Alternatives to the 9-5: Working in Retail

Author: Katie Greenberg

Whether you are just graduating or somehow find yourself in need of work, today’s job market can be a harsh hit of reality for anyone looking to move forward in their career path. It can take months of searching and there is just no guarantee that you will land your ideal position. After my own graduation, I spent close to two months fruitlessly searching through job sites on my couch (mostly in my pajamas) before I finally started to question if this was the best use of my time. So I decided to change direction and, thankfully, it wasn’t long before I was able to find a part time job in retail.

9 months later, I’m still no closer to landing my dream job and I’m still pretty broke but I’ve learned that retail can offer some nice benefits for young women starting out. So in case you’re torn between waiting until the right job comes along or just trying to find something to help pay the bills, here are my own pros and cons list for working in retail in your twenties:

Pros: Great Discount on Clothing

Of course this would be the most obvious bonus for working in retail. Every girl loves a great discount on clothes and it comes at a time in our lives when many of us find it hard to afford full price. Not to mention, you can get a great discount on a future work wardrobe.

Cons: Great Discount on Clothing

Living on a strict budget is hard enough but I find that it becomes even harder when you’re constantly surrounded by clothes at discounted prices. It’s easy to tell yourself that you won’t be tempted when you start working but, the truth is, you will most likely be expected to wear the company’s clothes at your job. And even if you’ve got the will power to avoid purchasing that $86 blouse you love, just try not buying it once that blouse gets marked down to $42.99.

Pros: Meeting People (Networking Opportunities)

While this might not be true for all stores, I was surprised by just how many repeat customers I’ve built relationships with through my job. While this won’t typically lead to anything there have definitely been times where I’ve worked with women who’ve given me their contact info after I’d been particularly helpful. In one instance, I helped out a woman who was absolutely thrilled after I had managed to find her a shirt that looked absolutely perfect on her. She gave me her contact info and, after talking with her for awhile, I learned that she worked in the same career field that I had hoped to work in. Unfortunately, this didn’t lead to a job for me but you still never know the opportunities that are out there!

Cons: Meeting People

Unfortunately, not everyone you meet will be as nice or helpful. It is expected that a large number of customers are often rude, discourteous, and even steal things. However, there are always a number of unexpected instances where you have to work with people who just seem flat out crazy. Occasionally, moms will bring their kids into the store and then just leave them with you while they continue to shop. I know that, since I started working, I’ve had to sit and watch at least 6 kids who’s moms were either shopping in the store or had somehow just left them in the mall. So there are an infinite number of unpleasant and crazy scenarios that can happen when you come into contact with so many people during the day and they are just impossible to prepare for.

Pros: The Hours

Unlike the standard office job, retail is a field where you can, more or less, work on your own terms. This can be great for the college graduate who may not necessarily be ready to work a typical 9-5 hour day. In my case, I find that the part time hours keep me busy and off the couch but still gives me enough time to continue with my job search (as well as blog). I was also surprised by just how much I loved the flexibility of my work schedule. The way I see it, we have our entire lives to work full time so I’m taking the time to enjoy the freedom that I have now.

 Cons: The Hours

Still, even though the hours are less, the amount of work and time spent on your feet makes retail feel more taxing than a full time job. After working nights I often find myself exhausted the next day and my feet are in a constant state of pain. The work schedules, themselves, can be a real hassle as you often have to work on holidays. During busier seasons and floor-sets (times when the store’s merchandise is rearranged) some stores will even require you to work shifts that last the entire night. Times like these makes it all the more frustrating when you are still broke.

To summarize, this is not a job I would recommend for everybody but if you’re still in college or just starting out this can be a great transition into the workforce. Despite the drawbacks, I still enjoy the flexibility and the work and I know that I’m much happier now than I was 9 months ago when I first applied. In this sense, working part time in retail or some other industry can buy you some extra time to focus on yourself and help keep your spirits up while you continue to search for a more career oriented job. And, even if you are already employed, working in retail on the weekends or at night can be the perfect means in which to get extra help paying the bills. So at the very least, it gets you off the couch!

3 Comments
  1. You know what? I loved the way your structured this blog post! It was kind of hilarious! Coming from a retail background myself, I could definitely identify. You had some veiled humor in this blog and put forth some good advice that I most definitely agree with.

    Grit, grind, drama, and flexibility. That’s retail. Not the best, but also not the worst. But all in all, it’s perfectly fine transitional job for that fresh college grad.

  2. Great post, I’m a musician but I’m starting a new part time job in retail next week – yes I am hugely excited about clothes allowance! I’m really excited about it actually – something to get me out of the house during the day and help pay the bills!

  3. Writing tip: never start your summary/ conclusion section with “to summarize” or “in conclusion”. it’s just lazy writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.