Before joining the TJX Europe graduate scheme, I worked as a national account manager with a media company. However, the nature of the work didn't suit me and I didn't feel there were sufficient career progression opportunities. I decided to join a graduate scheme as this struck me as the best way to gain an understanding of a role and a business from the very base level, and to set myself up to advance in my career afterwards.
I knew I wanted to work with products and a Google search to find large retail businesses that trade a high number of goods led me to TJX Europe. The company doesn't have stores in the countries I had lived (Italy and Denmark) so I'd never even heard of its UK brands, TKMaxx and Homesense. Researching the company, I was amazed by the number and variety of merchandise it sold so I decided to make an application.
Showing my interest
My initial application was successful, so I completed some online assessments and had a video interview. I then attended the assessment centre.
I think what made me stand out was the amount of passion I had for the business. It came through in the curiosity I showed about the company at the assessment centre. Recruiters like to see that a candidate is genuinely interested in their company and this often comes across in the kind of questions they ask. I advise graduates to research companies before applying to their graduate schemes; they should apply to the businesses that spark their interest and that they can see themselves working for.
Getting to know colleagues
The merchandising and buying graduate scheme included comprehensive training, where I gained a core understanding of the tools and models used at TJX Europe before using them throughout my time on the programme. I also worked with teams of buyers, getting to grips with their day-to-day work, and spent some time in-store, seeing how goods are processed, displayed and sold. I enjoyed the merchandising aspect of the scheme as this gave me the chance to contribute my ideas and make an impact while also feeling supported; I never felt alone when making a decision.
We had structured, classroom-based training sessions. These were facilitated by experienced colleagues relaying advice – often through stories and anecdotes. Not only did this show me what it was like to work at TJX Europe but I also soon found that the tips were practically useful. The trainers encouraged us to ask questions and the more I learned the more confident I felt to do so. This is something that has stood out to me throughout my time working for the company; each employee is empowered to improve and contribute.
Having moved to the UK from Copenhagen on my own for the graduate programme, I really valued any activity that helped me to connect with other graduates. The moment I began seeing my colleagues as friends was actually when we were on the bus to visit the Midlands. I hadn't been on a bus trip since high school, but I remember that I'd return from a school trip feeling more bonded with my classmates. I had a similar feeling on this bus trip with TJX Europe.
The business of buying
As a buyer for menswear, I purchase goods for different departments – knitwear, casualwear (tops) and outerwear – from Italy, to be sold across Europe and online. A buyer for TJX Europe is basically an entrepreneur. I find the ability to make an impact on the business with every decision I make to be empowering. I see the results of my work on a weekly basis, which motivates me to do better. The amount of time I spend travelling can make the job challenging at times, but the freedom to make my own decisions definitely makes up for this.
If you want to work in buying or merchandising, it's crucial that you know your customer and can understand different people from different backgrounds. For me, the fact that I've worked and studied in different countries has helped with this. While you don't need to have spent time living abroad to get on the TJX Europe graduate scheme, you should be able to understand how different trends and cultures might impact on what customers buy.
How my grass gaffe helped me grow
When I was working as an analyst, I accidentally sent 500 pampas grass plants to a TKMaxx store that had recently opened in Harlow. You can imagine my fear when I discovered my mistake and then got a call from the merchandising manager! But instead of ordering me to pack my bags, he suggested that I should drive to Harlow to look into things. In the end, I managed to get the extra plants sent to different stores and I learned a lot from talking with various store associates. I run training sessions now, and I used the story as a basis for a series of sessions I held for new graduates on how to ship to your store and what precautions to take.
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