From Snack Foods To Pet Foods: Working At Mars
Saffron Shaw, 23, joined the graduate management development scheme at Mars in September 2003, after graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature.
Applying for internships with FMCGs during her second year of university gave her a taste of just how competitive the industry is. "I applied for internships at three or four big employers and didn’t get any of them," she says. "This really woke me up and meant that when I later applied to graduate jobs I was much more aware of what I was up against."
In her final year, Saffron invested a huge amount of time researching FMCG employers, learning how to write application forms and applying. "I really had to treat it as an extra module on my university course!" she says.
The recruitment process for Mars was quite unusual, she says, and it reflected the kind of person they are looking for. "One of the first questions I had to answer was ‘what do you understand by the word freedom and what have you done that demonstrates that’," she says. "It was very reflective of the Mars culture, which involves taking on a lot of responsibility and being given autonomy from day one."
Despite having work experience from a part-time job in marketing and an internship at Toshiba, Saffron believes that breaking into FMCGs is more about who you are, than what you’ve done.
"It’s about your potential more than anything else," she says. "I think there are some broad generalisations of the skills employers are looking for: interpersonal skills are very important, analytical skills, the ability to learn and personal drive." But she warns that each FMCG has a very different culture. "Each individual employer will specify different things which they are looking for so it’s important to tailor your skills and messages," she says.
Since her start, Saffron has moved around from snack food marketing to the pet-food division where she is now. "No two days are the same and I really enjoy the competitive side of it and focusing on the consumer," she says. "And before you ask: yes the pace is fast!"