How working part-time in retail pays off post-college

By Lottie Watts
Published Jun 29, 2021

How did UNIQLO Advanced Visual Stylist Ashley Cairns get her start? By making the most out of working part-time in retail while in college.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation with Cairns, who was a member of the top team in the 2018 NRF Foundation Student Challenge.

Making a “seamless” transition to full-time work

I started working in the industry while I was in college. I was able to gain the skills I needed for the position I wanted without the guesswork of graduating with a degree and wondering what I was going to do with it. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I think that really set me up for success. 

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Being candid about goals  

I worked at Express part-time through school for two years, and it was there that I fell in love with visuals and styling. I was very open with my managers and said, “I’m a student in fashion school. I want to do this.” They worked with me and promoted me quickly from a regular associate to a visual assistant.

I think being so open helped kickstart what I wanted to do because I was studying fashion in school but then getting hands-on experience. I was able to apply what I was learning directly into what I was doing in my part-time work.

The skills to develop for styling and more

No matter what position you have in retail, you have to be ready for pretty much anything. You also need to have good communication skills to work with a big team of people. When everyone is on the same page, it makes projects and tasks go a lot smoother.

For the interview process, always ask questions: what would a day in the life of this position be? What are the opportunities for growth in the company and what does that look like? That shows that you’re interested and want to be there.

Get valuable real-world experience – and up to $5,000 – with our team business competition. Learn more about the NRF Foundation Student Challenge and review the full eligibility requirements here.

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