3 Tips to Help Graduates Succeed in Their First Job

Posted by Rogan Sturrock

In this Facebook Live interview we spoke to Kathryn Esler, who was awarded the Nestle Logistics, Supply Chain and Operations Award at the 2016 Top100 Awards. Currently fulfilling a two year graduate role at Nestle, Kathryn shared her top tips on what graduates can do to succeed in their first job, touching on CVs, video interviews and what happens after you get the job. Kathryn’s top 3 tips for success include:

#1 Learn to adapt

Kathryn learned early on that a degree does not teach you everything about a company. Initially, programs such as Excel can be difficult to navigate but it is important to adapt and learn from previous mistakes.

#2 Be aware

When transitioning from university to the workforce, Kathryn learned a lot about who she was professionally and to her it was important to be conscious of the difference in professional and casual relationships in the business and university environment.

#3 Take notes

Kathryn’s top tip when learning the ins and outs of your new job is to take notes. Whether you keep them in a notebook or laptop, don’t be embarrassed to write it down to avoid having to ask to be shown again.

Interview Transcript:

Rogan: Hi my name’s Rogan, I’m one of the account managers here at GradConnection. Today I’m sitting here with Kathryn, so last week we had Jonathan, one of our winners of our most recent Top100 competition. Kathryn was actually one of the winners of 2016 so we’ve got her in today to ask her a couple of questions and hopefully give you some insight for those looking to apply for jobs coming up, so I’ll hand over to you Kathryn to tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re at now and then we can take a step back and look at how you got there.

Kathryn: Sounds good, so I’m currently a supply chain graduate with Nestle. I’m in my third rotation so I’m a year and a half in and I have about six months left. I’m in demand-supply planning which is really, really cool if you’re interested and I got this job with Nestle through the GradConnection Top100 program.

R: Cool! So for those of you who don’t know, the Top100 is a competition that GradConnection runs every year to try to find the best graduate talent in specific streams and Kathryn was the winner of the Nestle Award for Supply Chain Logistics so we’ll take a step back. So you were obviously studying at the time when you entered the competition. Do you want to talk us through what was involved and why you decided to do it in the first place?

K: Yep, so originally I found out about the competition through my university. I had a communication come out through email and I read it and I thought “Oh no, this isn’t for me” so I deleted the email and then I got another email about it and I read it again and I thought “You know what, maybe this is a good idea, a good opportunity to launch my career, look what’s out there, test my skills against who else is out there competing for these competitive grad positions”, so I signed up. The first thing we had to do was send in our CV and answer a few basic questions. That was really interesting because it was the first time I had sent in my CV or had to answer any of these questions.

R: What was your CV looking like at that point?

K: I was really lucky because I’d been very proactive so I had already set up some meetings with my careers counsellor as soon as I entered the Top100 competition to start getting my CV organised, but at the time it was looking like a template, so I really had to put in some effort to make sure that it suited the criteria that the Top100 was after. So after that stage, you got told if you had made it through to the next stage or not. The next stage was super scary, but really fun, it was the psychometric testing. We had two, the normal one and then we had to play a rollercoaster game which didn’t really feel like a test but that was really, really fantastic and it gave you a really good opportunity to use those skills because, if I remember correctly, those scores that you make on those games are saved for a year so when you apply for other grad programs that also use those testings, you don’t have to re-do it before every interview which is an amazing weight off your shoulders when you don’t have to stress about that. After that, you were told if you had made it through to the next stage or not, and then we had the video interviews which was really interesting.

R: We were talking before about how Kathryn had a few issues with her video interview so what was the hands thing?

K: So I googled what to do in a video interview and there were two comments: don’t wear pyjamas from the waist down because you will stand up and show yourself. The other one was don’t use your hands because you only have a certain amount showing so if you just have your hands flicking away in the background, it doesn’t look very good and that’s something I struggled with because as you can probably tell, I like to use my hands when I’m speaking.

R: Nice and then so after the video you went through to the next round?

K: Yes so that was the final round. It was a giant assessment centre here in Sydney. There were people from every area, not only supply chain but there was marketing, banking, economics, people from everywhere, there were 100 of us.

R: How did you find that environment with all the other grads there?

K: Energetic and a little bit intimidating but it was great meeting people that had studied the same thing I had studied and talking to them and getting to know what they were doing and where they wanted to go with their careers and then competing with people who studied different things on the same topic. So that was interesting because we had briefs that we had to present and then comparing what our team came up with and what other teams came up with, so although we were competing with each other, we were also working as teams.

R: Just to jump in, so those of you who have just joined us this is Kathryn, one of our Top100 winners from one of our Top100 competitions in 2016 and we’re just running through her story of how she started and where she is now. Obviously you were successful with the Top100 so congratulations, even though it was a while ago now. From there, we were talking a bit before about it, how did winning that propel you a bit on the start of your career path?

K: It was one of the most incredible moments of my short life so far. When I won that award I was so happy I couldn’t stop moving.

R: Were your hands going?

K: Oh no, my knees! My knees were going up and down, I was ecstatic, and I was sitting next to the Nestle contingency that had come to support the award and they were so happy for me and during one of the breaks I got up and talked to them and walked around and talked to Woolworths and Coles and PwC and really got to network with all of the prestigious companies that were there to support these people doing the awards and that’s probably the time where I got to network and talk to these people the most. They got my details, I got some of theirs and from there I rushed home and set up my LinkedIn profile because I didn’t have one until that night.

R: What kind of resources, I mean obviously you ended up with Nestle, so tell us a bit about your journey on deciding on that because being at the event you got to speak to a lot of other employers, winning that award made you pretty hot property, so how you decided on Nestle?

K: So I had a few offers coming out of the Top100 competition. They were all really tempting because any job is amazing and I was drawn to Nestle because I love Milo and KitKats and Violet Crumble. Violet Crumbles don’t have that hard edge that some other honeycombs do so they’re really nice. Anyway, the reason I decided to go with Nestle is because half of my degree was international studies and I also studied languages and Nestle really has that global reach and global opportunity that I wanted for my future career. They’ve also got great brands and that’s why I decided to go with them.

R: Do you want to tell us a bit about what you studied then obviously and moving into your role now, how do you find that transition from studying to work life?

K: I studied a double degree in commerce and international studies and I majored in supply chain management and Mandarin just for a little bit of fun and it was really good. I’m not sure that it’s currently helping me in my job, I wish I had a subject on Excel but I can see how what I learnt in my degree underpins a lot of our business principles and what Nestle is doing for the better for example there’s a concept in supply chain called “lean” and that concept, although I am not directly involved in it, is applied throughout all of, not only Nestle supply chain, but entire business structure so there are a lot of concepts which I can see Nestle reflecting with is excellent but there are also a lot of things that I wish I learnt in my degree which I need now, like “VLOOKUP”

R: “VLOOKUP” is good so there’s a hot Excel tip if you need one.

K: Yeah “VLOOKUP” or “HLOOKUP” if you want to be really exotic.

R: So everyone watching, if you have any questions feel free to pop them in the comments so we can answer them while we’ve got Kathryn here. So Kathryn, maybe if you want to chat us through, we were talking about your rotations before so maybe if you want to chat through them, what you’ve been doing and what you’re day to day looks like?

K: Yep, so the Supply Chain Program at Nestle is two years and it’s made up of four six month rotations and you really go end to end, so you have procurement where you spend six months. You then do six months in customer service and that’s Nestle’s customers, so not our consumers but Coles, Woolworths, Metcash, all of our professional customers. You then have six months in demand supply planning, where I currently am, for foods and dairy so that’s Maggi and Milo and then you have six months in physical logistics where you go out to one of our DC’s and you’re on the floor, managing inventory and giant forklifts. At the moment, as I said, demand and supply planning is where I am and it’s fantastic. It is both demand and supply, which in some cases is split into two teams but in Nestle it’s one, so we have to work with sales, marketing and the customer to make sure that the plan we agree on is actuated so that when we have a half price on a skew, there is enough of that skew on the shelf so that our customer can purchase what they want.

R: And you had a story that you were going to mention before that we didn’t get to go over because we had to go live, so do you want to tell everyone that one?

K: So one thing, you learn a lot about yourself in the grad program, how you work professionally, what your personality is. One thing that I’ve come to realise is that when I get nervous I make jokes, slightly inappropriate jokes, and sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to what I write in my emails. So I had an email that I was sending out to fifteen of the most senior leaders in Nestle as part of the Youth Cultural Program we have at Nestle called “Young at Nestle” and I spelt this word about three times but I spelt it wrong once so when I was talking about my “stakeholders”, I may have accidentally written “stake” like “steak” and I sent this email out to the CFO, the head of…

R: Any responses?

K: So my boss at the time, who was the head of procurement, emailed me back and he gave me the answer I wanted and then underneath it he asked me if I was hungry and I was really confused so I looked back into the email and I looked at “steak” spelled S-T-E-A-K.

R: Alright so I think we’ve got a Facebook question here, I’ll just get Sasha to pop it through to me.

K: Well if it’s not about steak, I’m more than happy to answer it.

R: So what is your progression plan with Nestle after your two year rotation?

K: Good question! I just had this discussion with my HR business partner so really good timing on that one. My plan is that I love supply chain and I’m thinking I’m getting a really broad understanding but I think I need an even broader understanding so I’m really interested in developing my financial acurement and my commercial knowledge because we are in the fast-moving consumer goods space and my supply chain knowledge is about 90% and my customer knowledge is about 10% so I really want to increase that and move into a global role. So Nestle has missions where they send people from our market for one year, sometimes a year and a half, overseas into a role specifically a mission role where you learn skills, add value to that market, come back to either your role or a different role and then use those skills that you’ve developed in the market that you came from. That’s my goal and that’s what I’ve been talking to Nestle about. That’s what I want to do.

R: Is there any particular country in mind?

K: Well I can speak, read and write Chinese so I would love to go to China and Nestle’s head office is in Beijing so that would be pretty amazing.

R: Nice one and sort of going into that working environment obviously from studying and going straight into it, what kind of challenges did you have? Obviously spelling was one, but environment wise, it’s quite a different environment to university, was there anything that surprised you?

K: I wouldn’t say anything surprised me, I more or less had to learn how to be a professional very, very quickly because I had gone from being in an environment where you treat your friends as friends, you treated your lecturers as friends if they were lucky, so going to Nestle you had to understand where some boundaries were so that when you talk to your boss, he’s your boss, you can’t talk about the weekend and how much fun it was, so that was probably the biggest thing I had to learn the fastest but it’s pretty easy to learn so don’t worry about it.

R: Yeah so do you have any other tips from people going into that environment from university, something that you would have done differently?

K: Yes, I learned a very hard lesson early on when one of my bosses asked me, again VLOOKUPS, if I could do a VLOOKUP for him and I went “Yeah no maybe you should show me the first time”, and he did. He showed me and he gave me an explanation and I thought I had it down, and then I went home and then as I was working part time I didn’t come into Nestle for another four days and when I turned up on Monday he said “Here’s the exact same spreadsheet, do the exact same thing I taught you” and I sat down and I had no idea what I was doing, I could not remember so one of my tips would be to take notes. Don’t be embarrassed to take notes. Take notes on your notepad, on your laptop, use OneNote, not a Microsoft ad but use OneNote. Fantastic tool.

R: And I think we were meant to be doing a two questions, no sorry, two truths and a lie. Did you have those?

K: Yes

R: Cool, so for those of you who have just joined us, we’re sitting here with Kathryn working for Nestle, one of our previous Top100 winners and you’ll be able to go back and watch this after, but right now we’re doing two truths and a lie and for the winner, whoever the first person is in the comments, there will be a prize for, maybe Kathryn can throw in some Kitkats, so take it away.

K: So my three statements, of which two could be the truth, one could be a lie, is that I really enjoy adventure sports, I graduated top of my class in supply chain and I never saw myself doing supply chain.

R: Ok so there you have it, choose one of those and pop it in the comments section and you’ll be in to win some sort of prize, not sure exactly what it is and those of you who are looking to apply for grad roles coming up, feel free to jump on our website and register with us and start applying. Thanks for joining us, cheers.

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