I Want Your Job: Personal shopper

Dress up for work every day
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The Independent Online

Karen Proctor, 31, is a personal styling consultant for the London emporium Liberty, which provides a free personal shopping service.

Why do you love your job?

Fashion has always been a passion of mine. You've got to love clothes. That goes without saying. The best thing about my job is making people happy. People come in to the shop flustered because they can't find the right outfit, and then you see the relief on their faces when you find the perfect dress. Some clients actually kiss you when they leave.

What sort of things do you have to do?

A typical day might involve making new diary appointments, having one-to-one consultations with different clients, and dealing with stylists and wardrobe assistants looking for clothes for films.

Is there any advice you'd give to someone with their eye on your job?

There's no one-size-fits-all career path. You might have to work for nothing, or shadow someone for six months. Get some good retail experience, and read magazines to build up your knowledge of brands. Even just taking a friend out shopping to practise helps - the more you absorb about the fashion and lifestyle industries, the better. Before getting this job, I worked at the perfume boutique Penhaligon's, while studying for a PhD in history and cultural studies. Then I ran my own dress-label, and worked in trend forecasting.

What sort of skills should a good personal shopper have?

You need great organisational skills, creative flair and a good memory. There's a lot of paperwork. We keep files and records to remember what people like and what they've bought. If you work as a personal shopper in a large department store, you need to keep track of what clothes are in stock. If you're freelance, you'll need to keep receipts safe. Discretion is a big part of the job - people tell you personal stuff. And you've got to put clients at their ease. A good personal shopper will be sensitive, diplomatic and supportive - it's a different approach to Trinny and Susannah.

How's the salary and career progression?

Salaries vary a lot. You might start earning about £16,000 a year - a little more than you'd make on the shop floor in a department store. Of course, if you're a celebrity stylist and your contacts book is oozing, the sky's the limit. After you've become experienced and built up a client base, you might want to set up your own business. If you work for a department store, you can stay there and move up within the management ranks.

For a free appointment with Liberty's personal shoppers, call 020-7573 9944

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