this has helped when completing numerical and logic tests.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about doing a commercial placement?
Definitely to go for it! You don’t have anything to lose. The experience and knowledge you will gain from a year in industry, is nothing that a degree can teach you. It will broaden your horizons, set you on your future career path and grow you as a person …all whilst having an amazing year!