‘Seize any opportunity to challenge yourself’

My Career Path: Claire Byrne studied Business Studies in DCU and is a sales organisation graduate with Lidl

Claire Byrne: ‘Education is a structured environment with defined timelines and tasks, while the workplace is fast-paced and changeable, particularly in retail.’

Claire Byrne: ‘Education is a structured environment with defined timelines and tasks, while the workplace is fast-paced and changeable, particularly in retail.’

 

What did you study and where? When did you graduate?
I studied Business Studies in DCU and specialised in Management during my final year, graduating in May 2020. In the third year of my degree, I also had the opportunity to complete a year long work placement as part of DCU’s INTRA programme.

What attracted you to your current role?
While in college, I had frequently heard about the Lidl Graduate programme. During my final year, I visited the gradireland fair in the RDC, which allowed me to learn more about the opportunities associated with the programme. I met with some of the graduates at the time and discussed the position with them. This provided me with an insight into the role and my interest grew from there.

I was immediately keen on the Sales Organisation route, as it offered a good grounding with Lidl but also the chance to work in stores, as an area manager and also as a project manager. This would accelerate the development of my business knowledge and allow me to develop my core skills as a graduate. It would also allow me to gain exposure to a number of different areas in the company.

The most challenging thing about moving to the working world?
Education is a structured environment with defined timelines and tasks, while the workplace is fast-paced and changeable, particularly in retail. The period of transition between the two can often be challenging, but it also represents a learning opportunity.

Although difficult in the beginning, this transitional period allowed me to quickly adapt to the working environment. It is important to be flexible and adaptable during this period. I know the skills gained during this period will benefit me in my future endeavours with Lidl.

Do you have any mentors in your workplace?
As a Lidl graduate, we are fortunate enough that a director is assigned to each of us as a mentor. We regularly meet our mentor and receive coaching, advice, and additional information about the business. These meetings are informal in nature and allow for us to receive feedback on our performance to date.

Many former graduates also remain with Lidl, having progressed into a variety of roles following the completion of the graduate programme. I have found that they are always willing to offer advice and guidance, to a current graduate. Help is always there if you need it!

What is the most valuable thing you have learned since you joined?
I have had the opportunity to work in a number of stores across the region, together with working for a period in head office. I have gained exposure to people management in the workplace. As a graduate, it is uncommon for such a responsibility to be assigned to someone so junior. I have enjoyed this experience and it has allowed me to develop my people skills and other competencies.

How has Covid-19 affected your start in the workplace?
As an essential retailer, Lidl has continued to operate and grow during the pandemic. The initial onboarding period with the business is spent in stores, completing intensive operational training, which meant that my start with Lidl Ireland was relatively comparable to previous years.

However, the turbulent nature of the pandemic presented unique challenges to stores. So, whilst my start to the graduate programme was relatively similar, we were presented with a unique learning curve due to the ever-changing consumer preferences and constant lockdowns. The operational training is an essential element of the graduate programme as it allows graduates to develop a thorough business knowledge.

One piece of advice for new graduates?
Seize any opportunity to challenge yourself during your initial period with the business. As a Lidl graduate, you’ll quickly progress to management level and find yourself in charge of stores with high weekly revenue. Although this can initially seem a daunting task, it is important to operate as far out of your comfort zone as possible, you could surprise yourself!
– Jenna Clarke-Molloy