You're looking for a job in the retail sector, and you're finding the search a bit more challenging than you expected. Years ago, retail jobs were easier to find, and competition didn't always present a significant obstacle. Those searching for a job in the retail sector encountered a different and often simpler application process.
At this point, the retail industry has undergone significant shifts, many of them brought on by budget contractions, pressure from online markets, and an imbalance in the labor equation that favors employers. This means that open positions in retail are harder to find, competition is tighter, and employers are searching for workers who not only understand the demands of customer service, but who also adapt well to a company's culture and accurately reflect the selling features of its brand.
If you're searching for a job in the retail sector, be prepared to demonstrate a high level of product knowledge, customer relationship management expertise, multi-tasking ability, and a strong work ethic. If you're flexible, a fast learner, and consistently friendly, patient, and helpful, you'll have a better chance of impressing potential employers.
The Challenges of Retail: Floor Work and Inventory
Entry level positions in retail usually involve organizing inventory, helping customers find what they're looking for, and ringing up their purchases when they're ready to buy. Employees in this position are often expected to make knowledgeable product recommendations and guide customers as they navigate their purchasing options. Those in this position hold significant control over how customers feel about the company and the relationship they have with a brand. So if you're applying for this kind of position, you'll need to prove that you have qualities like these:
- Initiative: Can you listen carefully to a customer's request or complaint and solve the problem on your own? Can you actively approach customers who may have questions and answer those questions accurately?
- Reliability: Can you show up on time, stay flexible in the face of schedule changes, and stay patient with customers, even after long shifts on your feet?
- Aptitude: Can you learn and apply new procedures quickly, including changes in register management, product tracking, or customer protocols?
- Branding: Do you understand the product you're selling and the company you're working for? Do you appreciate the benefits of this product and are you eager to share those benefits with potential customers? Most important of all, can you elevate the company's reputation with your helpful attitude and your attention to customer service?
The Challenges of Retail: Management
Retail managers face a different set of challenges. If you're applying for a position as a shift or floor manager, you'll have to demonstrate qualities like the following:
- Leadership: Can your employees trust you to provide adequate training and the resources they need to do their jobs? Can you handle the pressures of complex shift scheduling, which means avoiding overstaffing while keeping enough employees on the floor to handle customer needs?
- Hiring ability: Can you accurately screen candidates for the qualities listed above? Are you able to attract and retain the right candidates, and can you coach or terminate employees who don't display those qualities?
- Financial aptitude: Can your employers trust you to calculate receipt totals at the end of the day and manage cash deposits? Do you have the marketing skill to attract customers and maintain high foot traffic and sales? Can you quickly and easily process returns, and listen carefully to customer complaints so you can keep future returns to a minimum?
If you have what it takes to succeed in retail, you'll have plenty of opportunities for advancement. This is a growing industry sector, though it's also undergoing rapid changes. For more specific guidance on launching a fulfilling career in this field, visit Livecareer.com. Take advantage of our industry-specific job search resources and sample resumes.