Sunday, 30 December 2018

THINGS I'VE LEARNT FROM A DECADE IN RETAIL...

At the start of this year I vowed to myself that I would never work another Christmas in retail. By this point I hadn't applied for any other jobs and I still wasn't really sure which direction my career was taking me. I just knew one thing and that was that this would be my last year in retail. I mean, don't get me wrong, never say never, maybe in the future I'll realise that retail was meant for me all along, however for now, I am so relieved and excited to, finally, be on the next path in my life.

I always think of myself as having quite a wide selection of jobs in my lifetime so far, however the reality of it is, they have all been customer service or retail based roles. Towards the end of my retail 'career', if you like, I don't think I've ever felt so low. My self worth was pretty much down the bog for a good chunk of 2018. I'd probably put this down to the thankless daily tasks, having the lowest paid wage out of all my peers, the unmanageable work load and feeling like my degree was, quite frankly, a complete waste of time. Don't get me wrong, there are times where I have genuinely loved my latest retail job, there are tonnes of things I'll be sad to leave behind, for example - the close knit 'family' feel to the company, the opportunities I was given that gave me my creative spark back every so often, the hot food choices at our morning break (lol) and the blissful feeling of walking out at 2pm on the dot every day. However, 2.5 years in, I knew it was my time to call it quits with retail.

A couple of months ago me and my friend Melissa met up just before she set off for her big Canadian adventure. Obviously we were reminiscing about tonnes of things, as well as our future goals and how we're at such a strange age - that age where everything is kind of in a weird limbo. I still don't feel ready to get married and have babies but I also don't feel like I want to go out and get wasted every single weekend. I feel like I want to be professional with in a career but I also feel scared by the prospect of responsibility and if I'm actually equipped for the changes and challenges. Despite the fact I did work full time in retail, I still felt as though 'retail' was associated with my teenage/university life - just a side line job that I didn't take too seriously and gave me some extra cash. As you can imagine, now I am a fully fledged 26 year old adult, the fact I had, in my mind, a teenagers job, with a teenagers wage, left me feeling like I was generally just failing at my life plan. At this point in time I knew that the retail industry wasn't changing any time fast, so it was I either put up and shut up, or I move on. This time around, it was the latter.


Anyway, I thought I'd do a little list of things I've learnt, appreciated and can take on in my next venture in life, now that I am embarking on the next change in my life.

1. Never underestimate what a retail job can teach you about life skills. 
I now know how to speak to the general public - how to exchange pleasantries with waiters, train station staff, receptionists, baristas, hairdressers, bus drivers, and most importantly, fellow retail staff. I've witnessed people (usually 45+ y/o's - no offence), literally scream at the poor sales assistant behind the till because its not possibly their fault that the item they want to return was bought over a year ago and not even in the same shop. It's humbling to know that I'll never ever (unnecessarily) be one of those 'can I speak to your manager' types - sigh.

2. Always remember your retail friends can't always make your weekend plans.
Please shoot me if this becomes me in the near future. I mean, don't actually....
"Can't you just book the weekend off?" "I know - lets do something over the bank holiday, that way I don't have to book any time off work but you still have to book 3 precious annual leave days (: (: (:" "Oooh you have a Saturday off!? Lets spend the day SHOPPING!!" Jesus christ - the thought of shopping on a Saturday gives me nightmares, even now that I'm out of retail!

3. Its just a shop.
This is something I'll always remember during my darker times in retail. When I look back now at the things I got upset over, or let the people get to me that did - I literally have a little chuckle. If you're currently in a retail job - I know it may seem hard, and the pressure is so high, especially with the retail climate and especially at this time of year but ultimately - its just a shop. There are people out in the world risking their lives to save others, there are global disasters, unthinkable poverty, animals becoming extinct - you name it, I'm sure it's happening somewhere out there. Do your best to sell your product and be the best you can to represent your company, but never sell your soul to someone else's brand/business. It's just not worth it. (Unless its YOUR shop/self run business - thats completely different, of course)

4. Don't judge or label retail workers.
Maybe my biggest learning curve, personally. I remember when I was around 17, I totally despised the times I had to leave my then boyfriend at home for my 8 hour shift every Saturday. I remember thinking, 'I am NEVER going to do this full time, HOW do people do this full time? Ugh'. (Honestly - who do I think I am sometimes?). Retail is one of four things for its staff - A full time career, a stepping stone, a building block, or a stopgap between study/career change. I've witnessed senior managers who have served over a decade in retail be spoken to like shit - would you do that over email to a Managing Directors or Head of whatever? I think bloody not. You may think shop staff are 'just' shop staff - but remember they're doing a job and providing you with a service. Be polite. Say thank you and don't go ape shit just because the specific coloured jumper you saw in an unknown Magazine back in Summer 2017, isn't in stock.

5. Take the positives from any job role.
I spent a lot of my time feeling underrated, unappreciated and just a bit sorry for myself during my retail career. However, it was my first ever full time job. I learnt what a proper full time routine felt like - how to manage my time and the many lessons I learnt about myself as a person through out this time. I learnt about how to appropriately speak to management to get to where I wanted to be, with out making a show and dance of it. I learnt that if I put in effort with something, it will eventually get noticed. Sit back and relax though, and It'll get noticed even more. The ups and downs of my retail career have landed me with the work ethic I have today. Relentless, hard working, focused and determined - on my terms. I know when to give myself a rest and I know how to manage my energy to in turn, produce my best work.

I'd be interested to know what you guys think of working in retail, if you have? Or what your perception of retail workers are.

PS - If you're shopping during this January Sale period, please do not just browse, buy lots and lots. It helps from a traffic and profit point of view, cheers.
Yours faithfully,
Ex retail worker who feels bad for the current climate x

2 comments:

  1. I am so PROUD of my niece Madeliene Grace - she is gorgeous in mind body & spirit and is an inspiration to us all. Well done that girl!

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