Manon Zijlmans: "Never think: I shouldn’t ask this. It is fun to be surprised by a question"
Manon Zijlmans is Regional Account Manager OOH at Mars. The company participates in the Economic Business weeks Tilburg (EBT).
What kind of company is Mars?
“Mars is of course famous for its Mars bar, but it also produces and markets many more fast-moving consumer goods, including well-known chocolate brands like M&Ms and Snickers, as well as brands like Ben’s Original (formerly Uncle Ben’s) and Whiskas. It is a globally operating family-owned business. The company does not have any shareholders, which gives it a lot of freedom. In addition to its international headquarters, Mars has headquarters in every country in which it is active. Based on the principle of mutuality, Mars wants to contribute to employment in every country in which it sells its products by establishing one or more factories there. The Dutch headquarters are located in Veghel, as is the largest chocolate factory.”
What position do you have at Mars and what does it entail?
“As a Regional Account Manager OOH (OOH stands for ‘Out Of Home’), I am responsible for customers in Southern Holland and Zealand. ‘Out Of Home’ means everything outside the home, excluding the supermarkets. So for example movie theaters, gas stations, amusement parks, public transport, and education. I keep customers who operate in these markets informed of developments and make commercial suggestions, for instance, about the product range and presentation. In everything I am their first point of contact. If necessary, I liaise internally with our marketing and supply chain departments.”
Why does Mars participate in the Economic Business weeks Tilburg (EBT)?
“Many students participate and we want to be visible to those students, so they think of us when they go job hunting, even though that may take another few years. In addition, we want to recruit talent, both for internships and for entry-level positions. Since the company strongly encourages employees to continue to develop, we almost always have vacancies. If someone takes a step on the ladder, that creates opportunities for someone else.
A considerable part of our workers consist of Tilburg University alumni. So our presence actually benefits the company. During my Bachelor’s of International Business Administration, I went to a presentation by Mars and four years later, I went to work for the company.”
What is your contribution to the EBT?
“We contribute in different ways. For instance, we do company presentations where everyone is welcome. As employees, we share our personal experiences, for instance, on our own career paths and what makes working at Mars such fun. In that way, we want to show what it’s like to work at Mars and how, as an employee, you can develop within the company.
In addition, we do individual interviews and we organizes a workshop in which we want to see the students work. For these activities we select students based on their resumes. We focus mainly on Master’s students and third-year Bachelor’s students, because they will be most interested in an internship or entry-level position. In assessing resumes, one of the things we check is whether students have done more than just studying. Activities outside the campus are equally relevant as activities on campus.
Mars is also present at the Career Fair, where we want to talk to students in a slightly more informal setting. We come with various colleagues from the sales and marketing, supply chain, and digital commerce departments. I myself represent the sales and marketing department.”
What opportunities does contact with your company have for our students?
“Contact can offer an opening for an internship or entry-level position. In addition, students can just get to know the business. They are welcome to ask all sorts of questions. They are free to ask about personal experiences. In fact, we enjoy that.”
What tips or do’s and don’ts would you give to students?
“Be authentic, speak from the heart, ask questions, suggest ideas, participate actively. That is how to get the most out of it and how you show us who you are.
If you participate in a workshop: to be late, that does not make a good impression. And prepare and show that you have done some background reading about the company, so you can get the most out of the workshop.
Finally: do not be afraid to ask questions. They do not have to be the predictable questions: it is fun to be surprised by a question. So never think: I shouldn’t ask this.”
What helped you to get where you are now?
“Two things, basically: the perseverance that I developed as an athlete and my curiosity. Because of that curiosity, it is easy for me to do interviews and it gives me the courage to ask questions.”