By: Ryley Gregorie
Last week, Thirty Seventh got the scoop on American Eagle’s summer internship program via Mackenzie White, their HR Generalist for Merchandising. In this week’s edition of Thirty Seventh <3s AE, we’re chatting with a Hoya who had the experience firsthand – Georgetown’s own Jasmine Cousin (MSB ’15), who is currently part of the corporate training program in Pittsburgh. Jasmine shared with us some solid advice on how to prepare for a job in corporate retail, and talked about what it’s like to transition from Georgetown into the real working world.
TS: Hey Jasmine! To start off, tell us what you studied while at Georgetown.
JC: I studied Marketing and International Business. Merchandising actually requires a lot of finance. You’re running a business where you have to gage what people are buying, so coming from a business background was really helpful.
TS: Were there any specific Georgetown classes that helped you gain valuable experience?
JC: My marketing classes helped a lot, especially Consumer Behavior. The customer is everything in retail because if they aren’t buying, then what’s the point of purchasing in the first place? My psychology classes were also really helpful in understanding how the customer thinks and how people go about their purchases. Another key skill – which doesn’t necessarily pertain to one particular class – is learning how to prioritize and manage your time. Everyone in retail always says that no two days are ever the same, and it’s really true! You have to figure out how to prioritize the task you need to get done.
TS: How did you connect with American Eagle?
JC: Senior year, I was looking on Hoya Career Connection – I was like, “Oh! A retail job!” My goal was to work in fashion, so any time anything fashion related popped up I applied for it. I got an email a few days later saying that they wanted me to do a virtual interview, and a few days after that they flew me to Pittsburgh for a final round interview. It was a really quick turnaround from the time I turned in my application to the final interview in Pittsburgh, probably around a week and a half.
TS: What can you tell us about American Eagle’s training program?
JC: You start in July and it’s 16 weeks. At the beginning of the program there are 1-4 classes a day for two weeks. As the program progresses you have fewer classes and it turns into executive roundtables, and you rotate between different departments. I was in women’s footwear for my first 8 weeks, and now I’m in men’s polos. At the end of October, I’ll have my final placement, which will probably be in a different department.
TS: Did you have experience in retail before applying to American Eagle?
JC: The summer before I started my freshman year at Georgetown I worked at Chorlotte Russe. I think in-store experience is a great thing, especially when you’re working at American Eagle where the changes you make affect people in over 800 stores. It gives you some perspective. Last summer, I interned at Neiman Marcus headquarters in Dallas. It was really cool, although it’s a very different demographic than American Eagle and you’re only buying for 41 stores, so its very personalized.
TS: How does the training program at American Eagle differ from your typical internship?
JC: Merchandising is one of those things you can hear people talk about all day long, but until you actually do it, you don’t know what’s happening. When you’re in a program like this, you’re not just on a surface level, you’re digging into what’s going on and becoming more responsible for the business. For example, if you’re the assistant buyer for women’s denim, that’s a 100 million dollar business that you have input in and control of. In the training program you learn to find your voice and speak out. And, while at the end of many internship you go back to school, at the end of this program I’m going to be placed in this business, so I really have to learn how I can affect change and make it grow.
TS: What are some of your job tasks?
JC: I do a lot of different things to make sure everything runs smoothly. Oftentimes I’m tracking shipping. The store changes on a monthly basis so we have different dates for when things need to be at the distribution center to get into the stores on time. I also do a lot with samples, like making sure we have all the samples to give to the photo shoot team. I frequently talk to vendors all across the world, from Bangladesh to China, to make sure everything gets here. I also create purchase orders for the upcoming seasons, for example right now we’re buying for next summer. I’m constantly looking ahead, asking what’s going to be the next trend and how can we make an American Eagle version. I also pay attention to what’s selling now, what’s moving through stores. Basically, I have to keep my eye on everything at the same time and make sure it functions.
TS: What’s your favorite part of the job?
JC: Dealing with the products and being able to influence them. I get really excited when we get the new products we’re going to be doing next – after seeing them on a computer screen, it’s really cool when the samples come in. I remember being at Neimans, I walked into the store one day and saw things I’d helped with. It was crazy! I can’t wait until I establish something for American Eagle and then see it in the store. That’s the best part.
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