‘Explore all of the options available to you’

Rachael O’Connor, Aldi Graduate Programme

Rachael O’Connor: “The move from college into the working world was challenging.”

Rachael O’Connor: “The move from college into the working world was challenging.”


What/where did you study, and when did you graduate?

I studied commerce with German in University College Cork. I graduated in October 2018.

What attracted you to your current role/ company/ path?

I applied for the Aldi Graduate Area Manager programme in October 2017 while I was just beginning the final year of my studies. I first heard about the programme through information provided by the UCC careers service. I then attended the careers fair in UCC, where I spoke to some existing area managers about their role at Aldi. This gave me a much better insight into what exactly the role entailed, and I was really interested by the level of responsibility that Aldi gave to its graduates and the variety contained within the job on a daily basis. I was always interested in working with people and this role would give me the perfect opportunity to do that. It was obvious that Aldi are invested in their people and they provided various supports throughout the training to aid my success within the company.

What did you find most challenging about the working world, or the transition from education to the working world?

The move from college into the working world was challenging. Naturally, I was looking forward to a new working environment as I was only familiar with part-time jobs during college. It was a transition to find a new work-life balance at the beginning of my training, as there is a lot of commitment and dedication required for the programme. It was a big shift from college life. However, once I had settled into the role and was more familiar with my responsibilities, there was more flexibility to be found. The holiday entitlements allow you to take time out from the job, which is very important to me, and I use this time to travel and meet family and friends. The most important thing to have in this role is self-discipline and control.

Do you have any mentors? If so, what is their value to you?

I was assigned a mentor at the beginning of my training programme. They were always there to support and encourage me throughout each step of the programme. This is a really important aspect of the programme, as there are days when the role can be challenging and you can encounter situations that you may not have had any previous experience with. There is also a great team of area managers who are all very approachable and willing to help. The combination of a knowledgeable mentor and supportive colleagues plays a vital role in helping you through these situations and developing in the role.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined the workforce?

It is important to accept that you are entering a completely new environment, even if the role is based on your degree or a subject area that you may have been very experienced in. It is a clean slate, where you have to start learning from scratch and be willing to make mistakes, as it will be one of the most effective ways of learning. Building relationships with colleagues is also essential, as they are the people you will go to for advice when you encounter situations that you are unsure of how to deal with.

One piece of advice for new graduates?

I would advise students in final year and graduates to give yourself plenty of time to explore all of the options that are available to you when choosing a career path. The majority of the graduate programme deadlines tend to be in October of final year, so if you only start thinking about your career that September, it will not be enough time to consider all of your options. There are a lot of materials available to help you with this decision, such as the gradireland website and college careers services. It is important to ensure that you make use of these services and contact graduates that are currently employed in the roles that you are interested in to get a more detailed understanding of what the role involves. And, of course, you must make the final decision yourself, based on your own preferences.

Any graduate or student in final year interested in applying for the Aldi Graduate Programme should attend the careers fairs and speak to the current area managers to get their insights about the role. The online application form is comprehensive and therefore it is essential to set aside time to complete the application in full and to the best of your ability. Overall, I would recommend the Aldi Graduate Area Manager programme to graduates who are hard-working, dedicated, and that are interested in working in management.