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Career Options in Retail & Sales: Student

The good news is that there are a plethora of opportunities to get experience if a retail or sales role appeals to you after university.

Undergraduate retail & sales

- Part-time jobs

- Summer internships

- Industrial placements

- Graduate scheme applications

Where better to start getting experience of a retail environment than on the shop floor? (And many retail employers of graduates agree!) A bit of extra cash whilst you’re living life on a student budget will never, ever go amiss, and part-time jobs in retail have long been a popular choice for students looking to line their pockets to get through their studies. And there’s the double whammy bonus of getting retail names on your CV ahead of the graduate scheme applications.

The retail sector also offers various different opportunities for you to clock up some more work experience in other areas aside from shop floor work in the form of summer internship and industrial placement opportunities. We’re talking tons of things, from finance, supply chain, marketing, procurement, visual merchandising and distribution to technology, online services and buying. And the tasty news about these options is that there is a chance they could lead to a permanent role following your graduation!

Summer internships are usually aimed at students in their penultimate year. An industrial placement will mean that you take a year out of university to work full time with a company, gaining more extensive experience and taking up responsibilities on live projects. These industrial placements slot in after your second year at university; you’ll return to full-time study to finish off your degree once you’ve done a full academic year with the placement company.

The same goes for the sales side of things. The scope for industries you could work in in a sales role is huge! You could ultimately head into property (working for an estate agent, for example), recruitment, automobile trading, business to business (B2B), fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), telesales/telemarketing or even areas like scientific sales. Internships and work experience are also available in sales roles. You could spend your summer getting a feel for sales in a particular industry; in many cases undertaking cold calling and lead generation tasks, and even getting the opportunity to take part in face-to-face meetings in some cases.

Top Tips

If you’ve got a management position in your future career sights already, then retail and sales graduate schemes are a good way to go. There are a lot of graduate schemes in this sector on offer which are designed to fast-track you to management positions in a short amount of time. You could be a store manager within three or four years!

This means that you’ll have to be committed to demonstrating a passion for retail, with some solid example in place by the time you’re ready to get tapping away completing those graduate scheme applications. Shop floor experience is invaluable (in fact, many programmes will involve a period of time working on the shop floor itself so that you can learn the real ins and outs of the business from the bottom up). With this in mind, if you’re already sure of the type of retail you want to head into, for example the luxury market or supermarkets, then why not get a part-time job in that area? Certainly one way to display your interest! You can use the time to do some networking too and learn more about the opportunities on offer for graduates.

If you’re interested in sales, you can also develop the soft skills you’ll need through part-time work and internship and placement opportunities. Don’t neglect those extra-curricular CV gems, too! Anything you get involved in outside of your studies which demonstrates you’re a personable individual with excellent communication, negotiation and persuasion skills will help you to get noticed.

Deadlines to consider

Retail and sales summer internships take place, funnily enough, in the summer for students who are in their penultimate year of university. Many schemes kick off in July and usually lasting between six and 10 weeks. If you’d like to do one of these internships, you need to plan ahead! Do your research in the first few weeks of your penultimate year so that you know who has deadlines and when for internship applications. It’s likely that they’ll crop up early on into the New Year after the Christmas break. If your proactive urge compels you to do something about it a mere matter of weeks before the end of the academic year, it’ll unfortunately already be too late!

If you’ve planned to do an industry placement as part of your degree, there should be plenty of guidance from your university throughout second year to help you get prepped for it. If you’re sure that retail and sales is where you want to spend your year then, again, early research into companies offering industry placement opportunities is key. 

You will be able to start applying for graduate schemes in your final year of university. The majority of schemes ask that you are expecting to achieve a minimum of a 2:1 in your degree, so it’s important you don’t take your eye off your studies with all of this future career groundwork!