Unlocking Career-Guiding Value From Retail Internships

Gianna Rivera, buyer at The TJX Cos., said the intern experiences while at LIM College not only helped with networking and relationship building but also served as a way to guide her career path. In fact, her internship at The TJX Cos., along with advice from a trusted mentor, shifted the focus of her career from luxury wholesale to the off-price retail segment.

Here, Rivera discusses her career path, and challenges and lessons learned along the way.

WWD: How did your education and internship experiences help shape your career decisions?

Gianna Rivera: The internship opportunities I had throughout my experience at LIM College helped me build relationships in the fashion industry and let me figure out what I was really interested in. There are so many avenues within the fashion business. I had originally wanted to be an account executive in wholesale, but my final internship before my senior year was in buying. That’s when I realized that’s what I wanted to do and was what led me to TJX.

WWD: What were some of the challenges you faced on your career journey?

G.R.: I wouldn’t necessarily say I have had challenges during my career journey, but I would say I have had many “learning opportunities.” When you go to work for a large company after college, you realize there are many things you don’t learn until you get on the job.  Communication and influencing skills are extremely important. I would say I’ve had a lot of trial and error in those two areas.

Influencing and communicating go hand-in-hand and everyone processes information differently. Once you learn how to influence different types of business partners, it helps you become more successful as you progress in your career.

WWD: Have you had mentors in the industry? If so, how have they helped you?

G.R.: Marla Greene, one of my professors at LIM, was the person who pushed me to get into the off-price retail arena. I had always wanted to work for a luxury designer brand in Manhattan, but during my senior year of college Professor Greene said, “The industry is changing, and you need to change with it.” It was the best advice I ever received.

Gianna Rivera
Courtesy image.

WWD: Career-wise, what’s the best decision you’ve ever made?

G.R.: Taking the risk of moving to Massachusetts — a state I had never even been to — for my senior year internship. I didn’t know anyone there, but I followed my passion for the business and the desire to work in the off-price industry. It was the best decision I ever made. Six-and-a-half years later, I’ve progressed through the career path and finally can say I am a MarMaxx Buyer who buys for 2,400 stores nationwide.

WWD: What advice would you give someone who’s considering pursuing a career in the industry?

G.R.: Take every opportunity you can! You never know what your path will be or where you will end up. If, in the end, you don’t like it, at least you tried it, and know what you want for your career.

WWD: Where do you see the fashion industry — and your career — going in the next five to 10 years?

G.R.: I think the fashion industry will be completely different in 10 years, particularly around how consumers shop. You can see this starting to happen already with the closure of many brick-and-mortar stores. This year alone over 1,000 stores have closed. Malls will change or slowly start to go away, with consumers more interested in shopping plazas. Consumers will do the majority of their shopping online, and when they aren’t, they will be shopping in off-price stores to get a deal.

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