Name: Helen Prince
Degree: BSc Business and Management (1st), Aston Business School
Job Title: Customer Experience Manager – Sainsbury’s.
Why did you choose a graduate scheme? I chose a graduate scheme because the focus is on developing your skills and moving you up the company. Graduate schemes enable you to take on a lot of responsibility early on in your career and give you the opportunity to really push yourself and excel.
What do you actually do? I am on the Sainsbury’s Customer and Marketing graduate scheme which gives me the opportunity to experience numerous different areas of the business. I initially spent six months in retail, learning about the business from the grass roots. This was followed by a six-month placement in the Media Centre as initially the Local PR Manager responsible for conveying all of the great work Sainsbury’s do in local communities, and then in Corporate Social Responsibility writing press releases, organising photo calls, and meeting with journalists around Sainsbury’s CSR initiatives. I am at present undertaking a six-month placement in Customer Service looking at how we can improve customers’ experience. I’m also single-handedly launching a project across all of our 786 stores.
Why did you decide to go into this sector? I chose the Retail sector as I wanted to be involved in a fast-paced, dynamic environment which constantly challenged me. It is a highly competitive sector where you are constantly finding new and innovative ways to reach customers, and I relish the opportunity to be creative.
What did the application process involve? I initially filled out an online application form and completed verbal and numerical tests. I then had a telephone interview based on my experience as a customer at Sainsbury’s and with the competition. I finally attended an Assessment Centre at the Sainsbury’s Store Support Centre in London where I carried out role-play exercises and had an interview. What I liked about the application process was its focus on both the skills I could bring to the company and what they could offer me. I felt a real affinity with Sainsbury’s because of this. The process was based on my individual performance in areas that directly related to the graduate scheme, which was a refreshing change from other companies that asked very cryptic, unrelated questions during the application process.
How did you find out about this particular scheme? I attended my university’s career fair where Sainsbury’s had a major presence. I spoke to a representative on their stand who was currently on the graduate scheme and she was able to give me a real insight into her role.
Would you undertake further study to enhance your career? Sainsbury’s are currently sponsoring me to complete a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Postgraduate qualification. Further study is important to me in enhancing my career and Sainsbury’s have been extremely supportive of this.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? I like that no day is the same and I am constantly taking on new responsibilities. I am actively encouraged to be creative and challenge the way we do things, which is fantastic. The only downside is not having enough hours in the day to put all of my ideas into place!
What do you think are the most important skills that you need to succeed in retail? To succeed in retail you need to be determined and relish a challenge. You need to be confident and not afraid to voice your opinions. Being a good communicator and team player is essential.
What advice would you give to other graduates? Just be yourself! Sainsbury’s are looking for like-minded people who have an affinity with their values and if this is you it will come across instantly.