“It is really important that the graduates take ownership of their own careers,” says Siobhain Scanlon, coach and graduate programme officer at Musgrave. Ireland’s largest private employer is recruiting graduates across various business verticals. Coaching and mentoring offered to Talent encompasses professional support and focuses on helping them kickstart and develop their careers. In this interview, Siobhain covers for us key skills graduates need to land a job, offers interview tips and shares career progression opportunities available at Musgrave.
Tell us about Musgrave & your role there.
We’ve been around for quite some time now and it’s an exciting year as we celebrate 140 years in business! We are an Irish owned family business employing 35k+ staff in Ireland across our market-leading brands. We’re very proud of the fact that SuperValu is Ireland’s no.1 retailer, Centra is no.1 in convenience and we’re also leaders in wholesale and food services with Musgrave MarketPlace. Our brands also include Daybreak, Mace (Northern Ireland) along with retail and wholesale operations in Spain. We bring our graduates into our headquarters in Dublin, Cork, and Belfast. Buying, finance, omnichannel and supply chain are some of the key functions where we hire graduates as these support the core of our business.
I’m responsible for all aspects of the Musgrave Graduate Programme. I’ve been in Musgrave for nine years and I absolutely love working here. I started in the HR department and moved to my current role over two years ago. It differs from my previous role but I really enjoy the challenge. No two days are ever the same! One of the main reasons I enjoy my work so much is my team and my colleagues. The people I work with are simply fantastic!
What are some of the perks of joining the Musgrave Graduate Programme?
The Graduate Programme is one of the best ways to get into Musgrave. Our programme is a key Talent pipeline for us and we use it for nurturing our own talent in areas such as buying, finance, marketing and supply chain.
We’re a destination place to work for graduates as we help them develop and offer them opportunities to grow in the business. What does that include? It can be working with leading suppliers, developing our brands, professional development such as CIMA for finance graduates and a bespoke development programme with the Irish Management Institute (IMI) and more. Graduates at Musgrave are given exposure to the senior management team and to our CEO. It’s an incredible opportunity for them to get a feel of what it’s like to work in a team as big and as successful as ours.
Tell us more about the coaching & mentoring you offer the graduates.
Our graduates get a lot of coaching and mentoring support in the business and through our development programme with the Irish Management Institute (IMI). The primary support is provided by the graduate’s manager as they help build their knowledge and skills in the role. There is a strong focus on personal and professional development in the IMI programme. Professional skills developed include project management, finance and building commercial awareness, etc. Personal development focuses on developing awareness of their own management style. In other words, what would they be like as Musgrave’s leaders.
We invite guest speakers from the business to share their experiences and expertise with the graduates. Our graduates also have individual coaching sessions with the IMI and opportunities to work with an internal coach (that’s me). Graduates also have access to senior managers at a very early stage in their careers.
“Our company values are critical to our success.”
How do you ensure the participants make the most out of the programme?
I believe it is really important that the graduates take ownership of their own careers. We hire people who we feel have the right abilities, attitude, and skills to work at Musgrave, it works best for everyone if they make the most of the opportunity as well.
It’s about taking the support that’s offered and making the most of it. This means pushing forward in your career, asking questions and questioning the status quo. It also means taking the time to learn our core business. We encourage graduates to take an active part in the development and projects around them, to be brave, come in with your questions and ideas. Just don’t forget to share feedback appropriately! As they say, ‘Rock the boat but rock it gently.’
What should anyone willing to apply consider first and foremost?
My advice is not only to those looking to work with us but to anyone kick-starting or changing their career; find out what you’re passionate about! We look for people who are passionate about working with food and retailers, who enjoy working in a fast-paced environment and who want to support their communities. People who thrive in Musgrave are people who understand who we are, what we do and who want to achieve our shared ambition.
How rewarding is a career in HR?
I’ve been in this profession for over 13 years and looking back, I can’t say I have ever been bored! It’s a very interesting career which gives you an opportunity to see different aspects of the employee lifecycle.
From the recruitment process, to career development through to retirement – I’ve had a chance to work with people at all these stages. In HR you also have to work with people to support them through more challenging times such as managing performance, making career choices, redundancies, etc. I believe it’s vitally important to treat people with dignity and respect at every stage of their career. What I find fascinating about HR is that you really do see all sides of people! So if you are thinking of doing a career in HR, take into account you will see people at the best and most challenging times in their professional lives. There will be challenges, but overcoming them is highly rewarding because it can be life changing for the people you are supporting.
What is a sign of success for me? When I work with fresh Talent coming onto our Graduate Programme and see them progress in the business once they finish the programme – it is an incredibly rewarding experience.
“If you’re looking for a job and you’re not employed, treat looking for a job as a full time job!”
What role do company values play in hiring?
Our company values are critical to our success. We have 5 core values which underpin everything we do: honesty, long-term stable relationships, achievement, working hard and not being greedy. We assess all candidates for these values for every role in the business.
How can a company retain and motivate its top employees?
Employee engagement is key for retaining top employees; understanding what employees look for and to be able to give them the experiences they want. When you reach a certain level, it’s not just about salary. It’s about development opportunities that you provide. For us, it’s about taking a holistic view in terms of the experiences you can get out of a career with Musgrave.
Job hunting can be daunting. What is your advice for staying motivated while looking for a job?
If you’re looking for a job and you’re not employed, treat looking for a job as a full time job! Have a schedule, take care of your online presence (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter), and follow companies you’re interested. Think creatively rather than depending only on job boards. Read blog posts, do your research. If you’re well informed you’re in the best position to grab opportunities as they arise. Understand the industry you are trying to enter early on and look for jobs you’re passionate about.
Another advice would be leveraging your network. Ask around, see what other people are doing and how they got there. Let others know you are looking for opportunities. Keep positive and active and it’ll pay off!
What is the biggest concern graduates usually have regarding their career?
The biggest concern I see among the graduates right now is the desire to predict the future. What will I be doing in 3-5 years’ time? Or once the programme ends? The answer is, it’s up to you.
Becoming comfortable with uncertainty is perhaps the best advice I can offer. It’s not school or college where specific paths may be mapped out, the working world is far less predictable. You are in charge of your future and only you can decide what you will be doing in 3, 5 or 10 years’ time.
What are the three key skills graduates need to land a job?
As mentioned, passion is massively important because it will drive your power to perform. Develop your communication skills. It’s not just about delivering a message well, it’s about listening to what’s being said (and not said).
Finally, don’t be afraid to question. Question your motivation for what you are doing and what you’re looking to achieve. If you don’t understand the bigger picture, then you won’t grasp your own role in delivering it. Ask yourself what are you willing to give in your job to get what you want in your career?
Which soft skills are the most important for the employers?
Willingness to get stuck in. We work in a fast paced environment – retail and wholesale, so the people’s attitude is very important. Sometimes it’s simply about rolling up the sleeves and getting things done. We are hiring people willing to work on all aspects of the job.
What are some the biggest mistakes Talent make during an interview?
The most common one is that the person doesn’t listen to the question being asked. You may hear a key word in the question and launch into a fabulous answer, without answering the actual question asked. So, if in doubt I would suggest pausing and reflecting on it – ask the interviewer to repeat the question if needs be to ensure you understand what has been asked.
Another common mistake is when candidates downplay their experiences. Prior to the interview, list all of your experiences and make connections to the job specification. Working part-time in a shop may not seem relevant to all roles but you have developed skills such as customer service experience, teamwork, problem- solving etc. So be sure to include these important skills.
Lastly, people tend to give a lot of context when asked to talk about specific experiences i.e. competency questions. However, they can focus on the context to the extent they forget to tell us the outcome or result of the situation. I recommend using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) technique to frame your answer as this ensures you strike the right balance in giving the interviewer the information needed.
What’s your top tip for beating the job interview nerves?
The first thing I tell all of our graduate candidates I face in assessment centres is to breathe! We selected you for a reason, which means we see your capabilities and potential, so keep this in mind when going for an interview. Relax and show the best side of yourself.
What is your top tip for anyone looking to progress in their career?
Build relationships. It will help you understand your role in the organisation and it will also show you how you can help others.
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