The Retail Trail

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The retail sector gets a lot of stick for being the bottom rung on the ladder. The majority of entry-level jobs are, after all, in retail and for a long stint in history seen as the most bare basic job one could get.

However, retail is by far the single most important job I’ve ever had when it comes to learning. It’s not just about the skills you pick up along the way that are required to perform the daily tasks, but also the skills and abilities that are inherently ingrained into you through experiences.

Having worked in food retail, I can attest to how laborious the role can be – still, it was often an overly rewarding feeling getting delivery out at a good pace, completing tasks and helping customers wherever they required it. Skill-wise, I learned nearly everything there was at a store level and even had to have some of my job titles revoked just because I’d accumulated too many – boastful of me, I know, but it just goes to show you that there’s a lot to learn and those skills can be translated elsewhere in life.

The inherent capabilities that I picked up during my employment are too many to list here, but some of the key highlights were: dealing with the general public, understanding different people and their needs and, more importantly, I learned how to carry myself and adapt to unique situations.

Dealing with the general public makes it sound like they’re another species and, I won’t lie, sometimes it did feel that way. I had more than one customer outwardly voice their opinion how much better than me they were because I was working at a supermarket – something I found highly amusing, and still do, due to the fact that without me they wouldn’t of been able to buy their goods, but I digress.

It was these individuals, and understanding them, that was very character building. It would have been easy just to say “well, they’re a #%$^!” and move on – but that wouldn’t help anybody. Maybe some people are just having a bad day, sure. Maybe some people are just like that – and that’s true. It was developing a suite of tools to deal with every individual customer and their personalities that stuck with me – there’s nothing quite like being able to get an angry individual to back down by just being amiable.

This is just one skill I developed in a very, very long list.

I personally believe that everyone should do a stint in retail because it’s such a diverse and unique area of work that offers a wide, and branching, series of skill paths to walk down. Skills such as these have dozens of applications across a myriad of scenarios in the work place and in life.

As a final note, working in retail is also extremely grounded and down to earth – it’s a position that puts an individual at the forefront of real every day life and that’s something that’s vital to understanding not only others but also ones self.

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