Career Moves: Alum lands job with Macy’s through Career Services
Heather Couture ’10 realized halfway through her studies at Elon that a public relations career simply didn’t fit her interests. The fashion industry, however, was a different story, and a senior year visit to Career Services led to her involvement with the Macy's Buying/Planning Executive Development Program in New York City.
Couture is the final person to be featured this fall in a four-part series of E-net profiles on the recent experiences of students and alumni who use the Career Center to not only find jobs and internships, but to prepare for interviews and polish resumes with guidance from Career Services staff.
The native of Roanoke, Va., majored in corporate communications. She is now at work in New York City planning inventory and apparel orders for one of the most famous names in American retail, a journey that started with an internship she landed through the Elon Career Network.
“I did a sales internship with Rocawear, a clothing line based in New York, and when I was there Macy’s buyers would come into the offices to view our products to decide how many of each item they wanted to buy,” she said. “When I came back to school I started researching and applying to any department store training program I could find.”
For retailers, buyers visit apparel manufacturers to see for themselves various goods that may one day be sold on the racks in the department stores. Those buyers place orders through the manufacturers for shoes, outerwear, accessories and more.
Macy’s Buying/Planning Executive Development Program is the first step toward such a role with the company. The retailer describes the program as a way to “develop, analyze, strategize and promote a buying department.” Participants also learn how to select, buy and assort merchandise to capture emerging trends.
Couture was sold. She wanted to be a buyer, and once back from a Study Abroad program in London, she immediately turned to Career Services. Ross Wade, assistant director of Career Services for the School of Communications, helped in that search.
“One thing Heather did that is always great to do is she started seeing me in the fall of her senior year,” Wade said. “She came by to say, ‘this is what I want to do. How can I make a plan to make it happen?’”
“What’s great is that she knew what she wanted. When you know what you want to do, it’s much easier to create a plan to make it happen. Many folks come to me and they want a plan, but they don’t have a goal. It was a great help knowing that she wanted to be in fashion, in New York, and we could come up with multiple strategies to help her get there.”
Couture and Wade got together before the holidays last year. A former Elon 101 teaching assistant and a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, Couture brought with her copies of her resume and cover letter, which the duo reviewed together for ways to make it shine.
“He sat down and helped me by editing and going through it, to show me how things would look better by moving things around and describing things in more detail,” Couture said. “If I had any questions, he’d answer them for me.”
The Macy's Buying/Planning Executive Development Program didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Not yet. The 10-week program that started in August included time in the classroom and days in the office, where Couture learned about the computer programs Macy's uses every day and about the company’s culture.
One element to the program that Couture wasn’t expecting was her placement as an assistant inventory planner in women's suits. During the program, her assignment kept her out of the purchasing element she initially desired and instead in inventory control, where she learned to coordinate supplies of women’s business outfits for locations across the United States.
That assignment parlayed itself into a full-time job by early November.
“I am now an assistant inventory planner in women's shoes, specifically moderate, active and cold weather shoes,” she explained. “As an inventory planner, my responsibilities include working with my merchant and associate inventory planners to ensure that our overall strategy for the season is followed through. My job is to allocate merchandise to stores all over the country. In addition, I keep in touch with all of the district planners throughout the country to ensure that our customer's needs are being met.”
What’s next for the Elon alumna? Options abound. Couture said she’s interested in merchant planning, buying, and perhaps product development, which involves working to design, develop and produce Macy's private labels.
“I have a lot of different options because Macy's strongly supports and encourages lateral movement within the company,” she said.
Students and alumni looking for more information on internship and career opportunities, plus services that university staff can provide for a job hunt, should visit Elon Career Services on the first floor of the Duke Building or explore the office’s website at www.elon.edu/careers.