Learn What Can’t Be Bought: What Working in Retail Can Teach You

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A job in a store—or other retail setting—is worth more than just a paycheck. During your tenure in a retail position, you will gain marketable skills that can be incorporated into any desk job or even the next steps on the store’s corporate ladder. Here are just a few character-building assets you can acquire through retail experience. You’ll be surprised at what working in retail can teach you.

Patience
Chances are that you’ll come up against some literal tough customers. And unless you want to risk the loss of your employment, you’ll have to figure out how to deal with said customers. You’ll need to find patience you never knew you had inside you in order to appease these folks.

How to Respectfully Assert Yourself
While you will need that aforementioned patience, instances in which the customer is not always right will arise. You do have to make the customer happy—to the best of your ability. You are not subject to abuse—physical or verbal—as part of your job. Don’t be afraid to let that customer know that you won’t be spoken to with a disrespectful tone. Demand the same respect that you give to the customer. Just remember to be an adult—yelling and screaming won’t help the situation. If a customer becomes overwhelmingly abusive, it is time to call a supervisor or security personnel.

Fast-Paced Math
Get ready to count that change—and quickly. If you want to keep your line moving, you can’t take 15 minutes to count up from five to 25 dollars. Not to mention those customers who will imply you have short changed them in order to earn an extra, illegitimate buck. If your math mind is overwhelmed, you could give away a dollar a day from your drawer.

Appreciation and Empathy
Many retail stores (in my experience: JC Penney, Macy’s, Toys ‘R’ Us and Target, just to name a few) are required to ask every single customer to sign up for a store charge card. Before I had to ask customers to apply for a card, I would angrily answer the question not just with “no”—but instead with a flustered, “don’t you see I don’t have time for this” kind of “no.” After having to ask as part of my job, I am more empathetic—and while I still say no, I let the employee know that I understand having to ask.

Teamwork
Undoubtedly, you will need to work along side a number of colleagues—all with differing personalities. If you want to keep the store clean, be sure that all merchandise is accounted for, keep the line moving and of course, need someone to cover your shift—it is important that you work with your colleagues instead of against. See our list of the type of co-workers you want to work with to help you out.

How to Recognize What’s Important to You
Retail—more often than not, especially in big name stores—requires working hours outside of nine-to-five, as well as weekends and holidays. If you don’t want to work the day after Thanksgiving—or at midnight following Thanksgiving dinner—perhaps it’s time to choose another job. And that’s okay—there is nothing wrong with choosing a job that promotes your values and beliefs. 

While retail jobs aren’t for everybody, the lessons learned from retail jobs can apply not only to career-oriented millennials but to the workforce at large.

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About Author

Mary Grace holds a Master of Arts in Public Communications and Media Studies from Fordham University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Salve Regina University. She spends her time in the editorial department at the National Association of Professional Women by day, and is a community thespian and wannabe politician and activist by night. Her favorite things include trips to Walt Disney World, drinking too much coffee, browsing Sephora, her Apple Watch and her “nephew,” Luis.

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