Vickie Mcdonald (22), Concession Manager, Faith
How did you get your job? I found it difficult to find my first job as most companies want applicants with previous retail experience. I started sending my CV to retailers I was interested in working for. My break came when I was checking the local papers and I found a job ad for Faith. They were looking for Sales Assistants. With no retail experience I could only start at this level so I applied for the position and got the job.
Job history: I stayed in this position for the next year-and-a-half. The longer I stayed, the more I learned about the company and how a concession was run, and the better my money became. I eventually found I was playing more of a Supervisor/Assistant Manager's role, which built my confidence to move up. When I applied for a Concession Manager role in another area, this experience and my commitment helped me to get promoted. I've now been working as a Manager for over a year.
Best/worst bits: Everyday is slightly different and you're always meeting new people. It involves working weekends but these are usually busy and can be fun. You do get perks, like staff discounts. I'm on my feet most of the day, which can be tiring, and I have to deal with some rude customers at times.
Advice for wannabes: If you have any work experience dealing with the public or any sort of sales background this is a good start. Becoming a Sales Assistant will give you the relevant experience. Once you do this it's worth applying for promotions and higher positions, as training is always given. Most companies let you know of other vacancies within their stores or new store openings. A work-based qualification like a GNVQ in Retail and Customer Service is worth having on your CV.
CV essentials: Good communication and organisation skills are essential - and show evidence of working within a team. Getting some work experience will help and it will show your dedication.
There are lots of opportunities in this sector and it does offer a wealth of graduate management schemes, but these are very popular. To stand a good chance, pinpoint your preferences. Fashion and food retail are very different for example, so showing a specific interest will boost your application. Companies have their own application processes. Most begin with application forms and then stages of interviewing.
Working as a Sales Assistant will not only give you good experience but it can be the starting ground for your career. Many stores look to current staff for in-house promotion, so hand in your CV to be considered for future positions. If you show enthusiasm, the relevant skills and a willingness to develop, you will be considered for promotion and training.
Retail management involves dealing with customers, merchandising the shop floor, managing staff and rotas, analysing figures, basic admin and forward planning.
Skills and training
Business and retail management degrees can help to strengthen your application but graduates from any discipline will be accepted. Although you do not strictly need a degree, many companies prefer it and it can help you to move up the ladder more quickly.
People skills are important because you will be dealing with your own staff and customers everyday. The ability to be calm in different situations and work well under pressure are important, as dealing with customer complaints will be your responsibility. You will also be in charge of organising promotions and events. Show that you have these skills through applying relevant situations to your application and listing responsibilities on your CV.
Personality/Who would it suit
You need to be confident and enjoy communicating with people and able to deal with both friendly and unpleasant situations. The work can be poorly paid and involve long hours, so you'll need to be dedicated with a bright, optimistic outlook.
The starting salary on graduate recruitment schemes is from £17,000. Small stores or companies can be lower, from £12,000.
Progression can start from managing larger departments or moving to a bigger store, to becoming store manager. It takes time but it is possible to move into senior retail management positions and specialist areas, such as area management and head office positions like customer relations or buying.
Got a career you want us to cover? Just let us know and we'll do our best to include it in this section.
Pros and cons
by Sarah Willoughby