It was my first week on the job as we all stood around the hideous old fixture building bamboo arrangements out of the mugs we had snatched from the clearance table. We were to fill the mugs with river pebbles, place in 3, 5, or 7 bamboo stalks, and then tie them with raffia to finish off the perfect feng shui arrangements.
The clanging of the rocks bounced off the ceramic walls of the cups and battled the murmur of conversation between two of my teammates. College graduation was quickly approaching and their looming future lay heavy on their minds, “what are you going to do with your life,” the female associate spoke to the male.
“I’m going to stay here, the DM has already promised me the management track.”
Her face mangled in disgust, as if the nerve of such a statement was the most stupid one she ever heard. “You can’t stay here, you can’t work retail forever!”
The clanging of the cups were now piercing my ears like nails on a chalk board. My blood began to boil, and though I understood why she felt the way she did, I found the judgement harsh and unfair. I loved this job, it was the best thing that had happened to me. Before this I had worked at many professional, “career like” jobs. I had been assistant to a director of a Museum, Office Manager for a Plastic Surgeon for five years, and even the personal assistant to the Head of a Board of Trustees at a multi-billion dollar bank. I had completed important meetings, achieved great goals, and performed every aspect as I was classically trained to do by my public schools. College was the only avenue to success, and success was only measured by being a lawyer, doctor, businessman, or just about anything that required a degree.
Now here I stood, a temporary summer sales associate in retail and I had never felt more alive, so inspired, so fulfilled. No longer was I trapped behind a desk, suddenly I was in a sea where the glass ceiling was not so foggy with the heavens of corporate shining brilliant rays of possibility down on me. Everyday I was greeted by new amazing and interesting faces, and I was paid to share the unique oddities that I had spent my college years studying and lusting for with my customers.
I looked up at my male teammate, the guy who thought he had it figured out, and saw himself now questioning his aspirations. I wanted to speak up, but the green to my experience made me doubt, I thought perhaps ‘I just don’t understand, not quite yet.’
For five years I worked at that job, and with zero experience and a completely unrelated and unnecessary expensive degree I mistakenly made my way to corporate just by dedication, and passion. Before I took my leave to be a stay at home mother, I was answering to a Vice President of a retailer with a decently large footprint. I had reached a level that I had always thought someone like me was never destined to climb.
So here I am to ask, what so wrong with retail? I read an article not long ago that, though attempting to be fair, was incredibly condescending to the idea of a Wal-Mart Career. The reporter ended the article with a condescending quote from a manager’s lips:
“You can be with Walmart forever.”
Wal-Mart might not be the dream job for allot of us, but with so much lack in support for any retail or customer service position, no one’s really been allowed to give that hope a fighting chance.
The beauty of retail is the excitement of your days, the people you meet, and the open opportunities. For those of you who are seeking big pay and easier schedules there is always growth, always transfers and transitions, and that means there are always new management positions up for grabs. If you want it, then simply apply yourself and grab it. A Wal-Mart manager could make six figures a year, that is nothing to scoff at, and with 75% of their management team having started as associates, they are eager to grow their employees from within. Even as a part time employee you will rake in some major benefits such as:
- Tuition assistance
- Work for Credit
- Super affordable Insurance Plans
- Retirement Plan Options
- In-Store Discount
- Exclusive out-of-store Discounts
When I was in retail, it never occurred to me to be ashamed of it. I was blown back when my college mentor bumped into me on the sales floor one day. She didn’t know if I would be there, but when she saw me she became sullen and quiet, “are you happy?”
I smiled, “I love this job! I’ve only been with the company a few months and I’m already assistant manager.”
Her face didn’t waiver, “I’m sorry, I feel like I let you down somewhere.”
It wasn’t until I was out of the retail gig and blogging that I realized the problem is not so much being stuck in a retail, or restaurant, or blue collar gig; instead the problem is in our education. We are told we can be whatever we want, and they encourage us to “dream big”, or their definition of it that is. But one, as my husband says, “we can’t all be astronauts.” And two, your success cannot be measured for you by anyone but you.
If mowing lawns makes you happy, then do it. If you find peace and fulfillment in a warehouse job, so be it. And if I find bliss I never thought possible through retail…please just be happy for me.
This is Part of the #AtoZChallenge
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