Lessons Learned From Tough Retail Jobs

Just about all tough work experiences can teach you things and better prepare you for your next job. Sticking it out for a time through a difficult job can give you tools you can apply to more enjoyable experiences as you advance in your career.

The writer at TeacHer Finance describes how difficult retail jobs prepared her for a move to teaching. The lessons can apply to nearly any line of work:

* Dealing with unfair demands. It’s no fun to cope with with emotional and unreasonable customers, but the ability to calm angry people down and leave them reasonably satisfied is a priceless skill to have.

* The importance of appearing to stay positive. You don’t necessarily need to stay optimistic all the time, but you can benefit yourself by refusing to fall into outwardly gloomy cynicism. Putting a happy face on a sour situation tends to make people think better of you.

* Fend for yourself. There’s not always an instruction manual to deal with complicated problems that arise during a workday. When you’re left to extinguish your own fires, you become savvier and more capable.

My Crap Jobs Taught Me How To Function in My Career [TeacHer Finance]

Previously: What You Can Learn From Awful Job Experiences

Comments

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  1. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    4: Women will ALWAYS think that your clothes run too small.

  2. u1itn0w2day says:

    From what I’ve observed in retail many employees have learned to fend for themselves. I see the lack of training and knowledge about their actual product and processes as a common problem. That’s why you frequently wind up with employees say and think something is the law & just when in fact it’s only company policy. Or they act like they know because no one told them other wise.

  3. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Man, if you think working in a retail store is a crappy job because of the customers, try working as a bartender sometime. Some people seemingly are nice, but after a few drinks the layers of repression get peeled back and a fog of illusion settles in. I did that for two years and I have seen the darkness of souls. You won’t see that in a shoe store.

  4. mauispiderweb says:

    If you think retail/service is bad, try working in a library! Oh yeah, they get pissed when they’re paying for something and aren’t happy. However, when the service is free and they’re not happy, THEY GO BALLISTIC! I can’t tell you how much time a patron will spend trying to get out of a 25¬¢ fine. Even worse if they borrow something and totally damage it.

    “I got it that way!”

    “We checked a dripping wet book out to you 2 weeks ago, did we? And it still hasn’t dried? Interesting.”

    • RedOryx says:

      This librarian totally agrees with you.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      “But, I washed it so it would come back clean! Why are you charging me for helping you out?!?”

    • CubeRat says:

      I was returning books to my library on Saturday and saw this in action. A man with 2 children were at the counter and he had a $1 fine. He was making a scene about it, getting louder and louder. I’m Italian (we’re loud ourselves). As I turned to leave, I saw he and both children has smoothies in their hands, I said to him (not bothering to be quiet myself) “You just paid $5 for your drink – shut up and pay your fine.” Everyone in line burst out laughing, and I got a very nasty look from the guy. I don’t know if he paid it or not, but at least I got to call him out on his douchebagery.

      • RedOryx says:

        I once had a guy ranting and raving because he had an overdue fine on a season of Sopranos on DVD. He kept saying over and over again that he could have just purchased the DVD for the price of his fine. Yeah, well, you didn’t. You decided to come to the library and check it out for free. But you only get it for free if you return it on time, which you didn’t. So STFU and pay your fine and learn how to turn items in when they are due or renew them.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      This is why I’m always nice to my librarians, when I actually interact with them. If you’re reasonable, they’re reasonable.

  5. tungstencoil says:

    I worked a bunch of ‘crap’ jobs, mostly in restaurants, but including retail. I learned a *ton*. Don’t know that I’d want to go back, but I could if I had to.

  6. Cor Aquilonis says:

    * Working hard won’t get you anywhere. The shiftless loafer gets paid just as much as you, and since he/she does less, he/she doesn’t get bothered by customers or management as much as you. Get out of retail and get a better job as soon as possible.

  7. legolex says:

    One of my favorite jobs had the worst customers: Video Store clerk. I can’t put into words how awful some of those people were.

  8. Sian says:

    I’m not even supposed to be here today!

  9. brinks says:

    Those lessons may serve you well in another career, but it’s too bad that the daily tasks you perform in retail don’t actually translate well into any other career. AT ALL.

    /trapped in retail management for nearly two decades despite two apparently worthless degrees

    • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

      Those liberal arts degrees are working out well, huh?

      • KatieNeptune says:

        Why oh why would you say that? I have a liberal arts degree and am working on a field that interests and challenges me. Just because someone has a degree in something “worthless” doesn’t mean they didn’t learn from it. Coupled with internships and real-world experience (which I found more useful than a classroom), my liberal arts degree is treating me very well, thank you very much.

      • Coffee says:

        Aren’t you a breath of sunshine.

      • Coffee says:

        Oh, and by the way, Ayn Rand, who I’m guessing you fawn over if your screen name is any indicator, majored in history and philosophy so she could write all that drivel that college freshmen seem to think is so great. Good thing she had a useless liberal arts education, eh?

      • Kate says:

        My degree in fine art netted me a system’s analyst job.

        Liberal arts degrees are quite useful.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        It seems apparent from your response that you:

        1) Have no goddamn clue.
        2) Are clearly talking out of your ass.
        3) Must have a degree in being a douchebag.

        • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

          /trapped in retail management for nearly two decades despite two apparently worthless degrees

          Well I’m fairly sure someone with a dual major in Mathematics and EE wouldn’t be working in retail management for two decades.

          • Coffee says:

            Interestingly, while brinks fulfills the stereotype of liberal arts major stuck in thankless, low-paying jobs, you fulfill the stereotype of the misanthropic EE/Math major who lacks both tact and empathy. I’m glad you’re able to make a good living…good for you…now you’ll have time to explore why it is you feel the need to make snide, condescending comments toward people you feel are below you.

          • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

            Brinks’ degrees are in Business. Which, last I checked, were not generally considered “Liberal Arts degrees.” But please continue to judge, if you think it will distract us from the fact that you’re a stupid asshole.

          • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

            There *are* high-school dropouts who eventually became presidents or business tycoons, you know. You clearly haven’t been in touch with reality.

            While it may be true that majority of art majors don’t make much, however, it’s the economy that drives the job market.

  10. KatieNeptune says:

    Why oh why would you say that? I have a liberal arts degree and am working on a field that interests and challenges me. Just because someone has a degree in something “worthless” doesn’t mean they didn’t learn from it. Coupled with internships and real-world experience (which I found more useful than a classroom), my liberal arts degree is treating me very well, thank you very much.

  11. Tacojelly says:

    My crappy retail job taught me a lot, particularly about the division of wealth and how unfair low-skill labor is.

    • Selunesmom says:

      That people will hold up everyone else’s day for less that a quarter.

      That the average member of the public doesn’t bother to read anything properly: ads, coupons, signs saying “Employees Only”.

      That even if you are getting totally ignored by someone, not saying “thank you” is akin to shooting their dog.

      That being in pain is no excuse for not promptly responding to someone’s small talk. (I can talk or I can keep from collapsing, throwing up, etc)

      That your job is someone else’s opportunity to have a captive audience for preaching, political ranting, airing of dirty laundry, obscene phone calls, etc.

      That irresponsible parents will leave their infants and toddlers with the cashier to mind them on a moment’s notice.

      That “I don’t know, I don’t use that product” can produce a belligerent tirade from someone.

      That some people don’t understand that the retail employees hate them for their routine behavior. (Screaming across the store for a bagger after deliberately going to a lane without one, for instance)

      That there are people that will throw a tantrum if you tell them “No, I’m off the clock and can’t help you.”

      That unless you’re too sick to walk, can’t see straight, and/or can’t keep food down/in, there’s no excuse not to come in. If you don’t show up, you don’t get paid. Sick days are myth.

      This is what I’ve learned working retail.

  12. Aking0667 says:

    4. Management is there to screw you over.