Getting to the story behind the numbers with a Target planner

By Lottie Watts
Published Jul 8, 2021

With five years of in-store and corporate experience and making it to the semifinals of the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship in 2017, Christian Sopoco is now thriving as an associate planner with Target.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation with Sopoco on how to succeed when building a career in retail.  

Get comfortable with data storytelling 

The most important aspect of my role is making sure I’m influencing change through numbers. I’m always asking how I can leverage data to make an informed decision. People come up to me and say, “Christian, you’re in planning. You must be good at math.” I’m not. I still use a calculator.

You don’t have to be a math whiz. I do have to be good at storytelling. I do have to be proficient at recognizing patterns and being able to convey that story behind those numbers.

Fill in your skills gap

If you don’t have your Excel certification, go get it. It’s something I’m in 24/7. When I wake up and I log on, I’m opening an Excel sheet to figure out something. 

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If you look at potential jobs, look at the description and what they’re asking for. If you don’t have three of those bullets, why don’t you and what are you doing to get those? A lot of times in merchandising you’ll see job descriptions saying you need SQL experience. Most college students won’t have that experience, so get a certification and do whatever you can now to make yourself more appealing.

Build your network

As a semifinalist for the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship, I flew to New York City. I met with recruiters. I engaged with executives. I spoke to professionals, and it was pivotal for me because it taught me the importance of self-advocacy.

If there’s something you can do now to prepare, it’s to network. Get yourself in front of people who are already in the field you want to be a part of. For me, I know I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my connections.

Join us in New York City in January for the return of the NRF Foundation’s in-person undergraduate programming. Sign up to get updates so you can be the first to know when registration opens for this incredible opportunity to accelerate your career in retail.

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