Don’t let a maths degree on your CV discourage you from applying for a fashion role. It might not seem like the best match in heaven, but skills can be transferred from unlikely places, with past education and employment being invaluable in all professional experiences.
We spoke to three members of staff at fashion retailer bonprix about how their different career paths steered them to working in the fashion industry. Project Manager, Lydia; Marketing Services Manager, Paul; and Offline Campaign Manager, Rosie; discuss their experience, and what they would look for in an employee.
How did you get into your current role and why?
Lydia – I was given the opportunity to work on a bonprix website migration project which then led to further opportunities focusing on specific project work. bonprix had a big project on the horizon which involved the migration of a warehouse and customer systems to the UK and I was asked to play the role as Business Change Manager on the project, which I accepted and thoroughly enjoyed.
Paul – My first role as a graduate was in a marketing department where I was coordinating direct mail campaigns. I was identified as someone who had an eye for numbers so I was drafted into the analysis team and I’ve done this ever since.
Rosie – I had four years’ experience working in a couple of marketing roles. I was lucky enough to get a taste of both B2C and B2B companies’ communications. Through that experience I figured out exactly what my interests and strengths were and what type of environment I wanted to work in. This realisation led me to the role that I am in now and I couldn’t be happier.
What impact has your university studies had on your career?
Lydia – Firstly, I would not have been able to apply for my first job without having my degree. The course allowed me to gain some real work experience which was invaluable and lastly I developed some important skills while I was there which I use in my day to day job role: communication skills, presentation skills and influencing skills.
Paul – Rightly or wrongly, the opportunities I’ve had in my career aren’t really open to people without a degree, so it’s had a huge impact.
What kind of work experience did you undertake in the past?
Lydia – My placement year was spent at a nursery and baby company, and by the time I left I was a product expert for their full range of pushchairs and car seats. My work experience allowed me to put into practice some of my learnings but most importantly prepared me for the real world when I completed my degree.
Paul – From turning 16 I worked in supermarkets and pubs, which gave me a good work ethic and customer focus.
Rosie – Before gaining full-time marketing positions after university I was lucky enough to have had jobs from the age of 16: waitressing, bar work, retail, promotions and stewarding.
What would you look for in a potential employee?
Lydia – Experience is really important to me: what have they done previously and what can they bring to the role. I also think adaptability is a really positive thing to have in any team. Not being able to adapt to change can really hold you back in your career!
Paul – Somebody who I’m happy to spend 40 hours of my life each week with and somebody with the aptitude for the job they are going to be doing and a willingness to learn.
Rosie – A potential employee needs to be passionate about the position, have clear eagerness to learn and show enthusiasm. If they don’t have any direct experience in the industry I look for transferable skills, hardworking and being articulate are two of them.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Lydia – Don’t take a student loan if you can manage without one! It has to be paid back. Plan your time better and start coursework a lot earlier in order to stop that last minute panic. Fail to plan, plan to fail!
Paul – Don’t get stressed about things. Look at your boss and if they’re not worried, you don’t have to be.
As bonprix’s team discusses, it’s not necessarily like-for-like experience that you will be judged on in interviews. Employers look for hardworking qualities and the willingness to learn that will stand the test of time in a new role.