Describe your role with Abercrombie & Fitch. How long have you worked with the company?
I started in the Merchandising Leadership Development Program in October 2010 and have been working in the female outerwear department for all three years. When I started as an assistant merchant, I was primarily responsible for managing styles within the Hollister assortment. I negotiated the costs for each of my styles and worked with my design and planning teams to deliver cute product at the right price. Now, as a merchant I am responsible for running a team of five assistant and associate merchants and overseeing the Abercrombie & Fitch and Abercrombie assortments within the female outerwear department. My favorite part of my current role is mentoring the younger merchants on my team to ensure that they’re making the right decisions for each of their styles and growing within the company.
What is your work and education background?
I majored in Communications Studies with a minor in BIP. Throughout college, I thought I wanted to go into advertising or marketing. I interned in both fields but found that neither offered the balance of using creative and analytical skills for which I was looking. When I met Abercrombie at the career fair, the merchandising role seemed perfect because it was a good mix of both.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
It is very difficult to describe the typical day of a merchant. If I had to summarize it, a typical workday revolves around collaborating with cross functional teams, from design to financial planning, throughout the day to make sure we’re delivering the best assortment possible to our stores. For example, my team and I work closely with Design to decide what colors and silhouettes we want to deliver based on current and projected trend. On the flip side, we’re working with Planning to read our daily sales to confirm that what we have coming down the pipeline is bought accurately and reacting when it is not. I never find myself sitting at my desk counting down the hours until the workday is over because there’s always something to do!
What’s the best thing about working for Abercrombie & Fitch?
The people. One of the things I appreciated most about Northwestern was being constantly challenged by my peers. I feel so lucky to have had this translate into my work life. At Abercrombie, I’m surrounded by people who are passionate, intelligent and, above all, friendly. As a manager of a team of five, I’m often impressed by the valuable insight the young merchants provide. We all come from different cities, educational backgrounds and have different thought processes. Having such diverse perspectives injected into everyday problem solving keeps the job from ever feeling stale.
What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students?
My senior year, I found myself attending every consulting information session, but after starting the interview process I quickly realized it was not for me. The job you end up choosing is going to take up most of your time so your happiness is going to heavily rely on genuinely enjoying the role and most of the people you work with. My advice would be to obsessively ask yourself questions about the jobs you’re applying for:
- Are you applying to the job for the right reasons, or are you applying because everyone else seems to think that it’s the best job to have out of college?
- Ask about the culture. Does it jive with what you’re looking for in a company and career? When you go to the company’s meet and greet, do you relate to the people to whom you’re talking? Do you enjoy the students around you who are passionate about getting the same job offer?
- Think about your previous internships and leadership experiences. What did you like about them? What did you not like about them? Make sure that the job description you’re applying for fulfills what you found to be fulfilling in the past. Will the job challenge you? What are the opportunities for growth?
For students who are early in their college careers?
If you’re interested in a career, find a way to learn more about it. Join a club or find an internship. Most of all, if you know someone who is in the field you’re interested in, ask them to coffee or lunch to chat about it with you. Most people love passing on their knowledge to up-and-coming leaders, and this conversation can really help you learn about the industry from the inside. Don’t be shy about this, and remember to be mindful about that person’s schedule as they are probably juggling their work and personal life. The more you know the more ready you’ll be when it comes to applying, interviewing, and making the decision of where to start your career.
What makes a candidate stand out to Abercrombie & Fitch recruiters?
What makes a candidate stand out most to A&F is their excitement about the culture and the brands. Working at ANF is not a 9-5 job. We need someone who can come in with a vision and execute while maintaining a positive attitude.
What does your work space look like?
The office is amazing! Take a look. Something that is very unique is that no one sits in cubicles. The environment encourages collaboration and keeps things interesting.
What gadget, office tool or program can’t you live without?
I can’t live without email. We communicate with vendors overseas every day and if it weren’t for email we would not be able to deliver our product at the right time or price!
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
I recently found myself struggling with how to further improve my leadership skills. When talking through my challenge with my manager she offered me some really great advice. She told me to pick a couple of leaders at the company that I look up to and focus on what they do specifically that makes them admirable, learn from their behavior and try to make it a part of how I interact with my teams. I’ve found that when I’m struggling with how to improve as a mentor simply paying attention to the people around me helps me become a stronger leader at the company.