1. Please give an overview of your role and what this involves on a day-to-day basis:
I am an HRBP (Business Partner) for the CMCO (Central Marketing and Communications Office) function at Unilever and act as a team assistant as well as take on my own projects, therefore my tasks are extremely varied. My day could go from planning our next Team Day and Dinner in London, to organising calendars and sending invites, to having a conference call with project managers in America, Pakistan and South Africa to create the new employee awards. This means that in a day I can be interacting with the SVP's of the functions we business partner, as well as companies such as external agencies when they pitch their ideas to us. In terms of my role as the team assistant my responsibility is to keep the team running smoothly, whether this is by scheduling, inviting, planning the agenda and running our weekly team meeting, or extracting information from our online databases to aid investigations. A big project I am currently working on is the a fore mentioned employee awards, there are a team of us from Unilever working on it from across the London sites (meaning I am spending some time in the other London offices) but also from Pakistan and outside agencies based in London and South Africa. Being a global company this work will reach the 170,000 Unilever employees across the world, so considering everyone is key!
2. Have you learnt any new skills or developed existing skills?
For me there are no skills greater than those that you learn from experience, that you can't learn in a classroom or lecture theater. From my day to day tasks and interactions I have learnt interpersonal skills, presentation skills, negotiation techniques and leadership in meeting skills. Being in an office environment you also pick up the etiquette from your colleagues, such as appropriate email and phone speak, and different ways of approaching situations which will show in the way I present myself in future. I have also engaged in training courses run by Unilever for Excel and Microsoft Office with skills i carry through to my daily tasks allowing me to be more efficient. And of course I am achieving a Level 3 Business Admin Diploma alongside, but that's just a bonus!
3. To what extent do you enjoy your programme?
I am thoroughly enjoying my programme including the work that I am doing, at Unilever you don't get treated as a stereotypical apprentice, you get thrown in at the deep end with real responsibilities and real life situations from day one- this really does help you learn best! The entire company culture at Unilever is extremely friendly and accommodating to everyone, my team especially are so easy to get along with and we have team dinners every 5/6 weeks along with team days every 3 months, which is great getting to be together outside of the working office environment and I have already made such great friends. The other people doing the apprenticeship with you will also become very good friends, you can relate to each other and its so exciting hearing what everyone else is doing after spending induction week together- we all still meet up and have nights out together after work - its a great community! The apprenticeship with Unilever has exceeded my expectations, I am not seen as an apprentice and am not tasked with the mundane jobs, I have real responsibilities and if something goes wrong it could have a big effect - which is scary but is fantastic and its great to know how much I am trusted here.
4. How valued do you feel by Unilever?
Extremely! As i mentioned before my tasks are very real and that shows that I must be trusted by my colleagues to represent and make decisions inside the company and for Unilever. Recognition can come from anyone, my line manager may express her gratitude in our weekly 1-1's, or I may get a message from a project manager thanking me for my input.
5. How well organised/structured is your programme?
The programme is organised enough so that you know what you're doing but it is not strict in the way that you do it, which is the perfect balance. As new apprentices we had a weeks training all together before getting into our functions and teams and this included the basic training and information that we'd need to get off to a great start. I have weekly meetings with my line manager who is extremely supportive, and I also have weekly catch ups with my PDS facilitator who checks that I am on track and enjoying what I am doing both job and study wise. The coursework that you have to complete over the 18 months is given to you all at once when you start and you can work your way through the tasks completing which ever ones you please whenever you want. It is then up to you to decide how structured you are in this - for example i set aside Friday afternoons to do a piece of coursework and submit it online, but you could type something up as and when you want when in the office. Its entirely up to you.
6a. How much support do you receive from your training provider?
From the training provider you have an assigned assessor, they are very dedicated and you can reach them easily if you ever have a query. If i have a problem I could call, text or email my assessor and I know she'll get back to me as soon as she can and provide me with the answers and support that I need. You soon learn that no question is a silly question and they've probably been asked the same thing before so they're more than happy to help!
6b. How much support do you receive from your employer?
My team are very close knitted and I feel comfortable with any of them that if I had an issue or query I could approach them for help with ease. My line manager came to Unilever on the grad scheme so knows from experience what help and guidance I need, we have a weekly 1 hour meeting where we catch up on what I've been doing and we both share information with each other. I also do a lot of work with my VP so he will check in with me to see how I am going. I am also in charge of my directors calendar and I can be sure that no matter how back to back and overlapping her calendar is, she can always manage to squeeze in time for me.
7. How well does your salary/package meet your costs?
I feel that the salary is extremely generous for an apprenticeship scheme and going from wasting a copious amount of money at University (I attended Durham for 1 term) to earning a good wage alongside enjoying myself thoroughly at work is better than you could imagine. Getting London waiting of £1750 also covers the travel cost of my apprenticeship oyster which I worried about at first. The food is decently priced here so you can always enjoy a good meal in the restaurant without worrying about spending. All in all I am never out of pocket or worrying about my finances.
8. Are there many opportunities outside of work?
My team alone (made up of 8) have 5/6 weekly team dinners in London and 3 monthly team days, so we get a lot of outside opportunities to interact as friends as well as colleagues. The general London HR team also have team days where you can enjoy a day out of the office having fun with people you see at work everyday. Unilever especially also has a lot of voluntary schemes and projects that anyone can get involved with alongside their paid work. The gym on site is also free and the fitness instructors run classes at all times of the day. Being an apprentice in such a large company also means that you are in another network of people who are all a similar age and in a similar position, we all keep in regular contact and enjoy lunches together at least twice a week, we also organise meals and nights out after work just like you would with your University or College friends so you keep the social aspect alive.
9a. Would you recommend Unilever to a friend? *
9b. Why? *
It is a fantastic apprenticeship programme but also provides you with a stepping stone into the company and if you work well you create fantastic job prospects when your scheme comes to an end.
10. What tips or advice would you give to others applying to Unilever? *
At the interview process just be yourself, and the assessment day seemed extremely daunting to me but I actually thoroughly enjoyed it and it felt like more of a bonding session with the other apprentices than an assessment and you soon forget you are even being watched. Just be yourself and let your personality shine through- this is what a perspective line manager will be looking for. When you get into the company networking will give you a great way to get involved in many opportunities and allows you to create connections with people you may not usually interact with.
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