Opportunity might not be knocking for most graduates in the current climate, but if you're a self-starter with good social skills you may find Avon's blandishments appealing. The world's leading door-to-door purveyor of beauty products is celebrating 50 years in Britain with a new drive to recruit degree-educated reps from among the 40,000 university-leavers seeking jobs.
While starting your working life cold-calling households in search of a 25 per cent commission on sales of scent and lipstick might seem a comedown from the graduate traineeship you had earmarked in law or accountancy, Avon insists you'll gain transferable skills that could prove vital in your future career.
Richard Pinnock, executive sales director of the New York-based company's UK arm, said: "Becoming a self-employed Avon representative is a great opportunity for graduates. It enables them to earn money immediately and it's a chance to build up their own business and gain a generic training that develops skills relevant to various jobs. Knowing how to maintain a customer base will give you an edge if you ever start a business of your own."
This year's graduates seem to need little persuasion to give direct selling a go. Avon's recruitment campaign – dubbed "Project Grad-preneurs" – was launched last month on the back of anecdotal evidence from area sales leaders that more and more of their sign-ups were graduates. The number of university-leavers joining the company's sales teams so far this summer has doubled year on year – with one in five reps now having a degree. Door-to-door selling is also proving to be a flexible alternative for undergraduates struggling to finance their studies than traditional student job options such as bar work.
Katie Price, who graduated this summer with a BSc in animal management from the University of the West of England in (appropriately enough) the county of Avon, became a second-generation Avon girl when she began working for the company to pay her way through her final year of study. From as young as 11, Katie used to help her mother deliver its catalogues to neighbours in her home town of Stonehouse, Gloucestershire – a debt her mum has now repaid by becoming one of her most loyal customers.
"I've always woked part-time. I worked in supermarkets and garages as a student, but they're sometimes hard to combine withyour studies," says Katie, 24. "What's good about Avon is that, after your start-up costs, you earn £1 for every £4 worth of products you sell, and unlike other jobs you can work as much or as little as you want. I'm a stock control assistant at Sainsbury's in the day, and Avon fits around this perfectly. I can choose my own hours, and do about five to 10 a week."
Though Katie is applying to train as a veterinary nurse, she will not give up Avon. Besides valuing the little extra it provides to pay the bills, she says door-to-door sales also offer a social dimension absent from most other jobs: "Even if I got a full-time job working with animals that paid enough, I'd still keep Avon going. I enjoy getting out there and socialising with different people."
Avon's campaign may be aimed at graduates, but the company also offers career opportunities for the long term. Benefits to head office workers in the UK include profit-related pay, childcare vouchers, free life insurance – and discounts on its own products.
For more information visit: www.avon.uk.com/PRSuite/yourDreamOpportunity.page
* To become an Avon representative, you need to provide proof of your age and identity, and pay a £15 start-up fee in two installments
* Sales reps take home £1 for every £4 they earn in sales, and work as many or as few hours as they wish
* Entering at the next rung up – sales leader – costs you £25, but rewards for top sellers can include overseas holidays, invitations to gala dinners or even a Mercedes or BMW
* Avon boasts six million reps worldwide – 150,000 in Britain (rising to 170,000 over the Christmas period)