What’s it really like to be... a Waitrose graduate trainee?

What’s it really like to be... a Waitrose graduate trainee?

Waitrose is one of the UK's best-loved supermarkets - but what's it really like to work there? Graduate trainee Laura Fear, 24, gives plotr an exclusive interview


Laura Fear, 24, is a graduate trainee at Waitrose, working in-store in at the Pontprennau branch in Cardiff. She has 11 GCSEs, plus A-levels in English literature, history, media studies and art (from the Gordano School in Portishead, Bristol). She also has a 2:1 degree in English literature from the University of Southampton. Laura lives in Bristol, south west England.

Tell us about the Waitrose graduate trainee scheme

I’m what’s called ‘Department Manager Retail Support’ – which means I’m responsible for making sure the shopfloor is looking its best and each section is operating as efficiently as possible. I also look at how many staffing hours the branch needs to operate, so there are always enough people on duty. I also make sure that Partners (employees) at the branch are happy and are being trained and developed to their full potential. 

I also keep an eye on what the profit and loss for the shop each month, and where we need to make improvements. I make sure the branch is operating legally and safely and that everything behind the scenes is running smoothly. I also liaise with the local community and organise community events.

I run the branch on a daily basis and report in to the branch manager. I work 7am-4pm three days a week and 12:30pm-9:00pm twice a week. I work every other Saturday and one Sunday in every four.   

What are the best bits about the scheme?

I love how no two days are the same - you can never really know what will happen each day as retail can be so unpredictable. I love food and trying all the new products we sell and hearing about how Waitrose is supporting local small food suppliers and farmers. I like having such a big influence on the store and making decisions for the branch - there's a lot of responsibility that comes with my role but I like that. I have a real sense of ownership for my store and the people who work in it. I like ensuring our customers have a great experience every time they visit the store.

I also enjoy helping to develop the skills of the Partners who work in my branch, and giving them opportunities to really shine and excel. I particularly enjoy taking on board all the ideas that my Partners have for the business, and the passion that so many of them show. It’s a real team effort.

How did you find out about the Waitrose graduate trainee scheme?

Waitrose advertises the scheme at a lot of careers fairs at schools and universities, but I’ve worked at Waitrose since I was 16 and heard about it when my branch manager suggested I should apply for it when I’d finished my degree – so I did! As well as speaking to my manager, I found out a lot of additional information about the scheme from the Waitrose website.

What qualifications do you need to get on the scheme?

To apply for our graduate scheme you will need GCSEs, A levels and a 2:1 degree and 320 UCAS points. I went to the University of Southampton to do my degree in English literature.

Did you always want to do this kind of job?

I’m really into food but I hadn’t really thought about having a food-related career. I thought about office work and editorial jobs but I love being on my feet as well as sometimes working in an office, and the fact that each day is so different in retail. I love working with people and that is very important for my job.

I applied for the scheme because I loved Waitrose as a company. The more I learnt about the scheme and the great opportunities that there would be for me throughout my career, the more I wanted the job. Waitrose is a company that looks after you for life and supports you in so many different career paths - in head office, supply chain and branches. The more I learnt about the Department Manager's responsibility within a store the more I knew this was the career for me. It's such a good opportunity to show how you can get your team's buy-in to achieve some great results for a great company. 

What are your favourite subjects at school?

I loved English literature and art at school. I can still use my creative skills when thinking up business plans and how to present information for Partners in my branch. I disliked maths but actually I really enjoy working with numbers now in a business context where the facts and figures mean something and represent the branch's (and therefore my) results. It's so much more interesting to work with numbers if they are significant to you. You don't have to be a maths or statistics expert to do well on this scheme – as I'm certainly not!

I loved playing sports at school, which helped me understand that I like working in a team. I did some work experience with a fresh produce magazine in London, which gave me a valuable insight into the food industry that I knew nothing about before.

Did you overcome any difficulties to get where you are?

I had to get more confident speaking to large groups, which came with practice. I’ve learned to have more confidence and self-belief in what I’m saying. I’ve learnt that you can do anything with a little practice! 

What advice would you give someone who wants to do the Waitrose graduate trainee scheme?

The main thing is to be yourself. The company wants graduates who can think analytically and get resultsbut we also want people with personalities who love interacting with other people. You must be confident in yourself and your decisions. You should always remember to be open and honest. You should never be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to and to admit if you don't understand something. There are always challenges to face throughout the graduate scheme but it's these challenges that you learn the most from. You don’t have to pretend you know it all when you’re just starting out. What they’re really looking for is potential.

Next: Visit the Waitrose career world on Plotr and find out a whole lot more!

Back to article list
Back to top