Life lessons from working retail

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This summer, I did what most college students do on their three-month vacation from school. I got a summer job. Instead of the cliché part-time position at a fast food joint, I decided to broaden my horizons and work at a grocery store.

I know what you are thinking:  “Oh my, she is going to hate her life and will never want to work with people for as long as she lives.” But after working there for the summer, I am still alive, and I am even happy to declare that working in retail is not as bad as people think it is.

When I started my new job, I began at the bottom. I started as a cleaner. I had to clean the bathrooms, empty the trash, and just make the place look nice. I’ll admit that the days were long and the work was not the best, but, hey, a job is a job. Soon I moved up to a bagger/cart fetcher. So now I got to handle people’s food and got carts from a parking lot, rain or shine.

After about a month of that, I landed in my final position as a cashier. This was it, the top position on the front end. I was in charge of making sure the prices were correct and going as fast as I could, all while making certain the customer was happy and found everything okay.

Even though those three months were a long journey of learning new things and being shifted around more than a card deck at a casino, I found that I appreciated my experience.

Working in retail teaches you great skills that you can use for a lifetime.

My first few days as a bagger were pretty rough, as I was just learning the ropes. At one point,  a customer came down to where I was bagging and promptly told me that I was “going to smash something” or that I was “doing a crappy job of handling her frozen foods.” Instead of going off on her, something that was tempting,  I controlled myself.  I calmly told her I was sorry and that I could get her a different bagger if she felt more comfortable with someone else.

Working in retail taught me how to deal with people, whether they are rude or overly happy, and greatly enhanced my people skills.

I also established new friendships and connections that will last a lifetime. Every day at my job, I would always meet someone new, whether they were a new employee or a “seasoned veteran.” Every person that I worked with had their own story.

Some were college students like me, others were just people who had been working at the store for more than 30 years and would not have it any other way. Either way, the more people I met, the more I made connections and found common ground.  No matter how stressful the day was, I learned that it is always better if you have a friendly co-worker who is willing to listen.

Working in retail was not the worst thing in the world because it always brought me back down to reality. One day I came in to work, upset because my stepbrother ate the leftovers I was planning on eating on break. Although it was petty, it still made me angry. About 30 minutes into my shift, a woman came up to my lane with a loaf of bread and some milk. When I told her the balance, she pulled out a coin purse and started paying the $2.70 bill in pennies. But, she was ten cents short and had to leave the store without her essential items. It was after this transaction that I realized I should not be angry at my stepbrother, I should be grateful I even had leftovers or food to begin with.

Working in retail helped me understand that I should be thankful for what I have, not for what I am lacking.

During my summer, I did not leave Indiana. I did not go to any amusement parks, swimming pools or campgrounds. Do I regret not doing anything over the summer? Honestly, a trip to a pool would have been a welcome treat, but other than that, I do not regret my summer experience.

I am glad that I got a job, especially in retail. I learned new people skills, made new friends and even learned to be more thankful than I usually am.  I am proud that, even though it  was only three months, I worked in a retail job.

I am also proud to say that I did not want to quit after my first week and I do not hate people any more than I did before. So the next time you are trying to look for a job, do not avoid retail. Embrace it.

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