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Graduate employment in the retail industry

Many graduates may make their way through university without having any idea of which career path they want to follow. However, with many gaining their first taste of employment in the retail sector while studying at college, a return to this field could prove a wise choice as they can expand on the knowledge they have already accrued.

One of the leading benefits for a university leaver opting to go down the retail career path is that many potential employees have graduate recruitment schemes in place to fast-track the best candidates straight to the leading roles. Although the chief goal may be for a graduate to manage their own store, they are given the chance to work their way to this position. The beginning may mean leading a team in a particular department, then moving into a more commercial role within a company, before taking on assistant management status and then leading a whole store. A wide range of duties await those deciding that the industry is the place for them, with one thing that is guaranteed being that work is likely to always take place in a fast-paced environment. Patience, organisation and efficiency may be the core skills that are needed as client contact is sure to be high. There will also be a need to train and manage others in ensuring that strong customer service levels are maintained and that consumer needs are met. Furthermore, motivating staff to work to the best of their ability will be another paramount skill. There will additionally be the need to complete tasks under vast amounts of pressure, with sales targets needing to be met, while managers may also be expected to forecast future performance, manage stock levels and record sales figures.

One of the leading sections within the retail industry is supermarkets, with jobs going far beyond sitting on tills or stacking shelves. Tesco has 17 graduate programmes that can be chosen from, with a wide number of opportunities available across its 2,300 stores in the UK. Once a graduate programme is completed, participants will be equipped with a range of technical, project and people skills.

Sainsbury's is another supermarket that may appeal to graduates and chief executive Justin King has spoken about what should be thought about before signing up to such a scheme. He said: "Graduates have to think; 'Is it going to be right for me?' I have personal ambition, I want to achieve something for myself, I want to be excited, I want to be stretched, I want to be able to grow; those are all great motives and absolutely should lie at the core of any decision you take to join any company. Two things definitely need to be considered: 'What's in it for me, because I have personal ambition?' And then: 'Is this an organisation that stands for something that I believe in?'"

Another reason why the retail industry may prove fruitful for graduates are the benefits offered for loyal service. Leading retailer John Lewis distributes a portion of profits as a percentage of salary, while offering a non-contributory, final salary pension after three years of service. Furthermore, discounts are offered to staff on in-store products, life assurance is open if a person dies in service and holidays are available across the UK at a reduced rate.

Marks & Spencer is another retailer offering a large number of graduate opportunities, with one person to pass through a scheme keen to speak of its benefits. Commercial manager Miranda Tate explained: "You get to meet the other graduates, you get to network with everybody else that's in the same boat, so you get to make new contacts. My advice for anybody who wants to join the scheme, is go for it, the sky really is the limit. It's a fantastic way to start your career as a graduate."

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