Degree and university: Keele University, International Relations and Politics.
Work Title: Section Manager Furniture and Large Electrical (Graduate Trainee), John Lewis, Solihull.
What it is you actually do? As a Section Manager I have responsibility for a Section within the department, as well as the department as a whole. This responsibility is not just sales targets, but also includes development of my Partners, self-development, high levels of customer service, efficient stock levels, low levels of wastage, and satisfied Partners. As a Graduate Trainee I am aspiring to be a Department Manager, so I’m currently taking the step beyond my department to influencing the entire store, and even head office.
Why did you decide to stay in the West Midlands after graduation? As well as being my home, it has other advantages. Retail is so widespread you can develop your skills and network from anywhere. The West Midlands provides a central base from which to do this, many of our training courses and networking opportunities are based within the Midlands. I don’t deny I would like to move to London one day, but I am confident the skills I have learnt from Solihull can only benefit me if I move out of the West Midlands.
Why did you decide to go into this sector? I worked part-time in retail through college and in the summers while at university. It wasn’t until my second year, where I took a leadership module, that I considered the skills I had and that I wanted to develop them. I remember in the summer I was working in a DIY store, discussing things with my manager, when I realised what I wanted to do had been right in front of me the whole time.
What do you like most about you do? Delighted customers! To see a Partner develop their skills and engage with a customer and offer outstanding service every time is extremely satisfying. Development of oneself and others is a major factor in our success. As a Partnership, we know if Partners are satisfied, then are customers adore the service they receive and we then generate more profit. You can really see how you are contributing to the business.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you need to make a success of what you do? Passion for retail, self-confidence; the ability to accept feedback, take it on board and change the way you behave; the desire to drive your own development. You need to apply early, research the company, and use the assessment centres to also assess the company. If you have the right skills you will probably find yourself going to several assessment centres for various companies; the John Lewis assessment centre itself was a major factor in deciding whether to take the offer.