Emily Bernstein, private banker at Investec

In our regular #MyFirstMcJob series, industry experts remember when they were still absolute beginners

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Hi, Emily! Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Emily and I'm a private banker at Investec. I help high net-worth individuals with all their banking needs.

What was your #MyFirstMcJob?

Working at Harrods, age 19, for six months before university.

How did you get the job?

I think I must have just called up their HR department. I worked in the Way-In department fashion that opened in the 60s and was really avant-garde, selling high-end men and women's clothing. I was the sales assistant on the shop floor selling stuff, on my feet for eight hours a day.

What did you have to do?

Speak to everyone who came into the store, engage with them, ask if they needed anything and try and make sure it ended with a sale. I was on a till, which as a 19-year-old, I thought was really cool. It was great when it was busy, but with some element of boredom when the store was empty.

What were the perks of the job?

We got a discount on the clothes and the canteen on the fifth floor where all the staff used to go in their lunch break was subsidised.

What was the most memorable thing that happened?

Mohamed Al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods at the time, used to walk through the whole store on a daily basis, surrounded by his henchmen, which was quite fearsome. I can remember thinking: “What if he speaks to me? What do I say?” I’m sure I did speak to him a few times by the end.

What skills did you learn that you still use today?

Harrods is all about the customer service. No matter who you are, or what you’ve got to spend, you show everyone the same excellent level of service. You constantly ask if they need any help or pointing in the right direction. Similarly, my work now is all about building lasting relationships with clients. The other thing that resonated was how important the brand was. Everyone had an induction, to teach us about the history of Harrods and how we treat people, but it did feel very hierarchical. Luckily, where I work now, it’s no longer like that.

Are you still in contact with anyone you worked with?

No. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have WhatsApp. We didn't have mobile phones and we didn't have LinkedIn. I was at a different stage in my life but I do wish that I kept in contact with people. I should probably join the Harrods alumni.

Why is alumni important?

You are literally handed a network on a plate. Why wouldn't you want to make the most of it? It’s an incredible opportunity to connect with people who inspire you. Why wouldn't you want to keep that network of people moving through your career? You could end up working with them. They could end up working with you.

What would happen if you went back and did a shift at Harrods?

I've become more competitive as life has gone on, so I'd have to make the biggest sale and be the top salesperson!

What advice would you give your younger self?

At that age, I was scared to be myself because you worry people aren't going to like you for who you are. So I would say: “Just be authentic, because that's when the opportunities arise.”



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