‘Contrary to Gen Y theory, careers aren’t built overnight’: Four tips for a successful career in retail

These days, the most rewarding part of Craig King’s job as CEO of General Pants Group is identifying and working with talented young people. King is an advocate for helping young retailers progress through their careers, however, he believes contrary to popular Gen Y theory, careers aren’t built over night, but are a product of many small steps over time.

King began his career in retail with the attitude it was ‘just a job’ starting out on the shop floor of a Melbourne fashion store called Trellini when he was 21. A few year later he was headhunted by Mark Keighery, founder of Marcs, to work across the brand’s buying and operations.

“I remember leaving university and being worried that my friends who were still there would end up more success than me. I thought I may have messed it up a little! That anxiety to not fail was a massive motivator however, and I speak to GP Co staff these days and tell them there’s no ceiling to what you can achieve, provided you keep learning and keep pushing yourself.”

King excelled through his career by identifying processes that could be improved, from changing buying methods to stock the most popular sizes and styles, working unpaid on Saturdays on the shop floor to learn more about the brand and customers, to setting himself a goal of read a book a fortnight to learn more about his industry and business management techniques.

General Pants CEO Craig King at the Young Retailer of the Year Award

General Pants CEO Craig King dispenses career advice at the Young Retailer of the Year Award

Speaking at the National Retail Association’s Young Retailer of the Year Award on Friday night, King offered four pieces of career advice for Gen Y:

“As time goes by, and you’ll find this out for yourselves, the gap between here and there is actually not that big. The [retail] industry is full of ordinary people that are giving extraordinary efforts and I think that is the mind blowing thing, that’s the most amazing thing.

“In retail, everybody has a great chance at an incredible career, you just need to commit, you need to be present every day and deliver.”

1. Be driven and focused every day.

Your first eight years of your career, you are going to work about 3,000 days. Can you imagine how powerful it is if you have 3,000 committed days versus 3,000 days where you just front up to work, where you are hanging out for Friday afternoon? 3,000 committed days makes you bulletproof, it means you are going to have some very solid skills by the age of 30.

2. Be prepared to sacrifice for your goals

How can you expect to be extraordinary if you only work as hard as everybody else? That mathematically just doesn’t make sense. To be extraordinary to push forward means you have to sacrifice a few things, it might be you don’t go for drinks on Sunday because you want to be prepared for Monday. It may be that you work back to 10 o’clock for a few weeks… whatever it happens to be, there will be plenty of nights out but these little sacrifices make a big difference and they do get noticed.

3. Be passionate about learning.

Regardless of where you are at, there is some guy or girl at another organisation who is doing a similar role. Now you’re all sort of lined up, so if you are all kind of learning at the same rate again, how are you going to get in front of them?

The internet is full of every piece of information you could possibly think of, there are books for days and days. So understand your industry, understand your category but add to it, read books on management, read books on time management, read books on other industries and get a greater understanding of how it all works. You won’t think much of it after the first book or the second book or the third book, but everyone I know who has done really, really well has read a whole lot of books. So be passionate about learning, it makes big difference.

4. Always be looking to do more.

Anyone can fill out their job description; anyone can do the two or three pages of what the HR team give you at the start of your job. You should be able to get that done in three days a week. The other two days look for more. Look to add value, look to up-skill … When you do that there are so many benefits, you learn more, you get exposed to more, and you ingratiate yourself with your managers and your senior managers. When that promotion comes around it’s a no brainer; “It’s got to go to Alice, my god, she already does the job. She is already excelling, she is already overachieving and doing more than we have ever asked.” I can tell you, at GPs it’s the one thing we look out for when promotions come around, who is doing their job and doing a brilliant job, but who is adding to it on top of that.

In summary: “Be driven, be prepared to sacrifice, be passionate about learning and always look to do more.”

“Life is full of people who could have been anything, but didn’t, but the most amazing possession you have right now is time. You have options, right now, so you can either waste your time or make the most of every minute. Choose to make the most of this vital commodity, over and over, every day, and you will be amazed at just how far you go.”

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