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UCLan intern lands dream role with retail giant

In today’s competitive market, experience is a near necessity in the quest to secure a graduate job. More than 50 per cent of employers in the UK said they wouldn’t employ a graduate with no experience, according to a 2013 study of the graduate market. A meaningful internship can bridge the gap between university and employment, set graduates apart from their peers, and help them to secure sought-after roles in what can, at times, seem like an impenetrable job market. University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) graduate Rebecca Barker undertook a 12 month social media and marketing internship at the University, and has now landed her dream role as an international merchandising assistant for retail giant Debenhams, based at its head office in London. 

The Experience
After graduating from UCLan with a degree in marketing management with fashion, Rebecca’s goal was to carve a career in merchandising. Merchandising is a key area of retailing, the UK’s top service sector, which has a turnover of £150 billion. It is a high-profile and dynamic career, but one that is extremely competitive. 

The Benefits 
Rebecca says she has no doubt that her internship, combined with her degree in marketing management, was integral in securing her dream role. “A fashion merchandiser needs to be both businesses-headed and trend aware,” she explains. “On my course I studied both business-focused and creative modules, and my internship had a corporate focus while allowing me to be creative through marketing. These are invaluable skills for a career in merchandising. 

“The internship also helped me improve my communication, team work skills and confidence, which have all played a role in getting me my dream job.”

A few months after graduating Rebecca, who is originally from Manchester, received a letter about the internships being offered by UCLan to its graduates. She says: “The social media and marketing internship caught my eye and I knew it would give me an invaluable opportunity to practise the skills I’d learnt on my course and set me apart from other graduates in my position.”

The 23-year-old was offered a 12 month internship and worked within the Lancashire Law School, managing social media channels and contributing to marketing activity.

“The best thing about it was that I didn’t feel like an intern and I was given real responsibility over my work,” Rebecca says. “I would liaise with course leaders and other colleagues to make sure I was aware of what was going on in and around the Law School, interviewed students and alumni for magazines, and worked in small teams to create materials for marketing campaigns.”

UCLan Internships

The Outcome

As Rebecca’s internship drew to an end, she spotted a vacancy for an international merchandising assistant at Debenhams. She applied for the job and was shortlisted for an interview before being offered the position at Debenhams’ head office in London. She says: “Debenhams is such a well-loved and reputable company so I was over the moon when I got the job. A merchandising assistant is the first step any fashion merchandiser will take.”

Rebecca’s new role will involve supporting the international merchandising team, maintaining reports and stock lists, setting pre-orders, and updating and maintaining sales figures. She will also work closely alongside the marketing and buying teams.

Rebecca adds: “My long term goal is eventually to become a senior merchandiser, which could take anywhere between four and ten years depending on the organisation or how much effort you put into the job. My internship and the time I spent at UCLan has taught me that hard work pays off, so I will always put 100 per cent effort into anything that I do.”

Lynne Livesey, pro vice chancellor at UCLan, said: “We’re committed to providing all our students with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to make it in a competitive global graduate labour market, and are thrilled that Rebecca has been able to use the internship programme to enable her to achieve her dream career.

“Our innovative internship programme is designed to enhance and build on the many skills that our UCLan graduates develop through their time here and give our students the extra edge they need to succeed.”