Take a quick scan of a variety of job descriptions on Monster or Indeed and you’re likely to discover that soft skills are in high demand. Where’s the best place to hone these needed skills while still in school and only able to work part time? A Retail Job.
“What? A McJob?” You say? Yep. And they’re available all over your home town.
Whether you’re working at your local fast food restaurant, a specialty store, or that huge department store over at the mall, you will gain some killer marketable skills—all while being able to work around your school schedule, and possibly take advantage of an employee discount on clothing or food. (Yeah—you can have fries with that…)
But, for the long-term, let’s go back to that skills piece. Here are the top 3 skills that can be gained—and transferred to your subsequent jobs once you graduate:
1) Customer Service.
In almost any industry you will be charged with serving a customer—whether external or internal. Developing that customer-centric-focus and mindset is critical to seeing your product or service from their point of view and finding ways to not only please—but to “delight” them is key. Excellent listening skills, explaining features and benefits, being persuasive, and negotiating for a win/win are all a part of this marketable skill, as well.
2) Team-work and Communication.
You will not only be working with customers, but speaking, listening, cooperating with co-workers, vendors and supervisors. Can you switch shifts with James so that he can go to his girlfriend’s volleyball game? Or delay your lunch break to help the UPS guy in checking in a shipment? How about reframing a request to your boss so it doesn’t sound like you are trying to manage her? Learning excellent communication skills and being able to cooperate with everyone is what will keep your day running smoothly.
3) Multi-tasking and Time-management.
Mixing a latte, joking with a fellow barista, while greeting a customer, and showing another where the latest mug shipment is housed might sound daunting. But in retail, this kind of multi-tasking becomes second nature. Planning your work schedule so that you don’t miss your lectures, making time to write that paper, studying for finals, and occasionally trying to see your girlfriend (so she feels like staying your girlfriend) are examples of the kind of time-management you’ll be cultivating by working a part-time retail job, as well.
While you’re working, be sure to keep careful notes about your accomplishments, awards, and accolades from customers, co-workers and supervisors. Then you’ll be able to sprinkle these in your resume—both in the “competencies” section as well as the “experience” sections. Drop them into your cover letter, and also be prepared to tell stories about them in your interviews to show your skills.
You’ll be glad you worked a retail job. Besides, it’ll keep you humble. And many employers will appreciate that, as well.