If you’re in university right now, then there’s a high chance that you’ve had a job in retail before. As with any job, it has its ups and downs, but there are so many ways that having a retail job helps you grow as a person.
Having a job is about so much more than just earning money. It’s about gaining invaluable experience, about developing your interpersonal skills and most of all, about helping you grow.
If you’ve had a job in retail or you’re currently working in one, then it’s probably both the best and worst experience of your student career. Best because the job helps you grow in ways you can’t even imagine. Worst because that growth can’t happen without the challenge that accompanies a job in retail.
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1. You Develop Patience
As working in retail requires you to work directly with customers, it is guaranteed that you will face many difficulties and conflicts that correspond directly to customer service.
If there’s one thing you need to help you deal with customers day in day out, it’s the patience of a saint. Most days, you’ll have regular customers, who may or may not respond when you greet them. They’ll usually ask you a maximum of one question, just a good old “Where do I find ____?”
It’s those customers who come in every so often and refuse to take no for an answer that can really test your patience. It’s really important to not take it personally, smile and assist them.
Maybe you’re screaming insults inside your head, or you’re wishing you could be anywhere but there. Perhaps you’re also grinding your teeth and wondering if steam is coming out of your ears. But just remember that you’re literally getting paid to deal with it and try not to lose your patience.
2. You Learn to Compromise
Whether it’s coming to an agreement with a coworker about swapping shifts or reducing the number of co-curricular activities to accommodate for an increased work schedule, compromise is something that you learn to deal with with a retail job.
Achieving a work-life balance is not easy at all. There are some things that you have to sacrifice and sometimes you have to stretch your time in a way that seems impossible. But you have to remember that the reward sometimes outweighs the inconvenience that having a job brings to your life.
Life is all about balance. There are three main aspects to a student’s life: school, work and personal life. Sometimes you have to prioritise one over the others, e.g. when you have an exam coming up or a personal commitment that you have to attend. But even if you tip the scales a little, you still have to make sure that the scale rights itself in the end.
3. You Become More Empathetic
When working a retail job, you learn to read and interpret emotions so that you can be better prepared in handling emotions in your workplace.
Conflicts in the workplace can be a delicate matter. Whether this is a disagreement between a customer and an employee or a conflict between two different employees, it’s something that you learn how to read, interpret and decide what the next best course of action is.
Maybe you learn how to recognise your manager’s mood before you ask for time off. Or perhaps you read the emotions on a customer’s face before you go over and ask if they need help. These are all situations that may determine whether or not you have an enjoyable shift.
This empathy can transfer over to so many other areas of your life. It can help you deal with relationships, both platonic and romantic. It can get you out of trouble and it can help you resolve conflicts. There are unlimited ways that increased empathy is beneficial to your life, thanks to a good old retail job and how it helps you grow.
4. You Realise the Importance of Teamwork
Just as a sports team needs to work together to score goals and ultimately win the game, a retail store needs its employees to work together to achieve the sales target for the day. There are so many things involved in keeping a store running smoothly, and you are only a small part of that.
By acknowledging that you can’t do everything by yourself, you’re able to learn what it means to work in a team and that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. Not everyone is going to be super productive or perform at their best every day. It’s perfectly natural for your coworkers to help you out and vice versa whenever any of you need.
5. You Learn How to Communicate with Superiors in the Work Environment
It’s one thing to interact with parents and teachers, another when dealing with employers and those in charge at work. Having a job means learning to communicate with those who have a say in your future at that particular company.
It’s inevitable that there’ll be conflicts and tension at work. Maybe you feel like your boss is being hard on you, or that they’re not being reasonable when you ask them for time off. These are all possible situations that you have to learn to deal with in the best way possible, without hurting your employment.
The great thing about working while you’re still a student is that you can treat your various employments as practice runs. Practice for when you get out into the real world with a full-time job.
There’s not much room for error when you’re making a living off your job. So, you want to make sure that each “practice” job helps you grow and improve before you’re officially an adult with adult responsibilities.
6. You Learn How to Deal with Lazy or Difficult Coworkers
It can be really difficult to get a job done even if you have only one difficult coworker. All it takes is one person to bring a whole team down. A job in retail can really test your patience in dealing with a coworker who won’t cooperate. These situations can be frustrating, but you’re able to learn how to take charge, work around them and still get the job done.
Being able to handle situations like this is a testament to exactly how much a retail job can teach you about difficulties in everyday life. These skills can be applied to so many situations. For example, a difficult member in group work or someone who won’t cooperate in group assignments.
It’s really important not to let your emotions get the better of you in these situations and learn how to stay calm and rational. Only then will the approach you’ve chosen be effective and successful in that particular circumstance.
7. You Become More Independent
If there’s one thing you learn that’s so important to personal growth, it’s independence. Working a job in retail teaches you so much about life and helps you develop so many types of independence.
Having a job encourages you to develop independence while travelling.
Even if you had your first job in early high school, your parents were probably still too busy to drop you off to and from work.
So, maybe you were able to get more comfortable with riding the train alone or it gave you the incentive to get your license and learn how to drive.
The majority of students work while studying to gain a bit more spending money or to support themselves a little better.
Earning a wage is one of the best ways to understand the hard work that goes into making money. Aside from that, it’s also a great way to develop financial independence in encouraging you to understand the value of money and learn to not waste it.
When working a retail job, there are inevitably occasions where you have to figure out the next course of action immediately without anyone to guide you.
As children, we’re told to listen to our superiors and never do anything without consulting them. However, as we grow older, we are expected to know how to make decisions for ourselves and be independent.
Having a job is one of the best ways to develop this independence. Especially as your managers and supervisors can’t possibly be around all the time.
8. You Learn How to Solve Problems Without Looking to Your Manager First
As a kid, you would look to your parents or teachers any time something went wrong. That was what they taught you to do.
Adulthood and the workplace is a whole other story.
There’s no one there who will fix your mistakes, who will tell you that you did the right thing even if it was wrong.
While working, you have to figure out how to solve the problem at hand. You have to be able to take responsibility. And you have to be mature enough to admit that you’re wrong sometimes.
Frankly, that can be quite a scary experience for most teenagers. Luckily, getting some job experience while in school is sort of like riding a bike with training wheels. You get to test it out and there’s something there to catch you if you fall.
Slowly, as you gain more and more experience, you can take those training wheels off and still be able to move forward without the fear that you’ll fall off.
So, there is no doubt that there are so many ways that a job in retail helps you grow as a person. From improving your communication skills to helping you gain independence, having a job is definitely one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have as a student.
You can find out what the best part-time jobs for students are here.