If you ask Lia Campbell whether she'd make the same choices again after a 20 year career with Coles, her response is 'Absolutely!'.
'There are lots of advantages in food retail that people don't realise, especially for women' said Lia, 'I'm supported by a big company but still have the freedom to do things my way. That means I've developed a really close relationship with my team - we're both there for each other.'
Lia started out on the checkout in Adelaide, then progressed as a manager through the bakery and deli into grocery and dairy. 'Moving to Melbourne gave me the opportunity to become a fresh food manager before the Store Support Centre, (Coles Head Office) beckoned' she added, 'Now I've been in store management for the past 7 years across a few locations before settling in Cardinia Lakes.'
Every day is different for Lia and that's what she loves most about her role. 'You come into contact with new and exciting people all the time and that keeps my job fresh. Whether you're a customer or team member, my priority is to make sure everyone gets enough attention!'
The career options available are as diverse as the fresh produce she helps re-stock every day. 'Where you can go with Coles, the things you can do, is limitless. If you have a goal and show willingness, they can make it happen.'
'I think more women should think seriously about making a home here. Many just think that's not for me, but you're free to make things work in your own way. For example, in my store two department managers job share and that works perfectly for their young families. Don't assume you'll be stuck with certain hours because shops operate differently and you can often work shifts around your needs.'
Tip for success
There's no question that life is fast in retail and it helps to have a thick skin, but for Lia, it's the people that pull you through.
'If something goes wrong, your colleagues understand and are there to support you' she says, 'if you're reading this and looking for a career change, my advice would be think about Coles and just go for it. I finished my degree and still stayed because I loved it so much!'
Building a successful retail career on both sides of the world with two big supermarket brands was never something that Jackie Dalrymple planned. But one career path led to the other and she now has a unique global perspective and enviable CV.
'I was a bright-eyed 15 year old when I joined Tesco in the UK' said Jackie, 'and I stayed until I was nearly 40! But when the opportunity with Coles came up and I saw how they were trying to run things, it really matched my values. It was a great chance to have a say in something I believed in.'
Variety and challenge
Fast forward 5 years and Jackie is now Regional Manager for 16 stores around Melbourne CBD. Her day is a busy one involving everything from new store projections, working on the shop floor and developing the next generation of Coles leaders.
'What I love most about retail is the variety and that whatever your background, anyone can succeed. Being a mentor also allows me to coach and learn something fresh from people every day. That's invaluable.'
Looking back, Jackie relishes how Coles has enabled her to challenge herself but in a safe environment. 'The leadership team here look for people who bring a different viewpoint and dynamic to the business. We work together to come up with solutions.'
A place for everyone
When it comes to misconceptions about retail, Jackie feels women especially shouldn't dismiss it as a career path.
'It's not as physical or male dominated as you think, and by being more often than not, the family shopper, women have a real insight on what customers are looking for. The business does move fast but that creates its own opportunities - I get more flexibility here than I ever have in previous jobs.'
'It may sound a cliché, but you make a real difference to people's lives working in food retail. At the other end of the scale, if you're commercially-minded and can see yourself running a multi-million dollar business, this is the place to do it.'
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