Graduate Claire Evans, marketing manager at Mercedes Benz of Brighton, HR Owen, speaks to Libbi Macgregor

I found my way into the retail motor industry through the Autoroute graduate scheme, where you could select the manufacturing groups you wanted to apply to. Because my degree was in European business with German, I chose to go for manufacturers with a German connection - BMW, Ford, Mercedes Benz and VW. From there, I could choose dealer groups to work for.

I am currently the customer relationship management (CRM) marketing manager. The department I run is the glue that holds the dealership together. I oversee the marketing for the whole group and have the responsibility of setting up a customer support unit for the five sites we have in our division - four Mercedes Benz sites and one Smart site.

If a customer has a complaint they can speak to my team. We are more on the customer's side than the dealership's side - we want to make sure that they get what they deserve after spending money on a new car or service.

Confidence is very important in my job. You have to be able to communicate on all levels with the customer, the dealer principal (head of the dealership), head office and other colleagues. It's important to resolve situations to both the customer's and the business's satisfaction.

You also need to be able to juggle priorities and apply product knowledge. Creativity and enthusiasm are vital in putting ideas across, and in getting the go-ahead. Above all, you have to be hard-working in this role - it sometimes involves long hours.

Being a graduate gave me a head start. Throughout university you listen and learn, and are encouraged to be creative and come up with original ideas. If you want to get into the motor industry, my advice would be to persevere, work hard, be open to learning and development and get on as many training courses as you can. If possible, find someone in the business who understands what you are there to do and can help you achieve what you need to achieve. They'll be able to make sure you get the most from your early experience.

My experience of the retail motor industry is very different to the preconceptions that some people have of oily rags and dodgy salesmen - the industry is changing and is becoming more professional. In the eight years that I have been working in the industry, processes have changed to turn it into that more professional environment, putting it on a par with sectors like banking and law.

I am in a fantastic role at the moment and I have learnt and achieved so much in the past eight years - but I have not stopped yet! I have a lot more to give. Who knows, one day I could even be a dealer principal.

For more on graduate careers, try the Automotive Skills careers portal: