‘Research the jobs you are interested in’

My Career Path: Food marketing and entrepreneurship graduate Nicola McGloughlin works for Aldi

Nicola McGloughlin

Nicola McGloughlin

 

What did you study?
I graduated from UCC in 2020 with a degree in food marketing and entrepreneurship. When I was looking at my options for college, I wanted to find something that combined my interests in business, management and the food industry. The course was a no-brainer for me and I loved my time in UCC, despite being a member of the first pandemic graduating class in 2020 and missing out on my final year and my graduation.

What attracted you to your current role?
My college course really helped to cement my interest in the food sector and right through college, I worked part-time in a large fashion retail multiple. The first time I became aware of the Aldi graduate programme was their graduate placement presentation at the graduate career fair. I was so impressed with the quality of the programme and the very obvious investment they would make in the successful entrants.

I was given a chance to speak with two well established area managers at the event. The presentation combined with the enthusiastic conversations I had left me feeling very excited. I think I knew from that day that this was the job for me. We were given some very high quality documents about the programmes to read and I continued my research on the website and found even more information. I was impressed with the very detailed structure, right down to having a sample week-by-week breakdown of how the first year would go. I was also really impressed that the training programme included spending time at every level of the business, starting as a trainee store assistant. I knew that was going to be very difficult, but I could also appreciate that it’s very difficult to understand the business end to end if you haven’t worked in many roles across the business.

The most challenging thing about the transition to the working world?
Like so many other people, I transitioned from full time education to the working world in the middle of the pandemic. Even though Aldi made a huge effort to make sure that the induction process was valuable and included the sufficient safe and controlled time on site, I still made use of many MS Teams calls to meet so many of my colleagues for the first time.

This was quite challenging as it was difficult to feel like part of the team at the start. But I was very lucky that the team of area managers made a huge effort to get to know me and the other graduates that started and make us all feel part of the team very quickly. My first store, where I did my store assistant and store manager training, was in Newcastle West, about 100km from my home.

The commute took me quite a while to get used to, and it often meant leaving home very early, or arriving home very late and sometimes even staying overnight. However, I did become used to that after a couple of weeks and it became part of my normal routine.

Do you have any mentors in your workplace?
I was assigned a mentor on my first day who made my induction and overall experience joining the company so much easier. She was approachable and supportive, but right from the get go held me accountable for all of my responsibilities. Sometimes it was a good use of my commuting time to chat on the phone with her to discuss my progress and necessary areas of improvement. Also, the store that I did most of my training in fell under her remit, so I got to see her in-store quite frequently and she always made time to sit down for a general catch-up with me.

She and I also had several regularly scheduled and formal reviews throughout the first several months. Even though I have now transitioned out of the training programme and my mentor has moved into a new role outside Ireland, we still stay in touch and I realise how important having her as a committed and dedicated mentor was for my successful completion of the programme.

What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined?
I don’t really know where to begin. The responsibility of an area manager is so wide ranging. I suppose the thing that I rely on most, is adaptability and flexibility because, even though it’s a bit of a cliche, no two days are ever the same, and very frequently plans need to be adjusted to address the needs of the business as they arise. It’s a busy job and there is always something else to do, so prioritisation of business and operational needs and my time is something I have had to learn to focus on. Lucky for me I am a list-maker, and given the huge variety in my role, my to-do-list is something I refer to, and modify, very frequently.

How has Covid-19 affected your start in the workplace?
Oddly enough, the pandemic impacted me less than I expected. Once the initial induction period was over, my training started in-store, right on the retail front line so I was right in the thick of it. Aldi did a really good job making sure the stores were a safe workplace for our colleagues and our customers and even though the country was going through a very difficult time, work felt completely normal very quickly. When I completed my in-store training, and moved to area management training, I was still out and about every day visiting stores that I was responsible for. And now that I am finished the programme completely and have my own area, I am on the road every day visiting my stores and spending time with the staff in each of them. Of course Covid-19 is still here and all the necessary precautions need to be taken both personally and from an store perspective, so it definitely has added an extra dimension to the work experience for me.

One piece of advice for new graduates?
Research the jobs you are interested in detail and try to speak to people working for these companies to really understand if the job you are applying for is right for you. You will always find somebody, even a stranger, who will be willing to give you some insight. When I was going through the application process, I sought out and met with several area managers to discuss the role and to learn from their experiences about the daily life of an area manager. This really helped me to validate that the role was going to be right for me.