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An alternative direction

Whilst the majority of our young women leave us to go on to Higher Education, some choose to undertake an internship or apprenticeship instead, either to gain experience of the working world before heading off to University, or as an alternative way to begin their careers.

Lara Hill (class of 2015) chose this path.

What did you study at Sixth Form and what grades did you get?

I studied the IB diploma with French, German, psychology at Higher Level and maths, English and biology at Standard Level.  I achieved 42 points.

Why did you decide to go into an apprenticeship rather than university?

I was never entirely certain that university was the right path for me as I really wanted to see the direct results of the work that I was doing. Therefore, I believed that experience in a working environment would satisfy this desire. Additionally, I had heard more frequently that it was possible to be faced with more hurdles in trying to find work, due to lack of experience, which fuelled my choice of working for a company rather than formal education.

Coming across the Harrods Retail Academy seemed like the perfect option for me. I knew that it would be beneficial to gain experience and training from a world renowned company at a young age, and I could always go to university at a later date if my employer so wished.

Tell us about the programme that you joined?

The Harrods Retail Academy lasts 18 months and is split into 3 six-month placements which you spend working as a Sales Associate in a different department in Harrods. Personally I have worked in Technology, Wines & Spirits and Fine Watches.

Whilst you have the same basic responsibilities as the other Sales Associates that you work with, by being on the programme you have more opportunities and means to develop. Whilst working in your departments you a receive additional training sessions from the Learning & Development team which range from improving your capabilities as a Harrods employee, Career talks from around the business, which furthers your insight and gives you networking opportunities, as well as meetings with Stakeholders in Harrods (including the directors of the business). These opportunities are unique to being on the programme and give delegates huge scope to make a mark and push their personal development within the business.

What do you get at the end of it?

I always describe the programme as a way to open up doors for you.

I have used the retail academy to ask my managers for more responsibilities in my departments and to strengthen and develop relationships with other managers around the business. Networking is so key, and it is not something that you will always get to regularly experience outside of a company. By networking I have gained more development opportunities which will all help my progression in the future.

By being on the programme you receive additional support from the Learning & Development/Talent Management team as well as from your managers, all to help you with your next steps of progression within Harrods wherever you are interested in heading.

You are additionally able to shadow different teams around the business such as Buying, HR or Customer Loyalty. I personally worked with the “Beyond” team who cater for the requests from the Harrods Elite customers, even down to gift wrapping a helicopter!

These opportunities allow you to uncover all the different career opportunities there are within Harrods and help you determine what it is you are interested in pursuing in the future.

What would you say to someone considering an internship, apprenticeship or school leaver programme?

Be certain that it is what you want to do. Whilst university wasn’t the right option for me, I know undoubtedly that you can gain so much from the experience and for some people it is the perfect choice for after Sixth Form.

Also, speak to people who have completed/are completing the programme you are interested in. They will be able to give you a truthful account of what their day-to-day looks like and you can determine for yourself whether it would be suited for you.

Lastly, prepare to work hard from the bottom up as opportunities are never handed to you. My biggest learning curve was switching my mentality out of a school environment where your days are heavily structured, opportunities clearly outlined to you and you are often told what to do. Coming into Harrods, I had to ask for more responsibilities and propose projects to undertake, without them being suggested to me first. Additionally, although I want to develop, it was extremely important that I demonstrated first that I could carry out my basic functions as a Sales Associate (including the less glamorous jobs) in order to gain respect and trust.

What would you like to achieve from your career in the future?

I am in the stages of applying to get on to the management programme that is offered by Harrods and work towards becoming an Assistant Manager.

At the moment, I am not completely clear on what my career pathway in the future will look like, rather I am more than happy to see what opportunities come my way.

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