Anyone can find something about their job to complain about. Some of the most unsatisfied employees can be found in the retail or service industries. Hiding behind that practiced smile and forced calm is a person who has seen about everything, heard about everything, and has to pretend they care about you personally in the few seconds they’ve spotted and greeted you.
For college students, working a retail or service job feels like a necessary evil. Hopefully, unless you love the industry, your work will be short lived before something more satisfying – and better paid comes along. But there are benefits and lessons to be learned from working retail and while the experience may not seem grand at the time, lessons can be used when applying for work later.
Retail can be an environment of wacky long hours for minimum pay. Cami Libdan has had to listen to customers complain about the most mundane things and even take the occasional shot at her low-paid position. However draining it may be, customer service and navigating through the torrent of easy and hard, happy and angry customers can be good for developing and practicing patience and self-control in social situations. Cami Libdan knows that even when angry customers yell at retail employees, the employee is practicing a hard skill to master – overcoming adversity.
Cami Libdan has experienced how navigating customers, managers, and company policy can feel like walking on eggshells. But benefits from the difficult job can help individuals develop a strong work ethic, learn more effective means of communication, learn how to navigate through a hostile environment, and build a professional relationship with those you don’t want to, but must, work with.
As a working college student, Cami Libdan hopes future employers will look at her past retail experience and see these benefits in her as a potential employee. When it comes down to a job interview, past retail employees should focus on the lessons they’ve learned and not about negative experiences. Cami Libdan suggests focusing on lessons such as:
- Problem-solving and engaging unfocused customers or clients
- Completing transactions and staying balanced
- Multitasking between different positions or departments
- Calming hostile or stressed customers
- Building lasting customer relationships and interpersonal skills
- Time management
- Reading customer and client nonverbal language
Retail and service jobs may not be glamorous, but Cami Libdan knows there is a lesson to learn in everything. For more lessons to learn from retail, Cami Libdan suggests reading: