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Graduate programmes not the only route to a great career in retail

If you want to put your career in the driving seat then choose Lidl where perks include an on-site gym and a top of the range car

Lidl’s 18-month graduate management development programme is one of the most sought after in the country, with thousands of applicants each year for a limited number of places. Its popularity is no surprise, given the perks that come with it; a company car, competitive rates of pay, €37,500 per annum, private healthcare and mentoring to fast track your career.

However, for Denisa Baltatu, 30, Lidl’s employer brand specialist, a key part of her job is getting the message out that the graduate programme is not the only way to build a great career with the retailer. You can do it by simply applying in the normal fashion too.

That is precisely what she did. “I studied business and management in IT Tallaght and after college applied for a position as a customer support specialist,” explains Baltatu, who joined Lidl in 2016.

‘I wanted to work for Lidl because it is a very well-respected employer. I always had a dream of working in a big multinational company’

“From there I moved into payroll, which is part of human resources, and while there I developed an interest in talent acquisition. I applied for a recruitment assistant position, in 2021. Within a few months of getting that job, I was promoted to employer brand specialist, my role today. Everything to do with talent, whether social media or campaigns, that is me.”

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Baltatu is from Romania and came to Ireland a month before starting first year in secondary school. With no English but a determination to hold a conversation with her classmates within two months, it is fair to say she is a goal-oriented person.

Part of what attracted her to Lidl was seeing its modern headquarters in Tallaght village under construction and the facilities Lidl is offering to its employees.

“I wanted to work for Lidl because it is a very well-respected employer. I always had a dream of working in a big multinational company. When I walked into the HQ I could see how amazing it was, with a gym, and I just wanted to see myself there, working on my career,” she laughs.

That dream clearly came true. “I’m now in a great position where I can’t wait to go to work every day,” she says. “It is a lovely place to work, and they are very flexible and understanding. We have a remote working policy for office-based employees which gives staff greater options,” she says.

“Lidl has helped me develop personally and professionally; I basically grew up with Lidl. One important thing I learned: If you go above and beyond, you will see results” says Baltatu.

“It is important that people realise you do not have to come through the graduate programme to have a great career here. There are loads of other ways to get in.”

Baltatu’s colleague Gary O’Toole, 25, took a different route.

He first started working in Lidl part-time, to fund his way through a business degree at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). He liked the company so much he decided to stay.

‘It is important that people realise you do not have to come through the graduate programme to have a great career here. There are loads of other ways to get in’

“It is the people that make a job and my managers at Lidl Headford Road, Galway city where I worked, were just fantastic. They were hugely flexible and let me work around my timetable,” he says.

He was also impressed by the level of training he got for his part-time position. But most of all he liked the variety of the work. “I didn’t expect every day to be so different,” he says.

After graduating O’Toole took a year out to work full-time in the store. Within months he was promoted to duty manager at Lidl Oranmore, a much bigger store. It meant that when the manager or deputy manager were not present, he was the person in charge of the store, a huge responsibility and an indicative of the rapid career advancement opportunities Lidl offers.

Having saved enough money during the year he returned to college to study for a master’s in human resource management. While doing that, he continued to work at Lidl at weekends.

As part of his HR course, he undertook an internship at Lidl and soon after that was offered a full-time job in its talent acquisition team, the position he holds today.

“I’m in a really good space, working in retail, which I wanted, and working in talent acquisition. Everything has come together for me. In Lidl you have to work hard to prove yourself but for anyone who does that the opportunities are there,” he says.

In April of this year O’Toole moved from Galway to Dublin, having found somewhere to live in Citywest. “One of the things I was really pleased about was to find that the really good culture in the stores is the same in the headquarters. I’ve a great team around me and the atmosphere is really nice,” he says.

Part of his role now is to help other graduates – both recent and not so recent – to build a career with Lidl.

Once in, the sky’s the limit. “Great positions open up here all the time. It feels like there is an opportunity around every corner.”

Applications for the graduate programme are now open and close on Friday, October 28th

If you’re interested in other positions, visit jobs.lidl.ie