Posted February 21, 2020

How to Get Started on Your Retail Journey

By Grace Tino

Many people envision retail as the perfect entry-level area to start a long career- and they should! Retail offers many beginner positions for those simply new to the industry or even starting a first job. However, retail is a diverse industry, and that can sometimes complicate the job hunt. There are various types of stores, departments within the stores, and even hours to consider. Finding the right entry-level retail position doesn't have to be dizzying; with careful planning and investigating, starting your retail journey is truly fun and exciting. Let's dive into some of the basics to help you narrow down the right entry-level retail position for you!

A good place to start as a retail newbie isn't jumping right to job applications-it's to make up a list of what you're looking for and your skillset. You can't start a search until you know yourself first! Understanding your skillset and personality will lead you to positions that are natural fits. Consider your ideal work environment, team culture, and even the type of products that interest you. There's a lot of options, but if you can remember what type of stores you like to visit as a customer, they'll likely be the best fit to work in as well. Ask yourself what type of commitment you want and the typical hours you're available to work; do you have open availability, or are you looking for something to do in spare time for extra income? Write out your specific needs to keep in mind as you narrow your search down.

Now that you've taken some time to self-reflect, you can start looking at different general areas of retail. While similar positions can be found in most stores, the duties and work environment can slightly vary. Think about all the places you may shop on a weekly basis: your grocery stores, clothing stores, bookstores, pharmacies, even pet stores. These are the different types of places you can find your first retail position! Consider the products you'll be working with, the types of teams you've seen working in stores you've visited, and the customers that will be there to debate the fit. Plus, you may even want to consider the company size overall. Employee policies often vary greatly between large department store chains and a small local coffee shop! Some stores will have more rigid uniform policies, scheduling protocols, and structured training and strategy. Research each company you look at, big or small, to get a feel and compare their cultures to the one you know you want.

Part-time? Full-time? Even seasonal! These are the common schedules you'll need to decide on when looking for your first retail position. On top of that, some opportunities will be at different times of the day, such as evening versus morning shifts. It's crucial to narrow down the hours you desire so you can meet the needs of the employer. Simply put, don't apply to a position if you don't feel you can come the hours the employer specifies. If you are looking to dip your toe in, starting out part-time is going to be ideal for you. Part-time is also great for those balancing other responsibilities such as school, family, or even other jobs, as the hours tend to be flexible with change.

While full-time hours offer the most in terms of pay and benefits, they're a much larger commitment when you may be a little unsure of if this industry is right for you. If you're positive you want to get started in retail, don't shy away if full-time hours match your availability! You'll spend your hours cultivating key professional skills, and you may even have chances to try out different departments and job types internally that can be a better fit. Seasonal employment is unique, as these positions are typically temporary, with a variety of shifts available during the day/night and part-time flexibility. These positions are best suited for those in need of some extra income for a short time or just looking to try something out. Seasonal positions always possess the potential to become permanent for the hard-working employee!

Finally, think about the actual job responsibilities you're looking for. Consider your skillset and personality. If you are a people person and love to communicate and problem-solve, perhaps working as a customer service representative is right for you. You may find yourself handling a difficult customer here and there, but it can be especially rewarding to help one in need. If you find yourself to be goal-oriented and competitive, a retail sales associate is a great entry-level fit. You'll be challenged to push yourself and meet sales goals for yourself and your store. Other common entry-level positions for those desire customer-facing duties include cashiers, servers, and occasionally stock clerks.

For those who want to be on the backend, rather than working directly with customers, there are plenty options to get started with as well. Inventory is a great place to start, as you'll be handling the stock of the store, but keep in mind you must be detail-oriented and organized for this number-focused position. Larger retailers commonly offer retail warehouse positions; these positions may require some heavy lifting and are good for those who want to stay on their feet. If you find yourself to be a creative type, investigate opportunities with visual merchandising as assistants and associates. These positions involve an imaginative side as you create the displays in windows and around the store that enhance customer experience.

Retail doesn't just have entry-level to offer, though it is undoubtedly a top industry for starter opportunities. Once you've gotten some experience under your belt, you can start considering a manager position and take on even more challenges. As you embark on your retail journey, remember to think big picture, because a long-term career in retail can be successful and rewarding! You can start your search here to finally break into the retail space. Good luck!