Graduates who want to work in management in consumer products companies should find out as much as possible about the different areas of work and training programmes on offer from the employers they are interested in, so they can focus their applications for internships and jobs. They should think about what exactly it is they want to manage, especially in the early years of their careers, as different divisions within any consumer goods company are likely to offer management opportunities.
Broadly speaking, graduates who want a fast-paced job providing goods that are part of everyday life are likely to find that a management career in consumer products is a good fit for their aspirations. Whatever part of the business you start off in, your first graduate role will introduce you to the 24-hour, competitive nature of the industry.
This is a sector in which profits turn on the successful sale of a high volume of relatively low-cost goods, which means the logistical challenges are significant. Anything that slows down or stops a production line, or prevents goods being delivered from one point on the supply chain to the next, is a headache for management – a problem that needs to be resolved in order to protect the profitability of the company. Both technical and management skills are required to sort out disruptions to the production and distribution process, improve efficiency, and meet changing customer and consumer needs.
Whatever type of career you decide to pursue within a consumer goods company, as you progress, you’re likely to need management skills, whether it’s to oversee the work of staff on a production line, check that manufacturing processes meet the required standards, or to ensure that work done by junior colleagues in HR or marketing meets deadlines and contributes to achieving departmental goals and targets.
Some entry routes will be limited to those with suitable qualifications, such as an engineering degree, but others will be open to anyone who can show that they have the right skills. For example, if you decide to move towards a career in management by seeking a place on a graduate finance scheme and working towards a management accountancy qualification, many organisations will consider your application regardless of your degree background, as long as you can show you are numerate.
What is it like doing a graduate management job in the consumer products sector?
Graduates who start their careers in consumer products companies develop their management skills in different environments, depending on the nature of the training scheme they have joined or the division they are working in:
- Applicants to L’Oréal’s management trainee programme choose between four options: commercial, finance, marketing and supply chain/operations.
- Unilever's future leaders programme provides management training in a range of areas: human resources, supply chain, customer management (sales), research and development, marketing, finance, and business technology and management.
- Graduates who want to work in management at Procter & Gamble (P&G) need to keep an eye on the company’s website so they can apply for suitable vacancies when they are advertised – this could be at any time of year, as there are no set graduate recruitment deadlines. There are numerous areas of the business that could offer suitable roles, ranging from customer business development to supply network operations.
- General management graduate trainees at Mars complete three 12-month placements, usually with an emphasis on either the supply or demand side of the business. The supply side includes functions such as manufacturing operations, supply chain, purchasing, and research and development. The demand side includes marketing, sales and HR.
- Danone has three graduate programmes. Recruits on the marketing and sales scheme spend a year in marketing and a year in sales. The nutrition scheme consists of placements in early life nutrition and advanced medical nutrition. The business partnering scheme covers functions such as sales, finance, supply chain and HR.
What skills, aptitudes and qualifications are needed for graduate management roles in the consumer goods sector?
Applicants for management roles will need to be able to show attitudes and aptitudes that will enable them to cope with the fast pace and innovative nature of work in consumer products companies:
- Commercial awareness and the ability to identify and respond to market trends
- Able to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines
- Problem solving skills and a flexible approach when difficulties arise
- Creativity, curiosity and a knack for coming up with new ideas and solutions
Language skills can be a significant asset, as the most sought-after employers in this sector tend to be global organisations.
Generally speaking, a wide range of degree backgrounds are considered acceptable for applications for finance, marketing, sales and HR graduate schemes, although relevant qualifications may be preferred.
Engineering training schemes are usually only open to engineering graduates, while jobs in production may also be open to those who studied subjects such as food science and technology. Degrees in logistics, engineering or IT, or other relevant technical disciplines, may be favoured for roles in supply chain and logistics and distribution. Science or nutrition degrees may be required for some schemes: for example, you'll need a degree in either dietetics or nutrition to apply for Danone's graduate nutrition programme. For the Mars graduate research and development programme you'll need a degree in a scientific discipline, including food science, or engineering, including chemical engineering.