I assume that every millennial – minus the ones named Thad or Bethany, whose daddy owns a yacht – feels insecure about all retail experience listed on their resume when it’s time to (try to) transition to a real job.
I know I did.
I attempted to make things sound as prestigious as I could, but I always worried I would get called out.
And you know what? I did.
During a phone interview for a marketing job, I was explaining how my retail experience helped me apply things that I learned in my marketing program, and the interviewer straight up ask me if all the professional experience I had was in retail.
When I confessed that it was, she just said, “Oh”, with all the disappointment in the world.
I felt ashamed, humiliated, and really insecure in that moment. After the interview, when I had time to reflect, all of that emotion turned into anger, frustration, and confusion.
I started to think: why do people act like the time you spend in retail is meaningless?
Because, like I discussed last week, you learn a lot more from your experiences than the surface-level bullshit.
But hey, even if no one else respects what you do, I want you to feel confident talking about your retail experience. Because it’s worth a hell of a lot.
1. You learn what customers want
I don’t care what job you do, you’re in customer service. Whether your customer calls themselves your boss, or client, or colleague, there is always someone to answer to.
And retail is a special case of customer service that forces you to interact with and serve hundreds of personalities per day. After awhile, you start to notice patterns and realize there are a few fundamental things you can do to keep people happy.
This skill is vital to what I do everyday. And I can bet it is just as vital in your career.
2. You get a different perspective
If you’ve ever worked retail, there’s about a 100% chance that you’ve witnessed a decision come down from head office that makes noooooo sense.
Head office makes decisions based on numbers, but you’re on the ground floor with the people those numbers equate to. You can see the confounding variables that render the data useless.
They see that not many people are buying and decide to cut hours, but you see that already being short staffed is turning customers off and making them leave before they get a chance to buy. That kind of perspective is invaluable to decision makers who will listen.
3. You learn the basics of business
While the general population seems to think you spend your days in a retail job checked out and drooling on yourself, you’re really learning the basics of business, especially if you’ve held a few different positions.
I’ve worked front end, merchandising, inventory, management, and all kinds of different things. Learning so much about what it takes to make a business run is partially what gave me the confidence to start my own.
4. You learn a professional attitude
As someone who has worked in both retail and an office job, I can promise you that how you’re expected to act is pretty much the same.
I seriously don’t understand why people think it’s so hard to learn office culture and etiquette.
If you’re already the kind of person who shows basic respect to others, can work in a team without melting down, and can sit in a chair for prolonged periods of time without getting angry and throwing it out the window, you’re good.
5. You learn how to work
Again, people may be getting images of you standing there drooling on yourself, but there is a decent amount of responsibility associated with retail work. You learn how to take direction, show up on time, honour commitments, and do shitty, shitty work with a big ol’ smile on your face.
People who have worked in retail for years shouldn’t just be considered for better jobs, they should be getting oscar nominations for their performances.
6. You grow a thick skin
If you’ve been here awhile, you know I’ve dealt with abusive bosses. I’ve also had a customer throw a computer past my head, and put up with explicit sexism, racism, and general douchebaggery from countless people in my retail jobs.
Sometimes things get so bad that putting up with it physically hurts. But I guarantee, if you make it through all the crap people put you through in a retail position, anything you get put through at an office job will be a cakewalk.
Resilience is an advantageous trait, no matter what you do next.
7. You learn how to manage your time
Again, I’m thinking about the drooling.
But even at a retail job, you need to show up on time, you need to complete tasks on time, and you need to manage how long you spend with each customer to keep on top of rushes.
Working retail taught me so much that I could never condense it all into one article.
Other people’s hang ups about what it means to work in retail annoyed me enough that I gave up and started to work for myself. But, if you still need to convince someone, you have my full permission to use these points on your resume or in interviews.
Now I want to know what you think. What did retail teach you that still benefits you to this day?