By Alexa DePerro
Despite all of the missed family events, Friday nights and days to do absolutely nothing but relax that I will never get back, working during college is the best thing that has happened to me. Since Drexel is so fast paced and D&M is an intense major, one may ask, “How do you even have time for a job?” My Tim Gunn inspired answer is always, “I make it work.”
By making it work, I have benefited myself in so many ways that when comparing taking on an extra shift and a missed Friday night out, the extra shift will always win. So next time when your professor says to “Go out and get a job!”, this is why you should listen:
- You Attend Drexel University
I am sure that 90% of those who attend Drexel came for the unbelievable co-op. We get grown-up jobs for six months. Therefore, by getting a part time job that relates to your major (even in the smallest way possible), you are filling up your resume with valuable experience that companies will ask you about in your interviews. A part -time job is a lot better to put on your resume than your high school activities from three years ago. Plus, you can add your experience to your LinkedIn too where your manager can endorse your skills!
2. Enhance Your Portfolio
As a Design & Merchandising major, a portfolio is usually “suggested” when going to an interview, especially if you want to be in the visual merchandising part of the industry. There is no better way than to create a visual portfolio of real life displays to highlight your skills, rather than just pictures of color boards made from Photoshop. By working in retail and establishing a trusted relationship with your manager based on your wonderful Drexel D&M credibility, you sometimes will be able to put a hand or two into the store’s visuals.
I work at Francesca’s where overhead visuals have to be changed on a day-to-day basis. Every time I change a visual and make it my own, I take a picture of it for my portfolio. At my other job, Dress For The Image Boutique, I get to photograph new merchandise and post it on Instagram as well as blog for the boutique’s website, all of which will be in my portfolio. Getting out there and creating a portfolio looks better than saving window displays on your Pinterest page!
If there is one thing that is repeated throughout all D&M classes, it is the word ‘networking’ and how important it is to network. A lot of us picked Design & Merchandising as our major because we love shopping or have an incredible cliche passion for fashion. Working in retail has led me to so many connections that will always be in my back pocket when it comes time for co-op. For me, not only does it start with my manager and district mangers, but also my customers. My customer service ability has led me to create great relationships. Because of this I was able to network with a stylist from Neiman Marcus who knew buyers at Nordstrom! Voila! The power of a part-time job!
4. Things Will Make More Sense at Work
One of the trickiest scenarios I’ve had working in retail was separating the ‘blues’ by ‘indigo’ and ‘navy’ when they were not labeled. Luckily in Design II, which I will be honest was a very hard class for me, I learned almost every single color known to man and how each was made. So it was up to me to separate the blues since my managers didn’t have the wonderful Rashidah Salam to teach them about color theory. I now understand why I had to take Design I, II and III. Thank you Visual Studies.
5. Things Will (also) Make More Sense in Class
Taking Joe Hancock’s Planning class taught me all of the key words that went into buying. Distinguishing what ‘basic stock’ really was tricked me up a little bit. Going into work the next day, the term finally clicked for me as I was trying to sell a customer a shirt that was moderately low priced, always in stock, and in numerous colors… duh, Alexa, basic stock! Taking Joe’s class also helped explain to me the weird phenomena of having an extremely packed back room full of inventory when there was zero space for any of it on the walls to sell. Fun fact: The following holiday weekend when there was a BOGO 50% off sale, we had sold an incredible number of units and lo and behold, the back room was back to a normal volume. Having the right number of inventory based on promotions and what each store’s net sale goal was is crucial to success. It is amazing how much clearer things become when you actually experience them.
6. Improve Yourself!
Yes, it is completely stressful when you have to run from class straight to work and stay up to 3 AM trying to get homework done, but this will force you to become organized. As a person who used to never use a planner and whose dorm room looked like a tornado hit it, I can easily say I am no longer like that after balancing 19 credits and two retail jobs. Having little to no time has improved my time management and organizational skills as well as my work ethic. That is something that is hard to get in the habit of unless you are forced to do it. Taking on two retail jobs was a blessing for my roommate.
7. Work can be fun!
My dad thought I was absolutely nuts to take on a second retail position but I was primarily taking it because work is genuinely fun for me and reminds me of why I love D&M. There is nothing I love more than organizing a backroom full of clothes, styling customers, dressing mannequins and using my employee discount to suffice my shopping problem. And honestly, there is nothing more satisfying than using problem-solving skills to please a customer who walked in looking as though she could not be pleased at all (and if you have ever worked in retail, you know exactly what I’m talking about!) Also, the chances of working with people who love fashion just like you are very high. For me, I’ve made such great friends at work who I will always send goofy Snapchats to late at night when the work day is over.