6 tips for students working in retail 

Whether you want a part-time job for the summer or you want to access higher career options later on, working in retail as a student can be a good choice. Retail jobs are more flexible because you can set your own shifts and thus balance work with studying. They teach you a lot about customers, working in a team, managing your first responsibilities, working under pressure, delegating, time management, problem-solving, and much more. At times, retail can also be rather demanding and stressful, but the competencies it helps develop will become advantages in the future. 

Despite the issues that the sector faced in the past two years, retail jobs continue to have a substantial presence. According to recent data, retail workers tend to be younger, typically between 16 and 34, so lack of experience isn’t a disadvantage. 

However, if you want to make the most out of your retail job and use it as an opportunity to climb the career ladder, not just earn some extra pocket money, you need to pay attention to a few things.

Here are some tips that can help you out: 

Know your field

It’s easy to place all retail jobs in the same category, but working in a grocery store is different from working in a clothing store or a luxury jewelry one. Each retail sub-sector has its own quirks and, if you want to make a good impression, you need to understand it thoroughly. You should know what customers are like and what they expect from store representatives. For example, if you get a job in a luxury store selling diamond engagement rings, you should try to learn a few things about precious metals and stones, and also listen to what the customer wants. If you work in fashion, keep an eye on the latest trends, and know who’s who in the industry. Retail actually has many sub-sectors and, if you want to take advantage of it, try to go into a subsector that you love and understand.

Focus on your performance

At the end of the day, performance is the most important metric for your evaluation. While things such as being a good team player also matter, the numbers carry the most weight, so don’t neglect them. When starting your job in retail, know what these performance metrics are and try to exceed them.

Here are some indicators you should keep in mind: 

  • Number of closed sales
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Speed
  • Positive reviews from customers
  • Average spend per customer

As you’re starting out, it’s normal to underachieve, but gradually you should be able to improve your performance and outdo yourself.

Customers are at the core of your industry.

Retail is centered on the customer – no exceptions. If you want to have a successful job in this field, you need to have a customer-centric mindset. On the one hand, this means that you have to be as helpful as possible and try to take the customer experience to new heights every time, whether that’s figuring out what an indecisive customer wants or helping them find a gift for their picky mother-in-law. On the other hand, you need to be a diplomatic person and know how to handle conflicts and difficult customers. No matter how friendly you are, difficult customers are simply part of the job. You won’t be able to change their attitude, but the way you react to it matters for the store’s reputation. As tempting as it might be to snap at the customer (especially after a long shift), being diplomatic and talking to your manager instead is the wiser course of action.

 Don’t get caught up in gossip.

Retail can get a bit hard on your nerves, especially during the holidays, sales periods, or when you have exams. At times like these, it can be tempting to start complaining or get involved in gossip with co-workers. However, this is never a useful attitude and, apart from some short-term relief, it won’t help with your career goals in the long run. On the contrary, it will only label you as a Negative Nelly. If you do give feedback, try to be constructive and never say bad things about the company behind your manager’s back. Being positive, respectful, and proactive will get you far. 

Be the one to take initiative.

Between two employees with similar skills, the one who takes the initiative is usually the one who gets noticed and rewarded. In fact, even if you have a lot to learn and make a few mistakes at first, as long as you’re proactive and try to help out, you’ll make a good impression. Don’t build your success on your colleagues’ failures; give a helping hand whenever possible, and don’t let your first answer be “no”. When faced with a challenge, have a “can-do” attitude and focus on solutions, not problems. 

Remember about your transferable skills.

It’s easy to dismiss a retail job as a short-term way of making money, but retail can actually teach you many important skills that can help you in your career, especially if it’s for a luxury brand with well-defined core values. For example, Baunat places great value on customer support, and being able to provide this next-level customer support can help you in your future professional endeavors. Apart from customer support, other transferable skills that you can gain by working in retail include: 

  • Ability to work in a team
  • Time management
  • Attention to details
  • Ability to delegate tasks, prioritize, and manage your time
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Sales
  • Ability to work with tools such as inventory management

Last but not least, working in retail gives you a good idea of visual merchandising, branding, and marketing. If you are a marketing student and you want to work with a leading company, seeking a job in the retail department at first is a great way of getting to know their culture. Then, if you have a proactive attitude, reach your goals, and are great to work with, you can gradually get higher and higher in the company and eventually work in the department of your dreams.

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