Marketing Management student Zain completed a rigorous application process which involved taking a personality test, a logical reasoning test, and attending an assessment centre followed by a final interview. He was subsequently offered a 12 month placement in Waitrose’s head office.
The 21-year-old’s role was originally structured in two parts, which would see him spend six months working as an assistant to the product developers, and the remaining six months as a personal assistant to the head of brand. However, the tenacious student was keen to get the best out of his placement and convinced his managers to allow him to work as a product developer.
“I asked lots of questions,” Zain explains, “and was given the opportunity to work as a product developer for the first six months. For the second part of my placement I was unsure about working as a personal assistant for the whole time, so I asked if I could continue with my product developer role alongside it and they agreed. It was hard work, but I learnt a lot.”
Zain’s role involved carrying out trend analysis in a range of non-food product development areas, which eventually allowed him the opportunity to create and develop a range of shaving products under the Essential Waitrose brand. As a result, Zain has three shaving lines which launched in Waitrose stores in December 2014.
“I learnt a lot of skills while on placement at Waitrose,” Zain says. “The most evident was communication skills. When you’re working with a number of stakeholders you have to understand that constant communication is essential. I also learnt how to manage a project, work under pressure and developed my time management. These are just the transferable skills I learnt alongside all of the marketing-specific skills such as brand strategy, product development and market analysis.”
He added: “I managed to meet a number of high profile people in the marketing business. These varied from agencies to global corporations. However, I would say that you do have to use your initiative and ask. Most people will be perfectly happy for you to tag along to a meeting but you have to be prepared to get rejected occasionally too.”
Zain’s long-term goal is to work in advertising once he completes his degree and believes his experience with Waitrose has given him valuable insight into how companies create and brand products. “Eventually, I would like to work for an agency and because I’ve now been involved with launching my own product I feel I’d have that extra level of empathy when clients came to me with a job,” Zain says.
Having launched three products to a consumer market, Zain has a valuable string to his bow which will help him stand out in a competitive job market once he graduates.
Zain also has a message for students thinking about work placements. “I would certainly say do it,” he advises. “You’ll gain understanding of the industry you want to work in and a huge amount of transferable skills.”
Alison Lucas, Division Leader, Lancashire Business School said: “In the graduate jobs market it’s essential to have work-ready skills and differentiate yourself. A work placement gives students a significant competitive advantage and Zain’s experiences at Waitrose will be invaluable to him, not only once he graduates but for the remainder of his course here at UCLan.
“For businesses, offering students work placements can provide fresh perspective and bring about new innovations. It’s also a chance to identify talent and spot potential future employees.”