The Myths of Working in a Retailing Job

The Myths of Working in a Retailing Job

Retail openings can be found from the tiniest boutique to the largest big-box national chain. Customers in smaller stores and fashionable department stores expect individual attention, while customers shopping at the likes of Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Costco expect a clean efficient environment and customer service when they need it.

No matter the type of retail outlet the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of retail salespersons is expected to rise 17% through 2020. Yet many job seekers hang on to misperceptions about jobs in the retail sector, which can prevent them from landing a new job. Those myths often include:

  • If you don't have previous retail experience, you may think of retail jobs as entry-level positions or second jobs for high school students. On the contrary, there are a wide range of retail industry jobs, including cashiers, customer service reps, department managers, purchasing agents and more. Some of these positions require a college degree and offer very competitive wages and benefits.
  • Some retail openings are part-time and pay minimum wage, which may discourage you to apply. But those jobs often open doors to larger opportunities in the future, with benefits and promotion potential.
  • Retail is a great option for those who love working with people. It takes a certain patience and commitment, but many people thrive on the interpersonal relationships and providing support and help to others in a retail environment.
  • Others seek retail work in niche markets, such as fashion, sports gear or wine. It becomes an opportunity for you to develop more expertise in a field you already have some passion for, such as the bookstore employee willing to impart literary expertise to shoppers.

Where to Find Retail Opportunities

You need to apply for retail jobs with the same discipline and earnestness you would bring to any job search. Prepare resumes and cover letters, practice your interview skills and implement a job-search strategy. Never assume that because retailing appeals to high-school students and often pays minimum wage to start that the barriers to entry are lower.

Begin with the retailer's website. Most retailers provide the opportunity to apply online at home or in the store. This is an administrative efficiency for them, so it should not be seen as impersonal. You will find this is the most direct route for earning an interview. Next, visit niche job boards that cater specifically to retail listings, such as the Retail Network, which provides a much more focused database than the national jobs boards.

Of course, the single best way to investigate potential opportunities is to visit the store. You aren't likely to have an interview scheduled on the spot, especially at larger outlets, but stopping in to deliver your resume and cover letter can allow for invaluable face-time with a potential hiring manager. The need and the hire are often a matter of timing, and you may find yourself in the right place and the right time.

Also, don't forget to network with friends and relatives who already work in retailing. They are in a position to tell you when there's an opening, and at a small or mid-sized retailer, this often can lead to finding out about a job before it's advertised.

Remember that not all retail jobs put you at a cash register or counter. There are also positions open for managers and management trainees that may open a new career for you.