Forget the stereotypical bored shop worker ignoring you from behind the till. Forget the super stressed, underpaid zero-hour victims hired by unscrupulous employers. Retail might be the perfect job for you, and here’s why:
You only have to walk down a typical high street to see the variety of retailers – and we’re not just talking about their products. Culturally, some retailers will be high-end with an air of exclusivity (think posh dress shops where, if there’s no price tag, you can’t afford it) and others will be mass-market free-for-alls like Primark. Brands might be big on service, on affordability or innovation. They might be “cool”, traditional, quirky or practical. You’ll find everything from global names to mom-and-pop stores. There’s such a variety that you’ll find a culture and brand you can identify with and be happy to work for in your next job.
Love fashion? Maybe you’re a bike freak. Perhaps you’re into computers more than is healthy. Whatever your interest, there’s usually a whole retail sector catering for it, and you can be part of it. With your specialist knowledge, hands-on experience and enthusiasm, you’ll be irresistible to employers. It’s a fantastic way to turn your hobby into a career.
Retail jobs that start on the shop floor can lead anywhere in the organisation. Show some artistic flair? Perhaps a career in buying, brand identity or visual merchandising beckons. Love the people aspect? Human resources management might be a way forward. Fascinated by how the stock arrives at the right time in the right place? There’s a supply chain career waiting for you. The key is to look out for opportunities to experiment with different roles, and to take advantage of every piece of training that is thrown at you. Be proactive and take extra responsibility. Where you start in retail won’t necessarily be where you end up.
To be a perfect retail worker, you need a comprehensive skillset. Yes, you’ll develop product knowledge but that’s just the start of it. In-demand retail workers are the people who demonstrate the right knowledge, skills and attitudes, and, in a retail environment, there is lots to learn. A job in retail will help you develop a massive array of skills.
Whichever career you finally choose, the skills you develop in your retail job will serve you well. These transferable skills will give you extra employability when you’re applying for your dream role. A retail job is the perfect training ground to improve your hard skills, like numeracy and IT, and soft skills like teamwork.
If you have the right attitude, your retail job will become an upward spiral of success for you. If you make a conscious decision to use your job to develop a full range of skills, you’ll not just develop those skills but you’ll also stand out as a model employee. And when you stand out, you’ll get more opportunities to develop even more skills. What’s not to love?
Retail jobs are especially useful for developing these in-demand skills:
In retail, no two days are the same. You’ll have great days, good days and really, really bad days. You’ll deal with customers in all their forms, from marvellous to miserable. You’ll deal with rudeness; you’ll work under pressure; sometimes you’ll be short staffed. All these circumstances will help you develop emotional intelligence – the ability to identify and control your emotions, and handle interpersonal relationships proactively and productively. Emotional intelligence gives you a mature edge and tool for thriving in any situation. It’s also an important factor in developing resilience and a positive attitude to change.
If you’re observant and analytical, you’ll soon identify opportunities for improvements to your environment. Perhaps you’ve noticed a systems failure such as fitting room racks piling up with rejected clothes; perhaps a fast-selling item is stored in the most hard-to-get-to place in the stockroom. Thinking though, identifying and suggesting system improvements will hone your problem-solving skills and get you noticed by management (in a good way!).
A retail job is a perfect opportunity to practice using your initiative. Initiative is the ability to assess a situation and use courage and intellect to take action independently. Initiative can mean doing something beyond your job description, or helping out others without being asked. It can be as simple as picking up a piece of rubbish from the shop floor, stopping an unsafe action in a loading bay, or suggesting ideas for the staff summer party.
Without customers, retail is nothing. Sometimes the only difference between two brands is how they treat their customers. Customers aren’t just looking for the product you’re selling, they want a good experience while they buy it. Word of mouth is important. Give a customer a bad experience and everyone will know about it.
So, your retail job is an ideal opportunity to hone your customer service skills. Emotional intelligence, problem solving and initiative (remember them?) play a big part. You’ll already have made yourself aware of the customer service standards expected by your employer, but there’s nothing wrong with going further. Try some extra attention, a welcoming smile, and a flash of personality.
Don’t forget to welcome customer complaints because these are the perfect opportunity to show excellent customer service. Resolve the problem, go the extra mile (and a half) and you’ll have a customer for life. Your managers will notice. Besides, making people happy makes you happy. Everybody wins.
Have you ever thought that your colleagues, managers and suppliers are your customers, too? These are your “internal customers,” and if you want to develop strong interpersonal skills, focus on a great customer service. It’s not easy if they are difficult to get along with, or are whiny or unfair. They’re people, after all. But here’s a trick; pretend you’re not an employee but an independent consultant, and your colleagues are your customers. You’ll feel less emotionally involved in their drama, and more open to helping them achieve their own goals. Once they realise you’re on their side, things will improve.
A retail job is a perfect place to learn and develop a set of valuable skills that you can take into any other career. And, if you find that your retail job works for you, perhaps in five years you’ll be the CEO.