Dean graduated with a degree in business studies with marketing from Salford University. He is currently employed as a general store manager for Toys ‘R’ Us. As part of his degree he completed a sandwich year placement in industry with Toys ‘R’ Us, working as a department manager, dealing with everything from personnel issues to sales management.
What was your motivation in applying?
It was something exciting and it seemed a bit different. I had previously worked for Arcadia part-time for four years, so retail stood out as being a fun place to work.
What did the application process involve?
There was a full day’s assessment which consisted of group exercises in the morning (there were 10 people on the assessment day) then, in the afternoon we had one-to-one interviews.
What did you do?
I worked with an assistant store manager to run the sales floor, managing a team of employees. The shifts were varied and included working from 6am to 6pm over the Christmas period.
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
I didn’t have to really as I effectively had a continuation of my job. I was offered an extension to my year’s placement, so I worked part time for them during the final year of my degree. Then, once I had completed my degree, I was offered a full-time position, subject to training, so I never actually left. Toys ‘R’ Us put a lot of time and effort into training during the placement year, which really pays off as a lot of placement students stay with the company after graduating.
Did you enjoy it?
Yes definitely, especially the environment and people I was working with. It was fast-paced and fun and it was really enjoyable.
What did you learn?
Lots of management skills. I was dealing with a group of staff and it was my first role as a manager within the retail sector.
The involvement and responsibility of the role. Some of my university colleagues spent their placement years sitting in the corner of an office sending out letters. I was responsible for a multi-million pound section of a multi-million pound store. It set me up for my final year at university and my confidence improved a lot.
It was very difficult coming out of university where I had been doing 20 hours a week to working, at peak times, 70 hours. It was a big culture shock and it was challenging, but I got a lot from it.
What advice to readers do you have?
From my personal experience, the big thing I would say is to find something that you are passionate about. Do a role during your placement year that you’ll love doing in the future. Some people on my course found jobs they thought would be easy, but I got a lot from my placement and was doing something I was interested in doing.