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Answering Associated British Foods' application question about your career goals

Show that you’ve done your research and you know what you can expect to achieve on ABF's scheme.

Associated British Foods’ (ABF) application question ‘What career goals would you like to achieve in the next ten years?’ is testing your self-awareness and your knowledge of career progression at ABF. Your answer needs to convince the recruiter that your career goals:

  • strike a balance between being ambitious and realistic
  • align with the career progression available at ABF

Mari Pugh, graduate talent officer for ABF UK Grocery, describes the type of person who thrives within ABF as ‘somebody who is driven to succeed, seeks to continually learn and improve themselves, wants real responsibility, and can build honest and credible relationships in a down to earth way.’ Make sure your career goals link back to these qualities. For example, somebody who wants real responsibility is likely to have set their sights on a managerial position.

Read our other article for more help with another of ABF's application questions: 'Why do you want to join this graduate scheme at ABF?'

How to tackle this question

The question is asking for your career goals for the next ten years. They’ve asked for this specific time span for a reason so make sure you don’t just focus on your immediate next steps.

A good way to structure your answer is to tackle it chronologically:

  1. Begin by writing about your more immediate goals on the graduate scheme
  2. Then move on to talk about your more long-term career goals post-graduate scheme

Remember: the question is asking for your career goals so don’t get waylaid by your personal goals. Running the London Marathon is a great achievement but is perhaps not so relevant to ABF, unless you can do it as a company event!

1. Your career goals while on ABF’s graduate scheme

This is the easier part of the question – several of your goals will be influenced by the structure of the scheme you’ve applied to and the training on offer at ABF.

Read up on the ABF scheme you’ve applied to

Show that you’ve done your research and you know what you can expect to achieve on the scheme. Go back and read the job description to familiarise yourself with the structure of your scheme. Then look at profiles of current graduates on ABF’s graduate website to see what they’ve achieved so far or if they’ve mentioned any goals they want to achieve in the future. This will help you think about what you might achieve in the first couple of years.

Use your research on the scheme to decide your goals

  • Will you undertake several different rotations? One of your goals might be to build on your knowledge of a couple of different ABF companies during your rotations.
  • What projects can you expect to work on or take responsibility for? For example, if you’re applying to the customer development scheme, how soon do you want to be looking after your own account?
  • Will you work towards any professional qualifications or receive any formal training on the scheme? For example, if you’re applying to the engineering scheme, maybe one of your career goals is to start working towards becoming a chartered engineer; something that ABF supports its graduates to do and can take up to seven years to complete.

2. Your career goals after you’ve completed ABF’s graduate scheme

Remember that ABF places a big emphasis on its graduates being future leaders. You’ll need to:

  • Think about what you personally consider to be a successful career
  • Have an understanding of how your career could develop at ABF specifically
  • Highlight your leadership ambitions

Research ABF’s typical career progression

It’s a good idea to look further into career progression at ABF so you can make educated predictions about how your career might pan out. This question is partly a test of how much you’ve paid attention to ABF’s website as there are lots of clues on there to help you with your answer.

  1. Read the job description for your scheme carefully – it might give you an idea of the typical progression you could expect. For example, the engineering scheme description states that graduates will come off the programme into an engineering managerial position and hopefully become a site engineer within a further four years. This takes you up to six years so think about what role you might reach within ABF in the four years after that.
  2. There are also case study videos by experienced employees on ABF’s graduate website. See if one of them is in the field you’re applying for and glean some knowledge about their career progression. If you like the sound of how their career has developed, mention that you saw on ABF’s website that one employee had gone on to become, say, a customer manager and this is a route you would be interested in.
  3. You could also search for ABF’s long-standing employees on LinkedIn and look at their career paths. Hint: you might find it useful to search for employees at ABF’s different grocery businesses, such as AB World Foods, rather than ABF as a whole. Again, if somebody’s career path appeals to you, include it as an example in your answer.

Don’t be afraid to share your leadership ambitions…

Bear in mind that ABF is looking for future leaders so admit to your leadership ambitions. If you spotted a managerial job title that you liked during your research, mention it. AB Foods is looking for people with big aspirations.

If you want to mention a goal but you’re not sure it’s realistically achievable in ten years, don’t necessarily leave it out. Just show you’re aware that it might take more time.

…but don’t come across as too rigid in your answer

The ideal answer to this question will balance an idea of what progression is like at ABF with being open to new opportunities.

Impress the recruiter by knowing what type of role you think you’d like to work up to, but also demonstrate your flexibility. You want to show that you are ambitious and realistic but aren’t closed off to other possibilities.

You could phrase your answer something like: ‘My career goal is to progress to a leadership role. I’ve seen that others in the company have reached manufacturing manager within ten years and I aspire to that. However, I am aware that I will experience different rotations on the graduate scheme at ABF and a different opportunity might crop up or I might enjoy a different aspect of the scheme than I originally thought.’

Tip one: you could mention other career goals at ABF

If you’ve got space to do so, you could talk about career goals that aren’t related to promotions. Other goals could include:

  • Becoming a mentor for future ABF graduates
  • Setting up a networking group, such as a female engineers group
  • Becoming an expert in a certain field
  • Getting involved in ABF’s work for charity, eg arranging and leading your own project

Tip two: you could talk about the motivations behind your career goals

You have 500 words to answer this question so use your word count to tackle all of the above. But, if you do have some words spare, you could take the opportunity to highlight your previous experience. Talk about what you have done in the past and how it has influenced your career goals. Maybe you really enjoyed a particular work placement and it taught you that you might be well-suited to a career in this area. Or maybe your experience of captaining a sports team has fuelled your ambition to manage your own team in a work environment.

What not to say in your answer

  • ‘I want to work for a different company/ one of your competitors’ – this will make the recruiter question your commitment to ABF
  • A career goal that isn’t compatible with ABF, eg ‘I want to become a forensic scientist’ – this will make the recruiter doubt your longevity if your long-term plans are obviously going to take you away from ABF
  • ‘I don’t know what my career goals are’ – if you haven’t made the effort to think about possible career goals and answer the question, this suggests a lack of motivation
  • ‘I’ll be CEO of ABF in ten years’ time’ – this is too unrealistic and will come across as arrogant
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