Kate Benefield, BA Geography and Business Management Student at the University of Leeds

Kate Benefield

What does the company do?

John Lewis is a high-end department store retailer and the UK’s largest omni-channel retailer. The Partnership is a unique business as all 84,000 Partners own the business and it is very much powered by its people.

What is your role within the company?

I worked as a Section Manager for a team of fifteen Partners in the Audio & TV department in one of John Lewis’ biggest stores. On a daily basis I was responsible for running the shop floor, managing a large team of Selling Partners, resolving customer queries and leading commercial floor walks. When I was not on the shop floor I was organising upcoming retail events, analysing sales figures, preparing for stock takes and dealing with Personnel.

What did you enjoy the most and did you get involved in any interesting projects?

I enjoyed leading a team of people in a fast-paced retail environment. From my first day I was given a high level of responsibility and was able to put management knowledge from university into practice. I successfully led the Black Friday Event in branch, using strong commercial awareness to maximise sales, re-merchandising and working with suppliers and buyers. I thrived off seeing positive results from months of hard work.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I chose to complete a year in industry to gain hands-on management experience, which I would never have received from a university lecture. I also knew the importance of work experience in order to increase my employability as a graduate. I was aware that taking a year out of studying would give me an insight into career opportunities after I graduated, which I would not have benefitted from if I had continued into third year. 

What do you think you have got out of this experience so far? 

I gained valuable management experience and each day I was faced with different challenges. The placement also developed my interpersonal skills as I was regularly communicating with stakeholders at all levels across the business. I also developed an understanding of the pressures facing the retail industry in 2017 which I have been able to apply to my final year studies.

Finally, this opportunity enabled me to build a network with a group of students from universities across the UK, who were also on the placement scheme.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

Do it! My biggest tip would be to apply for a role that not only interests you but that will also push you out of your comfort zone. The skills and experience gained from a year in industry will benefit you, whichever career you choose and you will stand out above other candidates as you will have the practical, real life experience that is highly valued by potential employers.