Hi, I’m Charlie, a 3rd year BSc Accounting Business and Financial Management student. Currently I am working at Unilever on their industrial placement scheme as a customer account manager.
Finding a placement
One of the most surprising things when looking for a placement is that there are so many opportunities out there. You just need to be patient and seek out the support that you need. We are lucky in York to have this support, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get some help to find the one that suits you.
I received a huge amount of support from the careers and employability team, notably Matt and Richard. They worked with me on the content of both my CV and cover letter to ensure I was selling myself in the best way to employers, which is really important. They highlighted roles that I may not have found on my own. I would recommend them to any student looking to do a placement. The team helped me find out what roles I wanted to go for, how to apply and adapt my application depending on the role. Even if its something small and you don’t think it’s important enough to trouble these guys, I know they will be happy to help!
It was a long process finding a placement that both suited me and that I met the criteria for. I mainly started searching through websites such as Rate my Placement and the Careers Gateway (now called Handshake). However, I found Unilever’s placement scheme when one of my friends recommended them after doing a placement year.
There were roles in two other companies which I got to the final round for, and I was close to accepting a job with Sky Bet before even getting to the final stage of Unilever’s application. But after getting some advice and going to the Unilever assessment centre, I knew this was the placement for me. I found the company really interesting and the way the role was described excited me. Luckily, I got offered the job!
Working at Unilever
Every day is different at Unilever, as it’s such an exciting fast-moving business. However most of my days consist of speaking to my customers, planning when they are going to buy a range of products and whether these are going to be on promotion in store or not. This involves speaking to my colleagues in marketing and supply to ensure we can support my customers needs. We check we’re adding value for Unilever and communicate with the customer to ensure we can achieve a successful deal.
In the office we offer a lot of fun incentives such as our Bake Off competition, and netball on a Tuesday night, so a day is never boring! I enjoy the young, fun atmosphere that Unilever promotes, making it more than just a place to go to work.
The responsibility you are given as a placement student is amazing. For example, I am completely responsible for the sales I make with my customer. I monitor how they are performing and how they can grow further. It may seem daunting at first, but everybody is so willing to help, which makes the process easier. I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit, having meetings across the country with senior members of the business. It has been a great way of developing my negotiating skills, and learning first hand from the best.
The best thing that I have done so far is represent Unilever on my own at Poundland, B&M and TJ Morris conferences. I have had to talk to store managers and senior members of these companies about what Unilever represents, what products are we promoting in the next few months and what we can do to support our customers. This was a great experience. It allowed me to travel and interact with a wide range of people who I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet elsewhere.
What I’ve learned
I have learned how to successfully negotiate with external customers, how to try and work collaboratively to achieve a deal that works for both parties. Dealing with profit and loss accounts daily has improved my financial knowledge. I ensure that what I sell adds value to the business but also persuades my buyer to place orders. I have learned how to network successfully and how to approach people when seeking assistance or giving my view on business issues.
York is such a beautiful city, and being a collegiate uni you feel you know so many people. You have so many opportunities, both academic and extra-curricular, in which to get involved, which I would recommend doing. Also, there is so much support which makes university life so much easier.
I like the range of modules that I was able to explore on my course. Gaining a broad knowledge of both finance and management has really helped me whilst at work in my placement.