8 March, 2018


Sarah originally wanted to be a primary school teacher. So she chose the right A-levels and won a place to study for an Education degree at Nottingham Trent University. Sarah loved the teaching placements, but found the pace of the course very slow.

In sharp contrast to the part-time job she was doing to fund her studies. “I started working as a 24-hour-a-week Customer Assistant at our West Bridgford Simply Food store. It was a big store, so fast-paced, a fantastic first retail experience,” she remembers. “So I made the decision to leave uni, took a Section Manager Coordinator role, passed my assessment for Section Manager and then started my Level 4 Apprentice in Retail Management to climb further up the ranks.”

It was a big decision to leave uni and change her career ambitions. So does Sarah have any regrets? “Uni is expensive and doesn’t always lead to a ‘graduate’ job,” she muses. “Work-based skills and experiences matter increasingly these days. If an Apprenticeship provides training tailored to your needs, you’re in a win-win situation and fortunately my training is relevant and applicable day to day. But a word of warning: you need the commitment and drive to see it through, plus the time management and organisational skills to meet deadlines, especially at Level 4.”

Sarah loves the intensity of retail and the ever-changing environment of M&S. As a Customer Assistant, she found there was lots to get her teeth into – and if uni is supposed to be a hotbed of learning and development, so too is M&S especially with the number of stores and store formats, products and services. “I’m lucky to have experienced five different stores and three different store formats, working with around 800 colleagues on both the food and clothing sides of the business,” she says.

Sarah’s now Relief Commercial Manager at our Lincoln store as she completes her Apprenticeship, acting as ‘No.2’ in the store and as Foods & Hospitality Commercial Manager. It certainly keeps her on her toes. As ‘No 2’, Sarah duty manages the store: “I do a full store walk to check we’re safe to open, meet managers to discuss priorities, plan commercial events, liaise with my team and support the service proposition – after all, we’ve always been known for quality products and exceptional service, and I’ve had a customer make a special return visit to thank us for finding her an outfit for a special occasion. But I’ll even roll my sleeves up to help out in the café if needed!”

Sarah sees herself as a future Store Manager – either in a Food Hall or on the high street, she’s open to ideas. She’s learned lots on the job and seized opportunities to gain new experiences, but she’s appreciative of the help she’s been given to help her achieve her goals.

“Managers have been so supportive in making sure I have my 20% study time each week and there are lots of experienced colleagues to learn from. The M&S culture is very people-orientated, so if you’re hardworking and passionate about excellence, everyone will help you to get on.”

Inside M&S