Making the case for retail as a career

By Nadee Bandaranayake
Published Nov 6, 2017

As the director of the Kohl’s Center for Retailing Excellence at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jerry O’Brien has a chance to “try to change the conversation” about retail’s potential for building a fulfilling career, he says, and help more students realize how “their imagination has a place in the industry.” In a rapidly and constantly evolving industry like retail, students can learn transferable skills that help build a career that allows them “to be independent and self-secure.”

On this episode, O’Brien joins the co-hosts of Retail Gets Real at NRF’s Retail’s Academic Symposium to discuss the importance of reshaping retail’s perception in the eyes of college students.

Jerry O’Brien (left) with co-hosts Jessica Hibbard (right) and Bill Thorne (center).
Jerry O’Brien (left) with co-hosts Jessica Hibbard (right) and Bill Thorne (center).

A good way to ensure retail-favorable job readiness in students is to familiarize them with the varied opportunities in retail. O’Brien encourages educators in departments like finance, marketing and IT to use retail-based case studies from major brands alongside typical examples from Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Companies like Target, Kohls, Macy’s and The Home Depot are “giant tech companies,” O’Brien says. “But without changing or reformatting how that’s discussed, if you’re a tech person, you think you need to go to Silicon Valley.”

Listen to the episode to hear how the new generation of “digital natives” can see themselves in the industry more easily, and how their perception of retail is likely to shape the industry’s future. Subscribe to Retail Gets Real and never miss a future episode.

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