13 October, 2016

More from school leaver, Ben

I was in a busy shopping centre when I got the ‘you’ve been successful’ call telling I’d made it onto the Programme. But it didn’t stop me from jumping up and down while fist pumping the air, Flash Gordon-style. So my proudest moment quickly turned into my most embarrassing public moment. My first day passed in a blur of nervous excitement; everyone was really welcoming though, so I felt immediately at home.

I’d seen many of my friends take the Uni route only to struggle to land their chosen job at the end it. For me, the School Leaver Programme represented something more concrete that I was able to get my teeth into. I’m a great believer in work-based learning. You can see the results instantly. It helps with real life skills, such as communication and planning. Plus, you learn more due to the variables of retail, staff and customers. Classroom training has its place, but I get more excited about implementing what I’ve learnt back in store. 

In my current role, it’s down to me to engage and motivate my team, to deliver a high level of customer service and shop floor standards. Monitoring revenue and turning around under-performing areas; planning launch events and every new season; and looking after the ‘Service’ pillar are also key responsibilities. Right now, I’m planning a business engagement initiative that focuses on putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.

My career with M&S so far has empowered me in several ways. ‘Big decision making’ being the first one. When you work in a fast-paced, £multi-million business, making quick commercial decisions where the buck stops with you is an extremely empowering feeling. The second is confidence – whether that’s in leading big teams towards a common goal, selling an idea to peers or managers, or leading commercial walk rounds for senior stakeholders within the business. I’ve also found myself applying the company’s values in my personal life; having integrity and being in touch are valuable traits to have in life.

The best thing about the role is that every day you can feel yourself developing as a person, a manager and as a leader. There are so many opportunities to learn more and get your teeth stuck into. Spending time in every business unit makes you a really balanced manager and provides you with many transferable skills.

Going forward, I’d like to manage a Simply Food store. This would continue my career development with the added bonus of being accountable for an entire store. Within five years, I’d like to manage a smaller Foods and Clothing and home store. That would be my ideal goal, but as long as I’m still challenging myself and progressing within M&S, if I take a slightly different path, I’ll still be very happy. 

I believe working here is a real privilege; it’s such a prestigious brand. The business is very much focused on retaining and developing future managers and provides all the resources and materials you need along the way. I really couldn’t ask for more.

Think you could join Ben on our Level 4 Retail Management Apprenticeship for School Leavers? Click here for more.

Inside M&S