Retail pros at Target, Sephora, Meijer and Nike share insights on getting started

By Lottie Watts
Published Sep 17, 2020

This week on NRF Foundation All Access, a panel of recent graduates who are working at some of retail’s top companies gave us a look at how they got their careers started, and what they’ve learned so far along the way.  

Here are a few takeaways from our guests:

Target Executive Team Leader Keon Rayford on figuring out what you want to pursue:  

Many of us do internships. For students this year, COVID-19 posed something unforeseen and companies scaled back internships.

Internships are the more conventional route, but if you can do it, working in jobs shows you a lot. While I was at Bowling Green, I worked at Verizon Wireless. I realized that building a team was more of what I wanted to do.

Ask to job shadow people who are in the field you’re interested in. I think that’s a thing that we don’t do anymore – young people are scared to, or we think people will say no. Even just this week, I shadowed someone for a position I’m interested in at my company, and it taught me a lot about their role.

Sephora Services Manager Lydia Gonzalez on finding work-life balance:

I love to work all the time. Especially in the retail industry, it’s nonstop. That’s been my biggest learning – how to balance everything.

As a new leader, you want to take on everything that you can and I’ve learned that sometimes you can’t do it at all.

That’s one thing I’ve learned to appreciate – going to school at FIDM, working full-time and then having that personal life – work-life balance has been a little bit of a challenge, but I feel like I’ve got it down.

Meijer Retail Line Leader Peyton Byrd on using what you learned in class:

If you are working part-time while you’re in college, take what you learn in those books and apply it to the work.

I would be in my marketing class at Indiana University, and the next day I would go to work and I would see, “OK, this is why we position things on the shelves like this” and “this is why we merchandise it like this,” and it really makes sense.

And right after college, going straight into the job, you’re not going to know it all. Reach out to those individuals who are willing to be there for you to help you grow.

Nike Marketplace Merchandising Manager Talia Watts (and member of the NRF Foundation Board of Directors) on making the most out of an internship:

While I was at school at the University of Arizona, I interned with Nike. I treated it like it was a 12-week interview.

I took it as an opportunity to not only explore the company and learn more about what my role would be potentially if I were to come back, but also to get to know the people and understand so many different facets within this industry.

I was offered a full-time job at the end of the summer, and so I finished school and then started full-time with the same team I interned with. When we talk about networking and relationships, it was such an amazing experience because I was able to continue that journey that I had started with that team.   

NRF Foundation All Access includes a virtual career fair on Oct. 8. You can explore job and internship listings now as you prepare to connect with recruiters from a variety of companies.

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