5 Job Skills You Can Take From Retail Into The “Real World”

\’What do you want to be when you grow up,’ was my first question as a manager to all my new hires.  We would share a chuckle and then they would express to me their dreams.  Perhaps it was the teacher in me, but that very night I would sit down at home to check to see how I could help them achieve that dream.  What education was required?  Could they go locally or online?  What scholarship programs were out there?  How could I mold my schedule around their dream achievement?

But most importantly what aspects of this ‘dead end’ retail job will most help them achieve their future?

Is it more a customer service focused job, or does it lean more in the realm of math and analytics? This helped keep my employees motivated when I molded the job to their dreams, as opposed to just another part-time job.

Perhaps your manager hasn’t sat down to have this chat with you, and that’s okay because after this post you may just be able to figure out how you can work towards your goals on your own through your retail career.  What are the job requirements where you aspire to land?  Do the skills required relate to any of the following?

1.  People Skills

Are you looking at a job that may require you to interact with all different types of people?  This could start as simple as a teacher while dealing with parents, students, faculty, or administrators.  It could be a job in the medical field, someone who has to mind their attitude on a daily basis with patients, patients’ families, doctors, and again administrators.

If you are in retail you already know that dealing with people is not as simple as it seems, that negative customers can turn you bitter, outraged, or even apathetic.  Practicing opening ourselves up to customers will lead you to better predict a customer’s needs and gauge their expectations.  The practice opening yourself up to an array of people aids your charismatic charm, and molds you into the asset employee who can please the most difficult of customers.

2.  Negotiation Skills


Are you looking into a career in commodities and investments or as a real estate broker?  Imagine making your millions as one of those moguls on wall street because you had a history of high paced sales.  Whether you are on the sales floor or just pushing warranties you are learning the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts with each customer approach you make in retail.

Somedays you may find yourself discouraged in sales, particularly in the present economy, but we must remember that our greatest growth comes from what we perceive as failures.   When working the sales floor I recorded daily reflections and ideas in a personal sales journal, so even if I was turned down repetitively at least I had something to bring to the table during sales meetings.  With this journal I found I could also compare my perceived sales failures with my positive sales experiences and find the common denominators when considering my personal approach, my customer’s expectations, and product presentation.

3. Self-Motivation

To be successful in leadership any employee should be familiar with their goals and develop motivation to achieve them.  If you are unfamiliar with your actual goals please consult with your manager.

Are you struggling to keep up to your goals, or are your goals lacking in challenge?   Everyone is unique, and each individual will develop at different paces as a sales person.  Many times companies will only develop one lump sum, an all or nothing goal, standard to all employees.  When this is the case take time creating your own sales goals that are tailored to challenge your level of skill.  Be sure to record your personal goals and progress to present to management, to be prepared when your efforts are called into question.

Deadlines are the key to self motivation.  I am so fortunate myself that even in my state of working from home I have a friend who is an incredibly successful Project Manager at a large defense contracting firm.  Naturally, with her state of mind when I share my ideas over a quick bite to eat, she always responds, “well what’s your deadline and action plan?” This is in opposition of your typical girlfriend who would leave it at, “oh that sounds exciting.”  Keep yourself to standards, start today, make a small goal and deadline to achieve this week, and just keep reminding yourself, where have I grown and what is my deadline?

4. Research & Analytics

If you are interested in a job in marketing, financial analytics, or advertising, you must walk in with the basic mindset of cause and effect.

As a manager, I always maintained a chart that would analyze all aspects of each department of my store as they related to the current sales trends.  If I built an elaborate window display I would research: did it appear to increase the sales in that department?  How much did product demonstration actually increase my profits with a particular product?

As a sales associate it is simple to make similar observations and records.   Pay attention to inventory levels of product, what products seem to be in highest demand?  What are you doing to aid in that result?  What in the store is stagnate?  Is it featured anywhere, are you knowledgable of the product, have you been pushing that item at all?   What strategy could work for this product that has worked for your more successful products?  Make a game plan to create a full store of well rounded successful products.  Record your results for future review.

My staff was familiar with what was working and what wasn’t in their own departments by asking themselves 4 simple questions a week.

5.  Communication 

Communication is the strongest trait in any job.  The manner of your communication effects personal success, the success of your peers, and the satisfaction of your customers.  Communication skills just happen to be the largest obstacle that employees struggle to overcome.  So think to yourself:

  • How effective is your communication between your peers?
    • Do they seem to understand what you are saying?
    • Do you have a good working relationship with all or most of your coworkers?
  •  How is your communication with your manager?
    • Do you feel confident in communicating with them?
    • Do they seem consistently satisfied with your results?
  • How is your communication with your customer?
    • Do your customers leave satisfied or disgruntled?
    • Are your sales goals being met?


Additional Reads:

Communication Tips

Careers to Pursue After Retail

Until Next Time Fanboys and Girls–>


From The Shopgirl Archives:: March 9, 2015 #1 Top Shop Post 2015

18 thoughts on “5 Job Skills You Can Take From Retail Into The “Real World”

  1. storiesofourboys says:

    I worked at Payless when I was 18. It was one of my most favorite jobs. The best thing I learned there was to GREET people and how to do so. That was a huge for a shy girl. That has really stuck with me. I also learned exactly how prevalent crime is. I can’t tell you how many people I worked with there got arrested later for drugs or stealing. Ugh. It was a fun job, but it was a wake up to how much America needs Jesus. Gracious.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Terri Webster Schrandt says:

    This is great to read, Jess, and you are a rare manager indeed to be able to care about what employees may get out of a potentially dead end job! I may have shared with you before in blogland, that I worked at Macy’s fragrance counter in Sacramento (at a store now closed) as a seasonal hire for three seasons 10 years ago. It was a cool experience for me because, 1. I had a day job where I supervised a large staff and as a seasonal hire, I was just a worker-bee. 2. Just fun to be in the holiday retail arena and be surrounded by Christmas stuff and watch people shopping! Except when I had to work Christmas Eve shift, then everyone was nuts! I know quite a few people who work retail and love it!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Susan Landry says:

    #1: You must be the best manager EVER. Going home after a new hire to research how to help them achieve their dreams. Are you for real?! My mind is spinning thinking how much better every workplace would be if managers invested in their employees like this. You need to create management training tools…the managers of the world need you! Secondly, I completely agree with all of your assessments. I spent several years as an employment consultant, trying to help people see all of the skills that they gained from various experiences. We sell ourselves short when we don’t mine out ever last gem of a skill, tool, or piece of knowledge we’ve gained.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. lindahobden says:

    Coming from a mainly sales/marketing/customer services background, my now day job is a retail merchandiser – one that requires all those skills mentioned and a job that I really enjoy doing as it is fast paced, methodical and you also need a touch of OCD too! It is not an easy or soft option career by any means 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. womanpulse says:

    I can definitely say the customer service skills I learned definitely have helped me in every area of life and work. I also believe that is where I kickstarted my time management skills.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. IT Chick World (@itchickworld) says:

    I fully agree with all stated above!

    People tend to think jobs such as working in retails or in a bar, are not much worthy and don’t bring much skills except making coffee/working with cash register – there, my dear, they are completely wrong! Such jobs bring so called “soft skills” and they come really fast in such environment!

    Love the read!

    Liked by 4 people

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