Graduate Training: The Real Picture

Following feedback from one HUB reader that her school aged son felt inspired by my previous HUB article which highlighted the existence of a Head of Cheese job in the food industry, I thought our young readers may wish to hear directly from two people who have jobs in the Careers-You-May-Not-Know-Exist category.

As Krishna Gandhi said in her interview, most people don’t wake up and say they want to be an insurance specialist but, in fact, insurance is a hugely diverse, challenging and rewarding industry that pays well and can offer you travel around the globe.  Chloe Graves has the enviable job of creating fresh fruit juices for Waitrose customers but she doesn’t hold a fruit juice degree.  As well as explaining what their jobs involve, both Krishna and Chloe explain how they got to where they are now, and offer tips on getting ahead.

Krishna Gandhi – Claims Adjuster (Graduate Trainee), Catlin

  1. What do you do for a living?  I’m a Graduate training to be a Claims Adjuster on the Catlin Development Programme.  Catlin is an international specialist property and casualty insurer and reinsurer.
  2. What is a Claims Adjuster?  A Claims Adjuster is like being an investigator, advisor, project manager and relationship manager – all rolled into one!   An insurance company like Catlin offers insurance to businesses and pays the insured client the right amount for any loss to their business which is covered under their insurance.  Sometimes those losses can be really big like the loss of the World Trade Centre in New York, and to find out what a claim is worth can take a very long time.  As a Claims Adjuster, my job is in three parts: firstly, working with lawyers, experts and brokers, I ensure the correct amount is paid to the client for their loss; secondly, that Catlin has put aside enough funds for any eventual loss; and thirdly, that I deliver a service to our clients which is fair and to a high standard.
  3. Why did you opt to pursue Claims as a career?  My background is in modern languages and law.  I wanted to work in the City where I could apply my languages and legal knowledge in a commercial environment, and maybe travel too.  The insurance industry ticks all the boxes for me.  In my job I analyse alot of information, negotiate with third parties and make well-reasoned decisions, so my legal training is very useful for this.  My languages are a bonus because Catlin is a global company so I deal with clients from all over the world.  I’m about to embark on a secondment to our corporate HQ in Bermuda for two months which is really exciting!
  4. What is your degree background?  I did a European Studies degree at Royal Holloway (University of London), studying French, Italian and Spanish, with European International Relations and Business..  It was a four year course, with one year studying overseas.  I then studied law to develop skills that would be useful for working in any business.
  5. Do you have to have languages to do your job?  No.  It’s helpful but not essential.
  6. What’s it like to work in the insurance industry?    It’s a people industry and very diverse.  As a Claims Adjuster you deal with a variety of experts who help you understand the claim you’re working on, such as a structural engineer on a property claim or an accident reconstruction expert on a casualty claim. Other roles at Catlin include underwriters, actuaries, financial accountants and IT professionals.  They are all essential to our business.
  7. Why should graduates consider a career in this sector?  It’s incredibly dynamic and there are so many opportunities.  Without insurance the world would not tick over.  You wouldn’t get a satellite into space, or an aeroplane flying across the world without it, and it feels rewarding to be in an industry that provides real value to people and businesses.  You learn about so many different industries too.  At Catlin we insure anything from aeroplanes and yachts to satellites, oilrigs, fine art galleries and racehorses and it is really important to understand the businesses of our clients, so you are always learning. One key thing about Claims is that you can be involved in many high profile incidents that happen in the world from natural catastrophes like tsunamis and earthquakes to man-made oil spills and ships running aground. You gain an understanding of why and how events occur, but also make decisions that help businesses and individuals get back on their feet.
  8. What advice would you give to any graduate about securing a graduate placement?  Know what you want to do and what you’re good at so that when you write an application form or go to an interview, you can be passionate about what you like and why you like it.  Your enthusiasm will be really infectious and people will want to work with you.
  9. What was the toughest aspect of the recruitment process for you?  The assessment centre was intense.  I tried to feel comfortable during the process and this positively affected my performance and how I interacted with others in the group exercises.  The problem-solving tasks were challenging but I stayed focused, and when I thought I’d made a mistake I remained positive. You mustn’t give up even if sometimes things don’t work out.
  10. What do you know now about your career that you wish you had known when a student?  The importance of being commercially aware and in touch with the business world.  I definitely recommend a sandwich course to complement your studies – you learn so many vital skills that a degree on its own can’t always give you.  This will help you have the edge when it comes to graduate interviews.  The sooner you attend careers fairs and do internships, the better position you are in for securing a graduate role.

CHLOE GRAVES – Fresh Fruit Juice Buyer, Waitrose

  1. What do you do for a living?   I am the Buyer of Fresh Fruit Juice for Waitrose.
  2. What’s great about your job?   No day is ever the same and I get to be involved in lots of projects. I decide what our own-label products should be, which means I work with lots of different suppliers who can source fruit juice from all over the world. I help decide what blends we should be selling. We are about to launch 15 new Waitrose products which I have seen through from an idea to an actual product in a new design of packaging which is really satisfying. I also get to see what new brands are going to be available on the market before they launch.
  3. Did you always want to be a Retail Buyer?   I always knew I wanted to work in the food industry. I actually started my career in food manufacturing as a Process Technologist. This was a really interesting role as I had to scale up pizza and soup production to serve some of the biggest retailers in the UK.
  4. What is your degree background?   I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in Food and Consumer Studies BSc. This was a 4 year course with a 1 year placement. I really recommend that anyone interested in a similar degree looks for a course with a placement year. I learned so much and it made it easier for me to go into a permanent job when I graduated.
  5. Do you have to have languages or sciences to do your job?   I wouldn’t say that languages is a must. However, for anyone who wants to go into a manufacturing role, a science would help.
  6. What’s it like to work in the food industry?   It’s exciting because of the variation you get day to day. I get to work with lots of different people, producers, suppliers, technologists, and departments, for example marketing. It’s really satisfying when you see a product on the shelf for sale that you have helped create. Even more so if it becomes a best seller!
  7. Why should graduates consider a career in this sector?   It’s really tough for graduates today with limited jobs and placements available. The food industry is a bit more stable to work in as everybody has to eat and consumers will still spend money on luxurious food treats. In addition, it’s an interesting and varied industry.
  8. What advice would you give to any graduate about securing a graduate placement right now?   Get as much interview experience or practice as possible. Don’t be afraid to sell your qualities in an interview. If you have had practical experience make it count – it’s what employers are looking for.
  9. What was the toughest aspect of the recruitment process for you when first starting out?   (As above) Interviews, so get as much practice as you can.
  10. What key qualities do you look for in new recruits?   Experience and if they don’t have that, then the eagerness to try something new and get experience in different parts of the business.
  11. What do you know now about your career that you wish you had known when a student?   The long hours!  However the benefits far out weigh these. Students should make the most of summer and Christmas holidays!
  12. Any other advice/tips you would give school leavers or graduates?   Get some work experience even if it isn’t paid.  It will make you much more employable and give you more to talk about in an interview.

(This article previously featured in HUB magazine).