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But I studied archaeology!: How to secure a job in retail with the degree you have

Elise Tornos

It can sometimes be difficult to see how your academic background might make for a competitive job application in the retail & FMCG sector. Here are four tips to get you started.

Unless you’ve studied something like business or commerce, it can be difficult to see how your academic background might make for a competitive job application in the retail & FMCG sector. After all, it mightn’t seem that your major in, say, chemistry will be very useful as a retail employee. Fortunately, it is possible, with a little creativity, to identify the more advantageous aspects of your degree and bring them to the fore. Here are four tips to get you started.  

Know your prospective employer

This is the most important tip: you must ensure that you’re familiar with any prospective employers and the specifics of the role you’re applying for. You can do this by researching the business online, reaching out to current employees, and aiming to build on the job description with more detail. This allows you to identify what the employer wants, and start thinking about how you can meet its needs.

Focus on soft skills

The retail industry is unlike other graduate employers insofar as it frequently doesn’t require a specific academic background. Instead, it emphasises the importance of soft skills, like the ability to listen, communicate, demonstrate leadership, work in a team, and solve complex problems.

So think about how your degree—whatever it is—allowed you to demonstrate those attributes. Perhaps you consistently received high marks for your presentations, or maybe you joined the executive of a university club or society. If you’re stumped, you can always check the course description provided by your university—these generally a list of desired attributes that all graduates are expected to possess.

Emphasise relevant work experience

If you’ve worked already, then you’ve given yourself a massive leg-up when it comes to applying for graduate jobs in retail. As with the soft skills above, the trick is to identify and emphasise the most relevant aspects of your work experience. Did you work with a team? Did you demonstrate leadership? Were you responsible for customer service?   

Seek out references

While it’s easy enough to prove that you’re a biologist by training, it can be harder to show that what sets you apart is a knack for leadership or an ability to relate easily to people from a range of backgrounds. To increase your credibility, it’s helpful to provide third-party verification in the form of a written reference. You can ask past employers, academics and teachers, community leaders, and other reputable contacts for a reference, and don’t be shy about requesting that they emphasise the attributes most likely to secure your future employment.