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It's My Job

By Victoria Bozek

"Searching for jobs and updating my resume was like a second full-time job for me at the time. Once I finally got that call, I felt like all my hard work really paid off,” Maria Borriello, a 2009 Lasell College fashion retail and merchandising graduate explains as she recalls getting her job as a merchandising clerical, a great entry-level position in the buying area at Chadwicks, of the Boston Apparel Group. Lasell College fashion and retail merchandising alumnae like Maria Borriello know firsthand how difficult that perfect dream job may be to find straight out of college. Some students set their dreams on New York City, Los Angeles, or maybe even Paris, but others like Maria, Bekah Levine, and Danielle Ditommaso have found true happiness and success just a short drive outside the city of Boston. Today, more than ever, it is important to have not only an education but also plenty of experience on your resume. All three of these successful Lasell alumnae have arrived at the conclusion that getting their ideal job is an ultimate goal with steps to take, and they offer a few helpful tips while preparing for that first real-world job. The first post in your field out of college may not be the position that a million girls would die for, but it’s the perfect first step toward finding a career in the fast-paced fashion industry.

Bekah Levine graduated from Lasell in 2004 and soon after found a job in retail as an assistant manager at Brown Shoe. For over a year, she stuck with Brown Shoe, learning about the retail industry and management. Once the company moved to New York, Bekah decided that moving to the city wasn’t her cup of tea. She was back to square one again, with no full-time job. After much anticipation and searching, Bekah found a position at Jjill’s headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts, as an assistant sourcing manager. Jill is a multichannel retailer selling women’s clothing, accessories, and footwear. The Jjill customer loves to wear comfortable but stylish clothing. The brand includes soft fabrics and exclusive designs while still following the leading fashion trends. How did you apply for this job? Bekah: After leaving Brown Shoe, I revamped my resume and put it online. I sent my resume directly to Jjill and at first didn’t hear anything for over three months but finally got a call back. During my interview with Jjill, they offered me a position as an assistant sourcing manager. I had never thought of holding a position in sourcing, but I knew that it would be great experience, plus I really needed a full-time job.

What are the skills and qualifications needed to hold this position? Bekah: I can’t tell you how often I use Excel. I also can’t tell you how thankful I am to have had Professor Bath and many other faculty members teach me how important Excel is in a job. I literally use the application every single day at work. Problem solving, thinking quickly on my feet, and great communication skills are also three key players in sourcing. Negotiating with vendors is something I was taught in my job. Because it was an entry-level position, there was no requirement to have this knowledge. What is your favorite part of your job? Bekah: The times the vendors come into the headquarters. It’s so interesting to meet them and listen to the problems that we encounter. For example, the cost of cotton is the highest it’s ever been. This is a major factor for the retail industry. What’s your next career move? Bekah: During my time at Lasell, I completed my internship at a photography studio. Even if this internship may not have helped my fashion career, it helped me realize other options if fashion does not work out in the long run. I have taken my interest in photography to the next step and am currently trying to balance between working a full-time job and going to photography school. A more recent graduate from the program is Maria Borriello. She was a 2009 graduate of Lasell who struggled like other alumnae to find her first full-time job in the fashion industry. In February 2010, Maria got a call that changed her life. Since then, she has been working at Chadwicks as a merchandising clerical, an entry-level position in the buying office. Chadwicks is geared to women between twenty-five and fiftyfive. It is for a woman who likes classic looks and is not fashion forward. The company is all catalog and online distributing with no retail stores in operation. Boston Apparel Group is the parent group that includes Chadwicks, as well as Metro Style and Casual Living. While Maria was in college, she worked at City Sports as an intern/sales associate. She primarily worked on the floor, helping with merchandising, visual merchandising, and management. Keeping a close relationship with her district manager gave her an opportunity to move from sales associate, to clothing manager, up to visual merchandiser for the store. Maria was asked to stay longer with the company, but she wanted to find a company whose style she could relate to. How did you apply for this job? Maria: I applied in February of 2010 and ended up getting a phone call shortly afterwards. I originally applied to be a merchandising assistant for shoes. During my interview, though, I was told by the person who was interviewing me that Katie, director of catalog development at Chadwicks, was looking for a position to be filled for a merchandising clerical. The merchandising assistant position ended up getting filled but I got the clerical position instead. I could not have been happier! What does your job as a merchandising clerical entail? Maria: I help build the catalog books with my manager Katie, who hired me. Every season there are various books, usually three or four per series/season, so we are constantly working on a book. As a team, we make sure that the catalog follows a certain merchandising grid, which is created through Excel. The grid will include the color, size, and description of the model. Throughout this process there are various meetings that I must attend with the merchandising team. At the meetings, sometimes the buyers will be there, the creative team, and the big boss, Adrianne, who has the final say on the books. I’ll help merchandise the outfits, creating looks that would appeal to the Chadwicks customer. I also am in charge of being sure that the garments are packaged and shipped out in time after the photo shoots. What are the skills and qualifications needed to hold this position? Maria: Organization is so important in this industry. Without being organized, I would never know what book I would be working on that day or what meeting I should be attending. This job has also taught me how to be assertive. If I have a question I’m never afraid to ask someone. It’s good to ask questions and it shows people you are really interested in what you do.

What is your favorite part of your job? Maria: I love the responsibility I have in my job, and it always keeps me on my toes. Some weeks Katie, my manager, isn’t there, and I have to be sure I take as many notes and am as assertive as I usually am, even when she is present. What is your next career move? Maria: At this time I am happy with my position at Chadwicks. I have no career plans in mind anytime soon, but if a big opportunity does come my way I’ll take it, but only if it’s in Boston. I love the area; it’s my home! A 2010 Lasell graduate, Danielle Ditommaso has learned about the many struggles that come with finding a job at the corporate level. In order to get her foot in the door in the fashion industry, Danielle started in August 2008 working as a sales associate for Janie & Jack at the South Shore Plaza, Danielle fell in love with the children’s retailer and decided to do an internship with the company, where she worked in the store level. Making her way up the ladder, Danielle went from intern to part-time manager and all the way to full-time manager, in just a matter of months. Before she knew it, she was being promoted to store manager for Janie & Jack at South Shore. Janie & Jack shops offer clothing and accessories for babies, toddlers, and children, sizes newborn up to size 12. Janie & Jack and Crazy 8 are owned by the Gymboree Corporation. All three retailers are available online and in store, selling children’s wear at a range of prices. What does your job as a store manager entail? Danielle: A lot of what I do must go through my district manwager. But as a store manager, I have a lot of responsibility. Recruiting and interviewing employees, as well as training, take up a big portion of my time. Dealing with operational audits, doing visual audits, and helping with the corrective process are three other important areas. I also help with store openings at other retail locations throughout the Boston area, which is great to get a chance to do some traveling. Throughout my time as a manager, though, I’ve learned it’s important to follow through with all managers and be sure to delegate tasks so I do not take on too much at once

What are the skills and qualifications needed to hold this position? Danielle: Ideally, someone who wants to be a retail store manager should have two to three years of management experience but internally only a year as a full-time employee. Ability to communicate effectively with people and make decisions quickly is vital. In retail, the hours can be brutal and exhausting, but having a flexible schedule and remaining open to whenever is ideal. Being organized and being detail oriented are also two traits that have brought me a long way. Having great teaching and coaching methods is also important, in order to train my employees so they can sell and give great customer service. What is your favorite part of your job? Danielle: I would definitely have to say the customers and the people I work with. Besides the people, it would include training and developing the staff. I love seeing my accomplishments I have made throughout my time here. What is your next career move? Danielle: Ideally, I would love to move into corporate somewhere in the Boston area, whether it’s in store operations or visual merchandising. Working in a store setting has made me realize how much I love working for a retail store, and I think I have the skills to follow through with both these areas. At the moment, I am taking graduate courses at Lasell in order to complete my master’s degree. I’m hoping with a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree under my belt as well as my working experience, I’ll be on the right track to getting into the corporate world. Although these career paths may not have been exactly what these fashion and retail merchandising students were looking for after college, Maria, Bekah and Danielle have a great start on successful careers, with the endless opportunities in the fashion industry. Besides getting a degree in fashion, it’s also really important to get experience and never to give up even when the going gets tough. If persistence means skipping out on a night with friends and staying in to search websites for a job, it will pay off in the end. By keeping an open mind and by watching for opportunities, your dream job with a big-time designer like Donna Karan or Michael Kors may be just around the corner.

 

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