I was drawn to marketing for the same reason I was drawn to study history: I have a deep interest in why people make choices. I started looking at graduate programmes with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies because I wanted to work across a wide portfolio of brands. I initially applied to L’Oréal because it was a leading FMCG company in London. I didn’t have an interest in makeup, but, as I progressed in the recruitment process, I looked into the psychology behind beauty purchases and found it fascinating.
How university helped me
There were two distinct things at university that helped me be successful in the L’Oréal selection process and in the workplace since. I was involved in debating, which developed my critical thinking and gave me the ability to confidently present ideas. This was useful for L’Oréal because a lot of its focus is on presentations. I was also the junior common room president for my college, which involved representing the undergraduate student body in its dealings with the college, including annual rent negotiations. This gave me the confidence to think that I could lead a team in the future.
Not just for Christmas
When I joined the marketing stream of the graduate management programme, it was a year in length (this has now been extended to 18 months) and involved three rotations.
I started out in the Dublin office, where I worked in marketing on the Elvive and Garnier haircare brands. For my next rotation, I moved to the London office, again working in marketing. I was also the lead for Garnier Christmas gift sets. Among other tasks, I decided the products to be included and the design, and built a business case to show their profitability.
My final rotation was in sales and, in a way, it was the rotation on which I learned the most because I saw the business from a different angle. Instead of working on a brand, I was growing the relationship with a retailer.
After my graduate programme, I started in online brand management. As an online brand manager, I ensured that whenever customers encountered our brands online, they looked their best. As the role was brand new, I was able to shape it. One of my highlights was working on a product launch exclusive to Amazon: it was risky because we were asking consumers to buy a new foundation they couldn’t try beforehand, but I identified the opportunity and negotiated the deal. In the end, it was very successful.
I then transitioned from marketing to sales. Excitingly, I created the new role from scratch (and decided my job title!). This was to make more intelligent choices about ads by working with retailers. My role has changed again and I am now a senior ecommerce manager.
Autonomy and freedom
L’Oréal gives you a lot of autonomy and this is one of the things I appreciate most about the company. It particularly suits proactive graduates who are self-confident enough to believe that their ideas should be listened to. However, you are supported: the company follows the 70:20:10 model of learning and development, where 70% comes from day-to-day work, 20% from mentoring and 10% from formal training.
An example of this mentoring was on my second placement on my graduate programme when my boss’ boss had weekly one to ones with me. He spent half an hour essentially teaching me, even though his weekly diary was full. This was key in helping me work out the kind of professional I want to become.
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