For many, January is the time to start thinking about about new jobs and careers, and for those at university that usually means nailing down an internship or finding a place on a graduate scheme. In this #GradLife series, employees open up about their experience of applying for the Coca-Cola European Partners graduate scheme, and how it works. 

Since 2009, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has been offering graduates a taste of working life with its immensely popular grad scheme. They’re one of the world’s largest, independent Coca-Cola bottlers with more than 4,000 employees, and are responsible for manufacturing and distributing the drinks Coca-Cola Great Britain markets, which spans from Coca-Cola to Fanta and Schweppes.

Each year thousands apply for the three-year programme, which runs across Western Europe, and CCEP welcomes around 20-30 of those applicants. Corrina Litscher, 24, from Lincolnshire, was one of those successful candidates, who joined the commercial graduate scheme in September 2014, and is currently spending a year with the marketing team at Coca-Cola Great Britain’s offices in London.

Why did you apply for the graduate scheme?
It’s much more selective than other graduate schemes, in the sense that you’re only one of three per division, so you get a lot more attention, investment and access to people in the business. I also applied because the three years are spent in different roles, which makes it more interesting.

What was the application process like?
I’m not going to lie, the application process was quite gruelling! There are a lot of stages to get through, such as video and phone interviews, online tests, assessments and then an interview with the general manager.

How does the grad scheme work?
The first year you spend in field sales at Coca-Cola European Partners to get a good grounding. It’s challenging, but you realise how important it is to know the products and the customers.

This year I've had the chance to work at Coca-Cola Great Britain, where all the marketing and advertising happens, which is great experience when you’re still a junior employee.

And for my third year I’ll be heading back to Coca-Cola European Partners. What I’ll be doing depends on what’s available at the time, as the business moves and changes so quickly. Some of the roles include national account management, which means I could be working with customers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Corinna Litscher, 24, Lincolnshire, with fellow Coca-Cola European Partners graduates at a GroceryAid rugby session.

What was your first day like at Coca-Cola GB’s offices?
It was actually quite funny, because, while the morning was all introductions and a bit of a blur, in the afternoon we had a big meeting with Coca-Cola European Partners who I’d only just left the week before! So it was a strange experience to suddenly change offices but still be working with the same people.

What does a typical day involve?
I’m in the brand activation team, so that means I work a lot with our in-house design team who handle the look and feel of our packaging. I also have meetings with our legal and finance teams and, of course, still check-in with Coca-Cola European Partners to ensure whatever marketing materials we create can be sold to our customers.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt?
That’s a hard question! It may not be that interesting thing, but I’d say the focus on quality and the number of people that are brought in to consult on and approve a decision – it blows my mind. At Coca-Cola European Partners we just focus on the GB market, but here you might have to speak to colleagues in Western Europe, and then maybe our global team in Atlanta. So it’s amazing how long a decision can take sometimes, but as Coca-Cola is such a big brand we need to protect that.

Mixed Doubles: Corinna teams up with Mayor of London Boris Johnson at special ParkLives session outside the Houses of Parliament.

What’s the best thing about working here?
The best thing is getting involved with really exciting projects, which sometimes take six months to plan and launch! And, even though I’m quite junior, my opinion is listened to as I have a more youthful and fresh outlook on things.

Tell us one of your favourite moments!
On my second day there was a special ParkLives session outside the Houses of Parliament, and I was asked to take part in some of the sessions, and somehow I ended up being Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s tennis partner!

What projects are you looking forward to next?
I’m not sure how much I can say, but I’m looking forward to 2016 UEFA European Championship, and I’m excited to see the new packaging we’re working on go into store!

Do you have any advice for students looking for grad schemes?
I definitely think being selective in your search is important, because in reality you need to do that job for a good three years, at least while you’re on the graduate scheme, so you don’t want to be doing something for the sake of it. It’s worth the time and effort to research and actually ask questions about the placement, because you can’t always rely on the job description.

Read the next issue in the #GradLife series with graduate Pippa Collins.

Coca-Cola European Partners will be accepting applications for the 2017 graduate scheme in October. 

Find out more about careers at Coca-Cola Great Britain.