5 Job Skills You Can Take From Retail Into The “Real World” 2nd Edition

‘What do you want to be when you grow up,’ is my first question to all new hires.  We share a chuckle and then they express to me their dreams.  Perhaps it’s the teacher in me, but that night I will sit down at home to check to see how I can help to make thse dreams come true.  What degree, certification, or experience is required?  Can they study locally or online?  What scholarship programs are out there?  How can I mold my schedule around their dream achievement?

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

Is it more a customer service focused career, or does it lean more in the realm of strategy and analytics?  It keeps my employees motivated when I mold the job to cater to their dreams, as opposed to just allowing this to be just another part-time pit-stop of their life story.

1.  People Skills

This is not the Lavern and Shirley era, career options in manufacturing have declined in demand by 30% since 1990, while more service-oriented jobs have actually doubled.  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.  Or even a larger scale of sales such as insurance, business services, and stock options.

Those working in retail are already aware that dealing with people is not as simple as a “and how are you today.”  Negative and demanding patrons are a very common predator of the service industry kind and the skills to calm the hysteria is best practiced where the stakes are not quite so high.

Point out to employees how to use body language, tone, and proper communication to understand a customer’s needs and gauge their expectations.  Challenge them to open up to a variety of demographics, practicing their unique charismatic charm, molding them into the asset employee who can please the most challenging of customers, employees, and situations.

2.  Negotiation Skills

Perhaps you have an employee looking into commodities and investments, or into becoming even a real estate broker.  They can imagine making millions as one of those moguls on Wall Street because of the unique sales challenges developed by you, their manager, that targeted their weaknesses and built up their strengths.   Whether on the sales floor os just pushing warranties your employees are learning the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts of customer connection, and their personal method of closing the deal.

Develop a personal sales journal for each employee filled with challenges and spaces for their growth and observations.  What is working what is not?  What sort of questions do customers find offensive, hilarious, encouraging, and endearing?  What made a real customer connection?  Sit down with your employees at least once a month to review their statistics, and listen to the strategies they have developed.  Boost their confidence by allowing them to help train the rest of the staff on their insight at team meeting every once and while.

3. Self-Motivation

Success in leadership stems from an individual’s familiarity with their own goals and a clear image of the finish line.  If you are unfamiliar with your actual goals please consult with your manager.

Everyone is unique, and each individual will develop at a different pace as a salesperson.  The more traditional sales companies will only communicate a one-lump-sum kind of goal, with an all or nothing ultimatum standard to all employees.  If this is the case take some time to analyze the personal growth, and struggles of your employees so to develop a more tailored challenge to their level of skill.  Showing them how to shift the dialogue to their personal growth that will then contribute to the better of the team.

After a month of setting personal goals, have them start to figure out their own.  Then ask them, “What’s your finish line, what’s your deadline?”

4. Research & Analytics

For the employee interested in a job in marketing, financial analytics, or advertising, return your employee’s focus on the simple concept of cause and effect.

Print out a week by week sales trend sheet over the past 10 weeks.  Ask them:

  • What is the highest earning product VS the biggest moving?
  • What 2 lower selling items do you feel you could develop a plan to increase sales?
  • Are any of these higher selling items caused by a recent promotion, sale, or floor move?
  • What products seem to remain stagnate on the shelves?

This exercise not only helped to invigorate critical thinking, and hone in the skills of developing game-changing action plans, it also helps employees see the direct impact they can have on the overall success of a team.

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 essential in any and every job.  Effective communication is the key factor that separates success from failures in almost every situation.  The manner of communication effects not only personal success, but the success of peers, and the satisfaction of customers. Have your employee ask themself:

  • 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?

5 Job Skills

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” 2nd Edition

  1. 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. 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. #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. 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. 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. 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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