Studying food sales

Traineeships during studies offer students a glimpse into working as a professional in their field. At the same time, they get to see how far their skills can take them. Approximately one thousand University of Helsinki students complete a compulsory or optional traineeship as part of their studies every year. Emma-Riikka Kero from the Viikki Campus is one such student who completed a traineeship during summer 2017. Career Services visited her to see what she gained from the experience.

During the early months of 2017, Emma-Riikka Kero, student of food economics, spent some time every day browsing through the websites of companies in the food industry. She wanted to be among the first to apply for traineeships once they were announced. She also kept an eye on the job announcements through the University of Helsinki's Rekrynet portal. When Apetit Oyj announced open summer traineeships on their website, Kero wasted no time.

– To my delight, I was called for an interview in late April. I was nervous, but managed to convey my genuine interest in the food industry.

According to Field Sales Manager Janne Mollberg, who supervised Kero's traineeship at Apetit, there were many good applicants. The choice wasn’t easy, particularly since there was a need to carry out the recruitment process quickly.

– Ultimately, we only interviewed a handful of students. It was wonderful that it only took about a month to realise that we had picked the right people.

Mollberg suggests that students coming in for job interviews should just be themselves, and mention their interests in addition to their existing skills.

– You don’t have to be a full expert, and we may not even require previous experience in the field, but you have to show you’re willing to learn.

Watching frozen foods after work

Apetit makes sure that trainees are received well and provided with orientation. During a two-week orientation period, students find out about the company’s operations also beyond their own areas of responsibility.

Emma-Riikka Kero’s three-month traineeship consisted of sales work in the Uusimaa area. Starting work was easy, thanks to existing sales materials and the practical tips she received from the Apetit sales representatives.

– My job was to sell our products to the K food stores. In practice, I would visit stores and try to sell various Apetit food products to the storekeepers or department chiefs.

Kero is eager to sing the praises of her traineeship experience. She got to work independently in the area of her studies and learned a great deal about working in the field – and about herself. She found it easy to assume her professional role, and then the travelling sales work was fun.

– It was great that I was given such a responsible job as a trainee. Of course it was easy to work under a big brand that the storekeepers recognised, but making the sale at a particular store was completely dependent on me.

Mollberg, who supervised the traineeship, adds that the best way to improve as a salesperson is through experience. Another way is to spend time honing the sales strategy.

– You have to be able to see what the client is like and what is the best way of proceeding with this particular client. It’s impossible to do this job purely over the phone, so salespeople must have good interaction skills and be comfortable doing sales work face-to-face, Mollberg explains.

Kero admits that she keeps an eye on the frozen foods in grocery stores to see which products the storekeepers ultimately order.

– When I later went to a K store where I hadn’t been sure of my success, seeing that they had Apetit products made me feel good about my accomplishment.

 “I now dare to apply for similar expert duties”

Emma-Riikka Kero says that during her traineeship she learned concrete things about how a food company operates and what kinds of institutions and jobs exist in the field.

– I previously had no information on how stores order goods to sell, or what kind of operating cycle the industry has. It came as a surprise to me to find out that Apetit sells so many of its products through in-person visits, and not just via electronic sales channels.

During the three months, Kero gained both information and confidence for sales work as well as navigating in the world of work.

– I now dare to apply for similar expert duties, says Kero.

Her experience in the traineeship helped Emma-Riikka Kero plan the direction of her remaining studies. She is now convinced production economics is a good minor subject, and is more excited about starting her Master’s thesis

– I would like to write my Master’s thesis in cooperation with a food company. The topic could be in sales and marketing. I’m sure my traineeship will also help in that area.

Employer, recruit a trainee!

Student, check out the tips!

  • Read the traineeship instructions.
  • “Take the initiative and contact interesting places yourself about possible traineeships. Companies can often use the help, and they want to offer work experience to students." - Janne Mollberg, Field Sales Manager, Apetit Oyj
  • See the traineeship announcements on the Rekrynet portal.
  • Organisations typically have a section for open positions on their website, and often they will also list traineeship opportunities.