Working in a retail head office appeals to a lot of store managers. Why wouldn't it? Normal working hours (so they say), weekends off, not dealing with irate customers face-to-face, getting to sit down once in a while rather than standing all day, and other perceived benefits make it very appealing.
I've personally never worked in a retail corporate office (although I've worked in an office environment many times) and I'm sure it's not all sunshine and roses. Still, the idea of a corporate position is something that appeals to many of the store managers and other field leaders who engage my services.
But getting that coveted corporate gig can be tough. It's not impossible, of course, but it is very difficult because you will be competing against people who already have corporate experience as well as many others, just like yourself, who want to get there.
However, I'm not an advocate of giving up and simply accepting our lot in life. If you want to advance to that level, go for it. Here are some tips to help you get there:
Expand your knowledge of corporate departments
Not all corporate positions are the same. Jobs in marketing are not the same as human resources. Inventory planning is not the same as buying. Supply chain is not the same as finance. Many of these departments work closely together, but they're not the same in terms of what they do and what qualifications they expect candidates to have. Having a solid understanding of what the departments in a corporate office actually do is critical.
Identify your ideal job target
My first question to someone wanting to make this transition is usually, "What type of position are you looking for?" What I normally hear back is "Doesn't matter - I just need some type of work/life balance" or "Anything would be great." There are a few who know exactly what they want but most really have no clue what they're aiming for. And, of course, you can't hit something if you don't know what you're aiming at. Figure out what you want to do and go for it. (Besides, recruiters like candidates who know what they want.)
Research job requirements
How do you know if you're qualified for a corporate position if you don't know what qualifications they're looking for? Start researching job postings on the internet for your desired job targets. What type of experience are they looking for and how much? What level of academic education is required? What skills are necessary? Are you required to have additional training certifications or memberships in professional associations? Research postings from multiple companies because not everyone will be looking for the same things. Also keep in mind that you don't need to have 100% of the required qualifications in order to apply; if you have 75%, go for it, but if you only have 50%, perhaps hold off until you get a bit closer (recruiters will appreciate that).
Take additional education or training
It's important to understand that your experience at the store level may not be enough - additional education or training may be required in order to transition to the corporate level. Even though I often hear, "I know all about buying because I place orders for my store," it's important to realize that's not actually buying. Head office roles are very different from field positions. Since you don't have direct experience at the corporate level, having additional education, training, or certifications to boost your in-store experience can only help.
Network with field leaders and corporate partners
Chances are you know people who work in a retail home office, either with your current company or previous ones. Call them up. Connect with them on LinkedIn or other places. Ask them if you can do an informational interview. Find out what they do, what they're responsible for, what a typical day looks like, what qualifications are required for their position, what education or training was needed, etc. Research everything you can.
Find a mentor
During your networking, keep an eye out for possible mentors. Building a long-term relationship with a trusted mentor can be critical to finding success - especially since it may be a lengthy process from the time you start your search to the time you are hired and start the position. A good mentor can provide honest feedback, as well as support, through your job search and your early days in the position when you are still finding your feet. In fact, a good mentor can continue to be valuable throughout your career.
Share your career goals
Does your immediate supervisor know your career goals? If not, have a sit down and share your plans - it may be helpful. Perhaps he or she could steer you in the right direction in terms of information, contacts, or opportunities. Of course, be smart about timing - if you've just started with a new company, it may backfire if you tell them that your current job isn't really what you want. You don't want to give them the impression that the investment they made in you was a mistake because your mind is on other things.
Prove that you've accomplished all you can at your level
Top decision-makers like to hire, or internally promote, star performers. The best "proof" you can offer that you will be successful in a corporate position is, of course, previous successful experience in a similar role. Barring that, however, showing that you were successful in the field can be very helpful. Make sure your resume showcases you as a superstar - that you've met your targets, earned repeated promotions, won awards, managed special projects, served on committees, etc. Show that you've achieved all you can and you're ready for the next step.
If you're unsure whether your current resume positions you as a strong candidate for advancement to a corporate position, email it to me and I may be able to help:
I wish you all the best in your career!
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