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Graduate Diary

Find out more about the Business Management graduate programme by keeping up-to-date with our 'graduate diary'. Rachael Goodwin, who joined us on 19th September 2011, will be providing regular updates on her experiences on the programme.  

6th June 2012

Hello and welcome to the fifth installment of my “Grad Diary”. I have been on secondment in Brussels with Co-operatives Europe (the European Region of the International Co-operative Alliance) for over 3 months now. Below I explain a bit more about my experiences on secondment, and also what is happening for some of the other Grads back in Manchester.

During my time at Co-operatives Europe, I have learnt a great deal about working with stakeholders from a wide range of co-operative and cultural backgrounds. As a result, my project management and influencing skills have been tested, challenged and developed. As Energy and Environment Project Officer, I have been working closely with our European Energy working group members to ensure that the objectives of our workstreams are agreed and delivered on time and to standard. I have also gained experience of being a project partner through our involvement in a large EU-funded project on European renewable energy co-operatives. I have attended meetings in Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven, but now I am focusing the majority of my time on managing our EU Sustainable Energy Week event which will take place here in Brussels on 19 June.

The Team here is incredibly supportive and friendly, and there have been many opportunities for me to get involved with events such as Co-operatives Europe’s AGM and EU high-level conference which took place in April. I have had regular one-to-ones with my manager here, and via phone calls with my manager in Manchester, which has helped me to focus on my development in my current role, and also keep up-to-date with what is happening in Manchester.

As part of the Graduate Leadership programme, we have the opportunity to work with a coach. The 2011 Grads have recently been allocated their coaches and many have had their first coaching sessions already. Many are also thinking about pursuing professional qualifications, such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma, or Social Enterprise Management Masters. On the volunteering side, the Manchester Community Youth Fund work is still going strong, and the 2011 Grads are organising events such as a Quiz and a Wine Tasting event in the next few weeks! Follow us on Twitter to find out more! @cooperativegrd

À bientôt!

20th March 2012

Hello and welcome to the fourth instalment of my “grad diary”! I can’t quite believe we are in March already and such an array of exciting things has happened since my last update. I am actually writing this diary from my new office in Brussels, where I have started my second project as a secondee working for Co-operatives Europe, the European Region of the International Co-operative Alliance. I must stress that this kind of placement is extremely rare, but I will tell you more about it later!

Since my last update in January, we have all been working extremely hard in our individual projects, and meeting up as often as possible for lunch, dinner, drinks and general coffee breaks! I continued learning so much about Strategy & Development and Project Management in my placement in Funeralcare. My manager remained a brilliant source of support and our regular one-to-ones continued to help focus on my personal objectives and management skills development. I spent an increasing amount of time preparing for the launch of one of the strategies I have been working on. This involved strategically scheduling and managing project team meetings, steering group meetings and ensuring that all key stakeholders were on board, and well-informed. This included working closely with our Marketing Manager and Senior Operations Managers across the UK. I can definitely say that I have considerably improved my influencing, confidence and team leadership skills through this project, and I am looking forward to building even more on these skills in my next project.

As I mentioned, my second project is a bit of a rare one, as I am now working on an Energy and Environment Strategy for Cooperatives Europe in Brussels, the European Region of the International Cooperative Alliance. This involves co-ordinating the activities of the Energy and Environment Working Group, which is made up of members from across Europe – including Italy, Finland, Denmark, Norway, the UK, and Germany, among others. I will also be working closely with the Director of Cooperatives Europe, the Communications Officer, Finance Officer and the wider team here. I have been here for 3 weeks and have already been made to feel extremely welcome. Already I have attended an Energy Conference at the EU Commission, a Public Hearing at Parliament, pulled together high level and detailed project plans and relevant project documentation. The team here is incredibly friendly and supportive and I am looking forward to working with them over the next four months.

As for volunteering, I was really pleased to be able to join the Community Youth Foundation (CYF) as Procurement Officer last month. We had our very first event, a Valentine’s themed fundraiser, which raised over £600 for the young people of Manchester. You can find photos here and follow what we’re doing on Facebook!

13th January 2012

Hello and happy new year! 

It’s been a fantastic few months since my last update. In addition to learning the ropes of our first projects, we have presented to the Food Executive Board, had Christmas parties, buddy meals and more interesting social occasions!

I am now in the tenth week of my first four month project, working in Strategy and Development on two of Funeralcare’s 2012 strategies. I have been fortunate to have travelled the country to visit a number of our many Funeralcare branches, from Kilmarnock to Plymouth.  This has given me a real insight into the business and I feel lucky to have been able to spend time with colleagues across the estate who are so passionate and expert in their fields. I have also chaired project team meetings, steering group meetings and given a number of presentations to senior managers in the business. My manager has continued to be a brilliant source of support and is spending lots of time helping me with my professional development.

From a volunteering perspective, our year group is looking forward to taking over the reigns of the Community Youth Foundation (CYF) in the next couple of days. CYF is the charity for young people in Manchester and each year, the graduate body sets up a committee to run The Community Youth Foundation and raise as much money as possible for young people in the local community. I will be attending the first meeting tomorrow and am hoping to become involved in the committee and help beat last year’s fundraising target!

I am also volunteering to help the Grad scheme later this week when I will be at Salford University, taking part in a presentation panel for undergraduates there.

I look forward to updating you soon!

22nd November 2011

Hello and welcome back to the “graduate diary”!

Since my last instalment we have had a jam-packed schedule of work, travelling, socialising and training.

Our four week Food project is now over and we will be presenting our recommendations to the Food Executive Board next week. To inform our findings, we visited stores across the country from Brighton to Glasgow, and learnt an incredible amount about our Food business. Working with nine other graduates on this project has been a brilliant experience and has really helped to hone our team working skills!

After our Food project, we went straight into an intensive and enlightening Management Development week, during which we discovered our Myers Briggs Type Indicator results and took time to develop our self-awareness and self-management skills. The final three days of the week were spent learning Successful Project Management methodology – a course which we all found extremely useful.

I am now in the second week of my first four month project, working in Strategy and Development on two of Funeralcare’s 2012 strategies. I chose this Project Management role as I am very keen to improve my Project Management skills and learn more about Strategy and Development. From day one I have been given real responsibility, having attended Project Team meetings, chaired a Steering Group meeting, written project plans and created presentations to deliver to key stakeholders. I am working in an extremely friendly team and my manager is incredibly supportive. He has taken lots of time to ensure I am up to speed with the project and my objectives, and I am really looking forward to developing in this role over the next couple of months.

My buddy has continued to be a brilliant source of support, and we are planning to out for a “buddy meal” in Manchester next week. I am volunteering to attend some Careers Fairs at several North West Universities, as well as helping out at a wine tasting event next week! Outside of work, I am volunteering for a Manchester-based young people’s charity, which is fully supported by the Volunteering Team at the Co-operative and will be able to be counted towards my employee volunteering hours.

I am having a truly brilliant time on the scheme and feel professionally challenged and supported every step of the way. I look forward to updating you in the next few weeks!


10th October 2011

Hello and welcome to the first instalment of my “graduate diary”! Over the next 18 months, I’ll be giving you an insight into my experience on the business management scheme at the Co-operative Group.

Four weeks ago, 19 graduates with a diverse range of degree backgrounds and work experience started our Co-operative journey. Both professionally and personally, it feels great to be part of such a cohort. We’ve already discovered some brilliant places to socialise and one particularly interesting karaoke bar in the city centre!

In week one our journey began with a series of intensive inductions to the Co-operative Group. We had sessions on “what is a co-operative?”, the Co-operative Group’s ethics and values, volunteering opportunities, an introduction to pensions, membership, Pharmacy, Funeralcare and Food.

In such a short space of time, we have been fortunate to meet some of the most influential managers and leaders in the business. In our first week, we met Group Secretary, Moira Lees, had a networking lunch with the Director of Food and the Head of Food Commercial, and have met previous graduates who are now project managers, marketing managers, buyers and more in the Group.

In week 2, we were briefed on our 4 week customer insight project, which we are working on at the moment. We have been split into two groups and my team is looking at bringing the customer experience to life in Food Retail. We are all heading out into the field to meet our store managers and colleagues throughout the country and are looking forward to presenting our findings and recommendations to senior managers at the end of the month.

Tonight I’m going to meet my “buddy” who started on the scheme in 2010. We’re having tea and cakes at her apartment, along with some other people from this year’s intake and the intake from 2010. My buddy is there to help with any questions I have, and I feel very lucky to have her! In fact, everyone I have met so far has been extremely supportive and helpful.

Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting our findings on cross-selling opportunities, customer insight, and beginning our first week of management training. I look forward to telling you more about it all in my next instalment!

Why not follow one of our 2011 finance graduates through their graduate leadership programme.
View CIMA Finance graduate diary.