Assistant to the General Manager
John Lewis

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Helen W

00:00:04 My name is Helen W. I’m the Assistant to the General Manager at John Lewis in Oxford Street. My job involves assisting the General Manager in any projects and also day to day things that crop up. I really like the fact that every day is different. That’s that I like, that I can come in and be given a different project and that I can really get my teeth into it. I’m left to get on with it, so I’m given the brief and they trust me to know when I need to go back to them. And that’s what I enjoy, you know, the trust and the varied life that it is.

00:00:41 I was quite a quiet, shy child at school, and didn’t really push myself forward. I did go to the sixth form for one year to re-sit some of my exams, but I wasn’t really an academic and I didn’t really want to go any further in my studies. The subjects I liked were English and business, and so my career’s officer suggested that I went into retailing because that was the type of thing that I was interested in, and also John Lewis offered a training programme that you could do a qualification while you actually worked, as well. That was a business qualification and I did that one day a week at college. You know, that pushed me into working for John Lewis really.

00:01:23 There was one thing in my career that really helped me gain some confidence, and I went to an outward bound course for two weeks, and I was only nineteen, so I was quite young, and you had to go on an outward bound course with people that you didn’t know, and that was really daunting for someone of that age. I was still gaining my confidence at that point. But to go away on that course was really brilliant and I really gained a lot of confidence, and I would advise anybody who was offered something like that, I would say go for it.

00:01:57 I joined John Lewis as a trainee and I was a clerk, a stock clerk, doing invoicing and paperwork and things like that, but I wanted to get promoted. I wanted to be s section manager, so I made myself busy helping out, cashing up, pushing myself forward, and then I got recommended to be a section manager, and applied for a job and got it.

00:02:18 My last boss, I really admired her because she was really quick witted. That’s something I’m not. I have to think about things, and I admire people who can really grasp the situation straightaway and make split decisions that are usually really good. So I really admired her and I tried to aspire to be like that a bit more.

00:02:41 My family life is very important, and I would put that first, and I have put that first before my career. I’m happy at the point that I am. I know that I could have gone further if I’d have wanted to, but I think something has to give, and I didn’t want that to be at the expense of my children.

00:03:02 John Lewis has something called the Golden Jubilee Trust. When it was their Golden Jubilee, they put aside a certain amount of money in a fund and the interest from that fund pays for partners to go off and do charitable works. I went and worked at Orbis, which is a charity that supports the Flying Eye Hospital, and they will go to places like Ethiopia, and they will land, and they’ll do operations on people that need cataracts and various different eye options and give them back their sight. I worked at their offices in Islington, helping with fundraising, and it’s just a fantastic opportunity. John Lewis paid me for the six months to go and do that.

00:03:43 In five year’s time, I see myself on a beach with a cocktail because I hopefully will be on my six months paid leave that John Lewis give you after you’ve been her for twenty-five years. If you’d have told me when I was at school that I was going to work for somewhere for twenty-five years I would be absolutely appalled because it sounds really awful. It sounds like you’re doing the same job for twenty-five years, which I haven’t been. I have done, you know, lots of varied roles. Although I’ve been in one place and worked for one organisation, I’ve had a multitude of opportunities.

00:04:17 End

Helen W is the Assistant to the General Manager at John Lewis in Oxford Street. In five years time she sees herself on a beach with a cocktail, because she hopes to be on the six months paid leave John Lewis gives to people who have been employed there for twenty five years. “Although I’ve been in one place and worked for one organisation I’ve had a multitude of opportunities.”

More information about Managers and directors in retail and wholesale

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

59%  male 
41%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Retail and wholesale managers and directors plan, organise, direct and co-ordinate the operations of major retail and wholesale establishments in order to maximise business performance and meet financial goals.
Entry requirements vary from company to company. Entrants may possess GCSEs/S grades, A levels/H grades, GNVQs/GSVQs, a BTEC/SQA award, a degree or equivalent qualification. Entry is also possible through promotion after gaining sufficient experience. NVQs/SVQs in Retail Operations are available at Level 4.
  • Appoints staff, assigns tasks and monitors and reviews staff performance;
  • Liaises with other staff to provide information about merchandise, special promotions etc. to customers;
  • Ensures that adequate reserves of merchandise are held and that stock keeping is carried out efficiently;
  • Ensures customer complaints and queries regarding sales and service are appropriately handled;
  • Oversees the maintenance of financial and other records and controls security arrangements for the premises;
  • Authorises payment for supplies received and decides on vending price, discount rates and credit terms;
  • Examines quality of merchandise and ensures that effective use is made of advertising and display facilities.
Employment by region
Top 10 industries for this job
Retail trade 239682
Wholesale trade 88684
Sale of motor vehicles 26159
Food & beverage services 19681
Head offices, etc 10973
Rental & leasing 4193
Sport & recreation 3775
Social work 3501
Food products 3450
Warehousing, etc 3299
Employment status

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