Student placements in their own words: Serena at Unilever

In this blog, International Management student Serena Rand Bardi talks about her industrial placement experience in a sustainability role with Unilever. Read more to discover the many ways Serena built knowledge and developed her employability, and how she found career direction,  helping businesses through sustainable innovation.

Image used with permission

About me

This year, I have been fortunate enough to work as an Industrial Placement student at Unilever in Sustainability and Communications, as part of a BSc in International Management. Unilever is a global FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) company specializing in food and refreshments, home care, and beauty/personal care. In 2020, it ranked 185th in the Global Fortune 500 with revenues of €50.7 billion, and it employed 149,000 people. Its product portfolio includes 400 of the world’s most productive, purpose-driven and trusted brands including Ben & Jerrys, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Knorr and Dove.

Unilever is also a corporate pioneer of ESG strategy and has made industry-leading commitments to the UN’s SDGs relative to environmental integrity, people’s health and wellness, and socially inclusive society. For my placement, I have been working in the Global Sustainability Strategy Team that manages Sustainability and Advocacy; and in the Sustainability and Communications Team Home Care Division, which manages External Affairs, Stakeholder Relations and EU policy.


What was my placement experience like?

Despite smart working and digitalization challenges, my amazing managers have insured my involvement in as many projects as possible. From day 1, I was given real responsibilities that allowed me to integrate into the teams and collaborate with colleagues and superiors. The highlights of my work have included: attending UNGA 2020 and reporting for executive management and the CEO; producing a weekly sustainability roundup; participating in impactful research projects, presentations, internal and external communications, social media management, and website creation; supporting the organization and execution of a workshop for senior executives of Unilever’s most important Brands, and assisting in the organisation of Unilever’s ESG governance structures.


What have I gained over the course of this year?

My placement at Unilever has offered incredible opportunities for personal and professional growth, and I am cherishing every minute. Unilever has permitted me to be mentored by expert managers who have provided stimulating tasks to improve my analytical, communications, presentation, and digitalization skills. I have gained invaluable work experience, networked with some wonderful people with similar interests and objectives, and developed a deeper understanding of the critical capabilities for corporate competitiveness in an environmentally and socially conscious world. Finally, I have found a career direction in ESG management, helping business through sustainable innovation to reorient itself as a positive force for change.


My advice to fellow students

I would highly recommend an Industrial Placement year. King’s Careers provides ample resources to assist students including CVs and Career guidance, corporate networking, and Associations/Clubs that can provide training critical to obtaining a placement. Undoubtedly, my work at Enactus KCL (Entrepreneurs for Social Action) was instrumental in my selection for Unilever.

That said, the job application is a laborious process. You can expect numerical, verbal, personality and situational judgement tests; interviewing; and assessment centres. The best strategy is to apply early, and to a significant group of companies; promptly complete the tasks given; carefully study company history, missions and objectives; and be ready to demonstrate how you are suited to the particular placement you are applying for. Finally do not personalize rejection. Keep working hard and believing in yourself and you will be successful!