Graduate news: John Lewis in search of flair and passion

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The Independent Online

The world and its granny knows that John Lewis provides you with everything you need from cradle to grave. Less well known, however, is the recent change to its recruitment programme, which from September will run two brand new career tracks – a buying graduate scheme and a merchandising graduate scheme.

For the first time, students wanting a career in buying will no longer have to apply for the general management option and work their way into head office. Instead, they can apply to start at entry level with the aim of becoming an assistant buyer and then, within three to five years, source products globally and manage multi-million budgets.

Sophie Milliken, the group's graduate recruitment manager, says they are looking for people with flair, vision and a passion for the John Lewis ethos of good service to customers and profit sharing for staff who become "partners" in the business. "Buyers have to be confident people who can negotiate a great price while maintaining our principles of trading fairly," she says.

The merchandising option needs people with analytical skills who can look at the numbers and forecast product sales. "We're looking for people with maths skills who are good at thinking logically. They will work alongside the buyers. The buyer might see a range of products and say 'wow', and the merchandiser has to bring them down to earth and start talking about units and figures," says Milliken.

The money isn't half bad, either. Graduate trainees start on £24,000 plus the partnership bonus, while an assistant buyer can earn £23,600 to £32,800. Fully-fledged buyers earn between £43,000 and £87,250 plus bonus. The head of buying can earn six figures. John Lewis has recently recruited 220 staff for its new Croydon "at home" store, with 350 more jobs available soon for stores in Swindon and Tunbridge Wells.

The rise and rise of private banking

While the Government bails out commercial banks, there's one sector still booming – private banking. These are the bankers who look after the money for affluent individuals. According to Barclays Wealth, the global wealth management division of Barclays, private banking is one of the fastest growing parts of the financial services industry.

"Despite the recent economic downturn, the number of wealthy people is steadily growing, and their demands for ever more sophisticated products and levels of service are on the increase," says Sarah Hart, the European head of diversity for Barclays Wealth. This year, the bank has hired 60 graduates, and will be raising its recruitment levels even further to 80-plus in their 2011 round, which starts this August.

"Gone are the days of private bankers needing just a little black book of clients, a good swing on the golf course and a Diners [Club] Card," says Hart. "Private bankers are dealing with an increasingly sophisticated and demanding client base and need to know about a never-ending array of products and services," she says.

The graduate development programme lasts three years and includes support for the chartered financial analyst qualification. "Private banking is a forgotten career," says Sajaad Jetha, director of the graduate recruitment and advisory firm The Smarty Train. "But it makes an excellent choice for the graduate who wants to combine analytical skills and working with people."