Name: Jane Reynolds
Degree and university: Sociology, Brunel University (in final year)
Placement: Heinz. Heinz received the Highly Commended Award in the ‘Best Work Experience Provider Over 250 Employees – long term placements (4-12 months)’ at the 2007/08 National Council for Work Experience (NCWE) Awards.
How did you find out about this placement? My application is not actually typical of the normal work experience programme at Heinz. I heard about the opportunity from my brother, who already worked with Heinz. However, my course stipulated that I needed to do two, six-month placements rather than the complete one year programme that Heinz normally offers. In light of this I completed two separate placements; the first one a four-month unpaid placement in the Sales department, followed by a six-month placement in HR.
What did you actually do? As I completed my placements in different departments, the tasks on each placement were very different.
During my first placement, which took place in the sales department, I worked alongside the National Account Manager. My main role involved researching product prices at discount stores such as Lidl and The Pound Shop, in order to assess whether they had bought the products from wholesale or directly from the company. This then allowed the National Account Manager to direct his pitch to these companies accordingly.
During my second placement I worked within the HR department, working particularly with the graduate and placement recruitment at all stages. This placement provided me with even more responsibility; the company provided me with a car for visits to universities aimed at recruiting applicants for the work experience and graduate schemes. I also controlled my own budget for these events. These visits involved a variety of tasks including some marketing in the form of a soup giveaway encouraging students to attend a presentation on what Heinz has to offer. I then also took part in the presentation itself, describing the schemes on offer at Heinz. I also had to deal with the application forms that resulted from this. To complete the process I organised assessment centres and then had to contact all applicants to inform them of the outcome of their interview.
Did your placement live up to your expectations? Before undertaking my work experience placement, I thought that work experience involved more of a work shadowing role with limited responsibility. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of trust and responsibility invested in me while on placement and found the work I carried out actually contributed to the running of the business.
What do you believe you learned on your placements? One of the important lessons I learned during my work experience placements was on a personal level, allowing me to identify my strengths and weaknesses. However, I also gained many work specific skills from training courses, particularly in presentation and excel skills. The skills learned during my placement have helped me with my studies, especially my dissertation, in terms of workload management. I particularly benefited from the responsibility I was given, allowing me to improve my confidence and organisational skills. Following on from my two placements, I now work part-time with Heinz as a supplement to studying. Having particularly enjoyed my experience in the sales department, which made use of the analytical skills developed during my degree, I would like to explore work in that area – possibly at Heinz.
Would you recommend work experience to other students? Work experience is definitely something that I would recommend, not only does it boost your employability chances and give you something extra to add to your CV, the responsibility invested in you by the company allows for ‘real’ work experience that you may not otherwise be prepared for following the completion of your studies.