Monday, 8 September 2014

The Realities of a Career in Buying

If you follow The Little London Girl then you may know that I recently landed my first permanent job. If not then I'll tell you more; I was lucky enough to intern at New Look HQ last month and, even luckier, the internship led to me being hired as a graduate buyer within the China team. 
If you are interested at all in buying then you've probably already heard that it's a very very tough industry to break into because a lot of people want to do it. Generally New Look will receive around 300 to 400 applications per week for their graduate buying positions - that's double the amount they receive for a role like merchandising.
So now that I'm actually doing it I thought I'd share some advice with you on the best way to break through the industry and what the job actually entails. 

What is the job?

001: Like any job in this industry, you start right at the bottom. So as glamorous as fashion buying sounds, be prepared to start with a lot of admin work (a graduate role in buying is entitled 'buyers admin assistant'). You can work up to buyer fairly quickly but putting in the ground work is essential.

002: You do get to work with the product.
Whilst it is mostly admin based to begin with you will handle a lot of product, one of my key roles during the week is to get together all the product samples we need for things like order signing (when we present what we want to be selling to the heads of buying) and fits. 

003: If you're on the right team you'll get asked for your opinion.
I know this doesn't necessarily happen everywhere but at New Look one of our assessments for moving up to the next level of buying is being able to offer up our opinions. My JB (junior buyer) and AB (assistant buyer) always run fabric samples/print samples/product samples by me and the other BAA on the team before approving.

How do I get the job?

004: Buying is popular for a number of reasons; firstly you get to work directly with the product which everybody loves and secondly its well paid and well structured in terms of a career. Like I said earlier this does result in a very competitive industry. 

005: I think it's really important - no matter what career path you take in fashion - to get internships under your belt. The industry literally runs on it's interns so get experience on your CV and do it right from the moment you know you want to get into buying. Use your uni holidays to get a months work experience with any company you can.

006: Intern once you finish uni.
Graduate buyers are recruited all year round for most companies. For the really big companies like Arcadia and New Look some positions don't even get advertised online because they don't have the time to sift through 1000 applications (my position wasn't ever advertised). You might get to the end of uni and think you've done enough unpaid work and you're totally sick of it but I can tell you now that a fairly high proportion of the graduates at New Look were interns in the company. If you're there and you know how the system works you've already got a leg up on the other applicants and you'll know about the jobs that aren't getting advertised externally.

007: Use your previous experience. 
One bit of advice my now AB gave me when she suggested I apply for the role was to make a note of all the programmes I'd used, all the tasks I'd been asked to do and anything else that might look good in the interview and it was so useful and impressive to the interviewer - she said to me since that her first thought when I talked about that stuff was that I could hit the ground running and I wouldn't need as much training.

008: Make sure you really want the job.
Sometimes it's easy to think you want to be a buyer because it sounds like such an exciting job. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job but it is really really hard work. My hours are 9 - 5:30 but most days I'm in before half 8 and I don't leave until after half 6 and I rarely take a lunch hour. I have tons of admin work to get through that isn't in any way exciting before I can start working with any product. The job is a total dream but it isn't all picking out pretty clothes and getting free stuff so make sure you've done your research.

Hopefully this is a little bit helpful to anyone thinking about this career path... if you have any questions feel free to comment and I'll answer anything I can!

Until next time,

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1 comment:

  1. I started off wanting to be a buyer but then I changed my mind, (due to other reasons) but after reading your post I feel like I have a more in depth idea of what it really entails, so I might have a look again :)