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Graduate Area Manager
Ben Jacobs studied a Bachelor of Commerce and is a graduate area manager at ALDI.
What's your name and job title? What did you study?
My name is Ben Jacobs and I am currently a graduate area manager at ALDI Stores Australia. I studied a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of New South Wales and graduated in 2017.
Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about your education and any experience you’ve had abroad?
I grew up in Sydney and went to Killara High School. After the HSC, I took a year off to travel to South America, before returning home to start university. While studying I started cleaning cinemas at my local Hoyts, eventually working my way up to running shifts as a duty manager.
I didn’t rush through my degree, instead choosing to do three subjects per semester rather than the usual four. This enabled me to gain valuable experience working, as well as undertake unpaid internships. The most exciting of these involved putting my life on hold and jetting off to Europe for a six-month marketing internship in Madrid.
I’ve always tried to see as much of the world as possible – most recently trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Creating a healthy balance between education, work, sport and travel isn’t always easy, but if you can juggle it all in your university years, it makes the transition into full-time work seamless.
For how long have you been in your current job position?
I commenced the ALDI Graduate Program in February 2018.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The recruitment process involved an online application and psychometric testing, followed by a video interview, assessment centre and one-on-one interviews. At each stage, the focus of the questions was around leadership, communication and overcoming hurdles.
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills that would be beneficial for them to develop?
I loved my commerce degree, but the great thing about ALDI is that it really doesn't matter what you study; what matters is the communication and leadership skills you develop while you study. Whether you’re coaching your local football team, volunteering for a university society or working at your favourite retailer, you'll always develop soft skills when you work with people in any capacity. Just get out there and do it!
What does your employer do?
ALDI is a discount supermarket with over 500 stores across the country. The ALDI vision is to enable everyday Australians to live richer lives for less. We sell exclusive branded products that are of the highest quality at the lowest possible prices.
What are your areas of responsibility?
What stands out about the ALDI Graduate Program is the incredible scope of responsibility you're entrusted with. I've already managed multiple stores throughout NSW, led a team of people in the distribution centre and worked on exciting projects to achieve real change in the business. At the end of the program, I will oversee three to five stores as an area manager.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
No! There's no such thing as a 'typical' day at ALDI and that's why I love it. I'm currently working on a project focused on increasing efficiency and improving the customer experience. It involves collaborating with colleagues both in stores and the warehouse, and driving across the state to complete operational testing. It really is dynamic and exciting.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
You've got to be passionate about people. Of course you need enthusiasm and an unwavering work ethic, but in the end, everything comes back to dealing with people.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
The ALDI Graduate Program really fast tracks your career from the get-go, enabling you to manage a multimillion-dollar network of stores as an area manager. From there, the opportunities are endless, ranging from working in the corporate office, to logistics and even secondments overseas.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Absolutely! I have colleagues with backgrounds in construction, law, science, education and even military. Almost any industry requires leadership and problem-solving in some capacity. It's just about applying those transferable skills in different environments.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
Everyone at ALDI has a real belief in what we do. I love being part of a company that genuinely lives and breathes its core values. From our overarching strategies right down to our day-to-day decision making, everything is done with our values and principles front of mind. I enjoy any task or project that helps improve our operations in line with those values.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I've always been fascinated by consumer behaviour and marketing analytics, so I may have delved down that path. The thought of a mundane nine to five desk job does not appeal to me.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?
- Get out of Australia. Whether it's going on exchange, working abroad, volunteering or just exploring lands afar, travelling will equip you with invaluable life skills that will stand you in good stead in any industry.
- Don’t feel pressured to rush through your degree. Whether you follow my lead and study three subjects per semester or even study part time, it’s absolutely worth it if you supplement your study with work experience and internships. You’ll come out a more well-rounded candidate.
- If you haven't already, start shopping at ALDI!