This is a guest post from the founders of the Graduate Retail Fair. Take it away guys:

The Retail Industry is often tarred with narrow and unfair stereotypes. Something that’s addressed well by CareerPlayer in their graduate retail industry film. A rewarding route to follow, it may surprise those entering the world of work at how broad and enterprising retail can be if taken as a career. Charles Cox, a graduate employed in Event Management and In-Store Marketing at Sainsbury’s, emphasises that in his day to day activities ‘no event will take exactly the same path’. This is a microcosm of the entire Retail Industry, an industry with countless branches, of which Event Management and In-Store Marketing is but one; and where flexibility is a must. The opportunities to find your niche on such a broad spectrum are plentiful - there are up to 18 different graduate programmes offered by some major retailers. Every opportunity within retail offers autonomy within a role that is ultimately decision making; and any entrant into the industry can be assured that they will be immediately handed a high level of responsibility. Across any career in retail, planning for weeks and months in advance is integral. This is a component of an industry that is inherently progressive, one untouched by boredom and stasis; one in which opportunity for advancement is rife.

Often overlooked by those unaccustomed to retail is its influence on a national and even international scale. When detailing his role as a Store Manager for Marks and Spencer, Lee Reed mentions that ‘It’s not just about your store sometimes, it can be about wider business issues and it can be about wider regional issues throughout regions you work in’. Retail has an incredibly overarching impact on business and the local community that greatly exceeds most other professions - if you want to effect discernible change on both of these levels, then retail could be the answer for you. Due to the diverse nature of roles offered within retail, don’t feel that you’re limited by your degree specificity – if you’re studying retail, great, but students across many disparate disciplines are sought out by retailers.

Entering a graduate programme with a major retailer offers a clear and vertical career progression, but sometimes that isn’t always the answer for candidates that desire more choice once placed in a role. Alex Williams, a Brand Manager at Sainsbury’s, gives an example of this malleability, suggesting that a graduate who started in customer and marketing ‘could opt for a couple of years in trading’, which would give them a ‘broader more commercial backing’, enabling them to then return to customer and marketing and move up a rung on the ladder. This represents another major advantage of pursuing a retailing career, the scope for moving around within a grade to find a role that suits you, in the object of advancing linearly in a previous role, or merely to find a better fit for your skills, is one unparalleled in most other industries. One main reason why so many applications fall at the first hurdle is because of a failure to properly research the company. Before approaching the process, take time to examine industry sources (such as The Grocer magazine) as well as the companies you’re applying for.

We understand how difficult and daunting it can be for graduates wanting to enter the industry; and this is where we come in. The Graduate Retail Fair on Wednesday the 22nd of October in the Rose Bowl at Leeds University is the perfect arena to explore these possibilities, with many major retailers in attendance, including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis Partnership, Arcadia and Asda. Students from all degree disciplines and institutions are welcome at the fair. With opportunities in event management, buying and merchandising, food and nutrition, marketing, management, logistics, IT, HR and many more; a comprehensive spread of skills are required. If you desire employment within a field that is exciting, ever-changing and unpredictable then the Retail Sector and the Graduate Retail Fair are tailored exactly for you.

It’s not just the Retailers themselves that you’ll be able to get to grips with, the Graduate Retail Fair will help you get accustomed to the stringent application processes of graduate programmes from start to finish. At the Graduate Retail Fair, if a particular employer catches your eye; booking an Employer Clinic is the way to go. A close quarters meeting with the retailer of your choice, you will be able to better assess the tone of the company to see if it aligns with your ideals. When progressing to interview stage at a major retailer, the Assistant Vice President of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Ben Lawson offers sage advice ‘as we look to whether you’re going to be suitable for us, you really need to be interviewing us to see whether we’re going to be suitable for you’. This active curiosity you need to take in a prospective employer in retail should start well before the interview stage – the Employer Clinic offers the perfect platform to engage this curiosity.  

For more information on the Graduate Retail Fair, please visit www.retailgraduatefair.co.uk. Attendance is free and you can register your attendance via the website, which has detailed information on location and transport, like National Retail Graduate Careers Fair on Facebook or follow @GradRetFair on Twitter for further information.

All of the people quoted in this article can be found on CareerPlayer's Graduate Retail Careers page.

Guest Post by Sophie Adams, Simon Pollard & Greg Davis
Smart Resourcing Solutions Ltd