We've pulled together our top tips for getting ahead in the consumer and retail sector.
1. Start thinking about products objectively
A retail company needs all its employees to be fully committed and so a passion for what your selling certainly helps. While you might not have a need for pampers nappies at this particular stage of your life, you to need to think about why a consumer might purchase that brand ahead of another. Analyse adverts - ask yourself what works and question why. Ask your friends and family for their opinions too.
Gain experience on the shop floor, be it at a local store or a national/global brand, it's vital if you really want to understand how this sector works from the ground up and many top level executives started out this way.
Look for cross channel promotions - after watching an advert, head to the company's website and social media channels and see if there are similar messages being pushed. Being aware of how brands sell their products is key to understanding this sector - no matter what role you are applying for.
2. Join an entrepreneurial society at university or do something entrepreneurial
Increasingly, large companies are looking for 'intrapreneurial' leaders who are employees who actively try to improve their company from within by innovating products or services.
If you can show that you have undertaken an entrepreneurial venture however small or big - be that setting up a pop up shop/selling tickets for an event - you'll be able to demonstrate that not only are you self-motivated but that you also have some real hands-on experience of what it takes to create and sell a product.
By starting a venture from scratch, however small, you'll expose yourself to all aspects of business and this can really help you to understand the challenges involved when it comes to business - from product development, operations, marketing and selling. Such experience is a great plus point on your CV and can serve as an excellent example when it comes to your interview/assessment centre exercises.
What incentivises us to purchase certain products? How do brands ensure that we are getting the product that will deliver on their marketing promise?
3. Do your research and map out potential career routes
Read up on FTSE 100 CEOs and Fortune 500. If you find their career paths exciting and interesting, then you know you are choosing the right sector. It will also help you decide which specialism you want to do and such research will not be in vain when it comes to the interview.
You'll be able to show that you understand this sector and what is required to excel.
4. Focus on growth and don't be afraid to look beyond the big brands
Apply to companies which are recording good growth. Being part of a success story is great for your CV. Follow retail news in the broadsheets and industry papers - such as Retail Week.
In addition, do not think that's it's just the big brands that recruit. Here at Bright Network we have been fortunate to work with lots of smaller yet fast-growing FMCG brands including Popchips, Graze, Ella's Kitchen, Bear Nibbles, Vita Coco and Peppersmith.
There is lots going on in this sector and companies regularly recruit, some even offer internships. Keep an eye out for opportunities and don't be afraid of making a speculative application.
5. Learn how to sell consultatively and empathise with customer needs
At it's heart it's what this sector does. If you get through to an assessment centre stage, it's highly likely that you'll have to do some kind of sales pitch - either in a group or potentially on your own. You may be asked to sell a particular product and, in truth, for any interview, you could be asked by an interviewer to 'sell this pen to me' regardless of what role you are applying for - so knowing how to structure a potential sales pitch is a valued tool.
You could be asked to decide which item might be best after weighing up different options or you might have to decide which products (and why) you should promote in a particular month and what you'll do to encourage the consumers to buy.
A great way to find out why consumers make certain decisions is to simply ask. Next time you're in a supermarket, take a look around you and see what people are drawn to.
And next time you head to the shops to stock up on tea, ask yourself what is the main reason you are choosing that particular brand/type etc. If you enjoy thinking about a consumer's incentives in this way - then this could be a great sector to plunge into.
6. Work experience
There is one great thing about this sector, gaining work experience tends to be relatively straight forward no matter where you live as there are simply so many opportunities. The retail and consumer sector is also perfect for undergraduates, because they tend to have lots of positions over the summer holidays and during the peak Christmas period - and so there really is no excuse for not being able to secure something. View the latest consumer, retail and FMCG internships and industrial placements to get started.
And it does not have to be at a big brand. Gaining experience on the shop floor, be it at a local store or a national/global brand is all equally valuable. Many a top level executive has started out this way - and it's vital if you really want to understand how this sector works from the ground up.
A lot of recruiters would expect to see such experience on your C.V. as it shows you have an interest in this sector. Not only that, it will really expose you to the public - the 'consumer' - and all of their expectations. Need some help with your C.V.?
Take a look at available consumer, retail and FMCG graduate schemes to get your career off the ground.