I’m doing rotations through the store, learning how to manage all the different departments. I’ve covered Customer Service and Fresh Produce, Bakery, Dairy and Grocery. You learn how to manage each department over the course of about a month. The great thing about Coles is that they let you move at your own pace, so if you pick it up in two weeks you can move on and if you want to stay and really master the department you can stay longer.
I was already working at Coles, and my store manager approached me about pursuing the opportunity of joining the Coles Operations Graduate Program. I’m a bit older than a lot of grads, and Coles seems to be one of only a handful of employers that doesn’t restrict the Grad program to a particular study stream or age group. I had a clear end goal of being a store manager and the Coles Grad program is a fast-track to get there—so I jumped at the opportunity! I’ve pushed myself and I’ve been challenged, and it’s really paid off. I’ve been here for a year and can’t believe how much I’ve learned. I think, “Wow, what will I achieve by the end of two years?”.
I love the energy that working at Coles brings; it’s an instant buzz every morning walking in. Every day is different, and there’s such an energy and enthusiasm across the team. I get excited when I see a Coles truck on the road, too! I’m really proud to be associated with a fast-growing industry, I’m proud of what we do and I’m so excited to be right there amongst it.
The most challenging thing is that you’re on a fast-track program to becoming a store manager, and a lot of people that you work side-by-side with along the way are also working towards the same goal through different development pathways. As grads, we can learn so much from these team members who have spent so long at the coalface. There are many ways to get to the same end goal at Coles and the grad program is just one of them.
People have this perception that Coles isn’t a place to build your career, and that it’s the kind of job you get before the real job. I like to think that I’m changing the attitude of everyone I meet, as there’s no reason why you can’t embrace the many opportunities Coles has to offer. The grad program is designed to give you the confidence you need to succeed in a senior role, and the support we get along the way helps you to feel that you can achieve those goals you once would have thought impossible!
The grads in Coles are looked on really favorably throughout the business, with our managing director, John Durkan, being one of our biggest supporters. John really advocates for the grad program, so you’re well-respected everywhere, which means when you reach out to somebody they bend over backwards to help you and to give you all the support you need.
There is a formal induction program, and on your first day you get a list of people that you can call on at any time. Your line manager, accelerator coach, regional manager and regional HR manager are all there to coach and guide you. You also get a mentor (who is a fellow grad from the previous year), so you end up with this immediate support network that you can reach out to at any time. But really, you can jump on email, look up anybody and ask them a question, it’s a very open culture.
I’ve also found that Coles really encourages making the most of all the opportunities presented. . There are people that have fast-tracked their program or had amazing secondments by embracing everything the graduate program offers. You can jump ahead or go back, or redo parts of the program at your own pace.
Take the application seriously and give it your best shot. One of the questions I was asked was “If you could change one thing about a Coles supermarket, what would it be?”. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. The best answers come from a customer perspective, so put some real thought into your answers.