If you've come into The Career Center to get help building your resume (which, hopefully, you have!), then you've probably been asked about your work experience, especially the work that may not be related to what you’re studying in school. This is the point where we often hear:
“Well, I have a job... but it’s only retail.”
Only retail? It may seem to you that your position as a cashier/sales associate/stockroom employee/etc. is just a temporary placement to hold you over until you graduate and find a “real job.” But in reality, your experiences there allowed you to develop skills that are transferable to your future career and make you a desirable candidate to employers. Here’s an example of a few experiences and skills that can get you thinking about how you can market your own retail experiences:
This is the most obvious skill you develop in retail, especially for cashiers or those who work in sales. Showing that you have a high level of caring for a customer’s experience, especially in resolving issues, can let an employer know that you’ll show that same amount of dedication in serving clients or performing tasks.
Interpersonal Skills/Conflict Resolution.
Have you worked on a team where differing opinions amongst co-workers resulted in a conflict that you mediated? You’ll be an asset to any company that requires a high level of interaction between co-workers, because they’ll already know well you can work with others!
Are you the one to whom your managers turn when they need a display created, or who is always asked to help decorate the store for the Holidays? Creativity is a highly transferable skill for any career path, especially for those studying marketing, the arts, or public relations. Employers are always looking for someone who can think outside of the box—and that’s you!
Have you been recognized for your efforts in your department, or even given a promotion to lead or supervisor status? Showing a progression of increased responsibility lets an employer know that you have staying power and a strong work ethic!
If you've had experience managing a team of other associates, make sure you mention that, too! Employers look for someone who is not only accountable themselves, but can hold their co-workers accountable as well. This will only help you as you (eventually) rise up the ranks!
How do I know all of this? Because I've been there, too! The skills I just listed are the ones that are actually on my own resume to describe the four years I have spent as an associate and supervisor at a major department store. Your experiences in retail, though sometimes frustrating and seemingly unrelated to the “big picture,” are incredibly valuable in shaping who you are. Don’t undersell yourself by leaving this great information out of your resume or cover letters!