There seems to be misconceptions about the value of retail, or co-op work experience – a lot of people think these are simply jobs you have during school to make some extra cash. Rarely do students envision these positions as a stepping-stone to building their career.
But that’s where they’re wrong.
Retail and co-op placements are a great way for students to get their foot in the door in many organizations. Working part-time in a retail store or doing a co-op placement provides students with valuable work experience and can set them up for successful careers.
Companies like Mark’s see the benefit of allowing students to grow and develop within the organization. We spoke with two Mark’s employees who started in these entry-level positions and worked their way up.
Sanaa Johnson is the manager of in-store presentation at Mark’s. She has been with the company for 19 years now, but she started her career by working part-time in a store when she was in junior high. Over the years, she has moved through various positions in the company. In the store she worked her way up to being a full-time employee leading a section of the store. Later, she earned a promotion to assistant manager and then a store general manager. Next, Sanaa moved into a corporate role as a visual merchandiser, and over the last few years in this role she has held various leadership and management positions in merchandising.
Sanaa believes that her start in retail helped prepare her for a corporate position. The fast-paced work in a retail environment allowed her to develop a sense of urgency to evaluate what’s important at which point in time. Serving diverse customers in the store also enabled her to learn how to work with different types of people.
“Anyone I’ve hired, I always tell them about my career journey at Mark’s. You can stay at a company for 19 or 20 years and still feel like you could do another 20 or 30 years here. It's a great place to work, and it's an especially great place to start if you want to grow your career, there are endless possibilities,” Sanaa says.
Students who work at Mark’s can expect a flexible schedule, great work-life balance, and a variety of possible career paths.
Sanaa added, “There’s always something you can find at Mark’s, or within the Canadian Tire Corporation family of companies, whether you’re in finance, or supply chain, or IT, or marketing.”
Meghan Connor is a merchandise planner for women’s apparel. Her career journey at Mark’s started with a co-op placement at Canadian Tire, where she did two co-op rotations: first as a supply chain process analyst, then as a logistics analyst. At the end of her second co-op term, the head of campus recruitment flagged for her a demand and fulfillment analyst position at Mark’s. The move would take her across the country, but she felt it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
Meghan has been with the company for a little over three years and credits its corporate culture as one of the reasons why she enjoys going to work every day.
“They are so focused on learning,” Meghan said about her team. “People are passionate about the work that they do, it’s contagious. And on top of that, it's a really fun place to work, there's always laughter, there's always people talking… They give you a great quality of work and life."
With such a small group, Meghan says it’s easier to present ideas and have everyone listen to them. The inclusive culture also makes sharing much easier. For her, the tight-knit community helped her show off her skills and potential and advance her career at Mark’s.
“The head office is fairly small, which I absolutely love,” she said. “I walk down the hall and know everybody in my quadrant of the building. The VPs know everyone by name and have a doors open policy so you can chat with them directly.”
Sanaa and Meghan’s stories are great examples of how entry level positions can be a great launching point for students into corporations. Retail is a growing sector that is filled with a variety of entry-level positions and opportunities to grow your career and gain valuable work experience that will help you down the road.