Sitting in a lecture theatre with 300 other University of Liverpool business students, Caitlin Bailey began to consider her future career and the fact that she’d be competing for jobs with the students sitting around her. Her ambitious nature drove her to research ways to get ahead of the game and make herself stand out above the crowd. And although her three-year course didn’t offer it, she negotiated with her lecturers to take a study break in order to gain valuable experience through an industrial placement year.
Caitlin explains, “I knew I had to do something to make me stand out amongst the other business graduates. I knew of friends and family members who had completed an industrial placement and raved about the experience and skills gained, so was eager to explore my options.
“Business management is my passion, and Aldi stood out against other retailers in this area because of its impressive on the job training and the real responsibility offered to placement students. However, it was a conversation with the Regional Managing Director during the interview process that confirmed it for me. He was so passionate about the work Aldi was doing and the future of the business, that it made me want to be a part of it from the ground up. I left my final interview thinking ‘I have to work for Aldi’ and I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to.”
Caitlin joined the Aldi General Management Industrial Placement Programme and received exposure to the whole business, from Store Operations, Logistics and Head Office. Caitlin comments: “I was introduced to every aspect of the business, allowing me to fully understand what it takes to make everything integrate and run effectively.
“My favourite part of the year was shadowing an Area Manager as I got to see first-hand how they manage the priorities for multiple stores and busy schedules to keep everything running smoothly. Part of the training also took place in store, learning the ropes by starting as a Store Assistant and working up to reporting into the management team. This was invaluable as I think it’s so important to understand the role everyone plays – we are all essential cogs in the larger Aldi operation and knowing how everyone works together ensures that the operation runs seamlessly.”
Caitlin was offered a place on the Graduate Area Manager Programme following completion of her degree. After achieving a 2:1 and spending six months traveling in Indonesia, she started her career. She says, “Unlike other graduate programmes, Aldi has five intakes of Area Managers per year, so you are not restricted to only joining the business in September and have the chance to experience something new should you wish to. I am extremely ambitious and knew that I wouldn’t want to take the time out of work once I was immersed in it, so I took the time to go traveling before starting the Graduate Programme.” Aldi welcomes colleagues from all walks of life and sees it as a huge advantage when they receive applications from candidates with something different, interesting and exciting on their CV, seeing this as extra experience and new skills being brought to the table.
With three years’ experience as an Area Manager, Caitlin comments on the role: “Of course it’s tough to talk about the Area Manager programme without mentioning the fantastic salary and impressive benefits. However, it really was the amount of responsibility and progression opportunities that made me determined to follow this career path, having seen how colleagues have worked up the Aldi career ladder – the current CEO even started their own career as an Aldi Area Manager! I have therefore discussed a career path with my Direct Leader to ensure that I can excel in my role.
“One of the things included in my career path is to make the most of all the opportunities available to me. For example, pursuing a project such as taking the lead in designing and implementing a new initiative for the region. Alternatively, I’d like to take a secondment within another department or country in order to further my understanding of the Aldi business and recognise the different challenges faced by other disciplines and markets.
“Taking on new responsibilities is something I continue to do as an Area Manager, having recently volunteered to manage a number of new tasks at national and regional level. These include co-ordinating customer service workshops, analysing results back to the business and suggesting any new business initiatives. Additionally, I’m managing regional recruitment by running training programmes with new Area Managers and workshops with Store Managers. The latter involves working closely with HR and Head Office teams to ensure I have the right level of support, and can make a real difference with my training. It’s been fantastic to have a wider impact on the business.”
Touching on her favourite parts of the role Caitlin adds, “The personnel side of the job is something I really enjoy. I am responsible for 140 colleagues across the four stores I manage and I take great pride in developing my people management skills in order to support them in the best possible way. Managing and assisting my colleagues is now one of my favourite parts of the job – I particularly love it when I get to promote someone.”
With the dream of one day being an Aldi Regional Managing Director, Caitlin offers the following advice to new graduates looking to follow in her footsteps: “During the application process demonstrate leadership skills and provide evidence of how you have led a team previously, such as in a sports team or volunteering environment. Also if you show your ability to quickly understand and take on new tasks during the Group Assessments, you’ll go a long way to standing out above the rest. The role is very fast-paced so Area Managers are expected to take in their training immediately and run with it. Finally, display key management skills, such as the ability to multitask, confidence in your skillset, attention to detail and a friendly and approachable manner. If you can do this, you’ll go far with Aldi.”