By: Susan Sheppard-Svacak
Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration; Fashion Management & Marketing (2012)
While studying at Berkeley College, I had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people and created lasting bonds with friends, not just in the United States, but across the globe. I was an active member and officer (publicity chair and later secretary as well) of the Student Government Association, which was extremely rewarding. We did work not just at the college, but also in the community with volunteering and charity fundraising. One of my greatest connections was the faculty advisor for the Woodland Park, NJ campus Student Government Association (SGA) at the time, Amy Young, who is still a dear friend and mentor to me today. My time at Berkeley wasn’t all fun, of course. There were challenging times especially trying to balance full-time classes, studying, working, and later commuting to the Midtown campus, all while maintaining a 3.9 GPA.
My favorite part of my classes at Berkeley was the application of real-world businesses in our term projects. It’s interesting to “create” your own company, do the research, and see how it would potentially do if it were real. I’m proud to say that I know a few successful startup business owners and I’m glad that Berkeley has given us the tools and the knowledge to take that leap if we dare. My most notable and relevant class was Merchandise Planning and Buying with Dr. Guy Adamo, who I am most grateful to in my college and alumni journey. Dr. Adamo was a wealth of industry knowledge while I took his classes and he has been a wonderful mentor to me in my journey after college.
That leads in to my current success. As everyone knows, the current job market is less than inviting and cut-throat no matter what industry you’re in. I’m sure everyone is familiar with that “2-5 years related job experience” requirement that many entry-level jobs come with today. This was especially daunting for me as a Fashion major with the career goal of Apparel Buyer in mind. Before graduation and in the weeks after I was called in for several interviews at various big-name fashion companies. I got the same response from all of them: “We chose another candidate who had more experience.” This is a scary thing for a recent graduate to hear, especially with the weight of your student loans about to hit in full force.
At the time, I was fortunate enough to know a few small business owners in my hometown. Luckily, I was able to start my career as an Assistant Apparel Buyer at a small sporting goods store, Harry’s Army & Navy, about 2 months after I graduated from Berkeley. I worked there for two years, learning everything I could about the career that I chose. I’m happy to say that I made the right choices along my journey- first going to business school and studying something I loved, and second for following my gut when I graduated and deciding to go into the buying field.
Even while I was working at Harry’s, I was still actively looking to finally break out into the buying field with a larger company that would allow me to really grow my career and make a difference in the industry. One of my main methods of job searching was through LinkedIn, where I was able to get many leads on job openings and do research on the company I was applying to. I also attended Berkeley’s Annual Alumni Career Symposium, which provided very helpful insight on the tools that Berkeley offers job seekers (such as Resume Companion, which I used to get ideas on formatting and wording before ultimately choosing a modern layout that really stood out), a LinkedIn presentation that really helped to pinpoint how to use the platform, and Assistant Vice President Career Services and Alumni Relations Amy Soricelli’s connections while on the job search.
I’m happy to say, thanks in part to LinkedIn and help from Amy Soricelli in Career Services, I am now successfully employed as a Merchandising Assistant in the Core Toy division at Toys ‘R Us. You may be thinking, “but wait, I thought you were in apparel?” While it’s true that all I knew about buying was my background in the fashion industry, the principles behind the job are the same. Also, with a company as large as Toys ‘R Us, I have exactly what I was looking for- a company that will let me grow. My ultimate career goal is to become a children’s apparel buyer, and there’s no better place to start that journey than at one of the largest chains dedicated to children (of all ages).