In hindsight, rolling pretzels in high school at the age of 16, all to save up for college, was actually the first step in preparing me for my future career and I didn't even know it. No, I don’t want to make pretzels a full-time career (unless it is consuming them), but the skills I have learned from working in customer service has molded me into the employee and teammate I am now.
Four years after experiencing the greasy lifestyle of being a pretzel wench, I am now a sales associate at a women’s clothing store called Anthropologie. Valuable lesson numero uno: working in retail isn't a job for everyone. A job in customer service (or really any job where you have to interact with humans) takes patience, a friendly personality, and the oh so useful ability to smile when someone is yelling at you because a specific candle isn’t in stock.
Retail work is sometimes mind numbing and dull, but at least it continues to teach me that mastering the ability of managing time makes a world of difference. When it comes to reaching a goal, I now understand the importance of doing tasks in the most efficient way possible. I spend hours upon hours doing shipments, putting on sensors, restocking the merchandise, and every single day I find a quicker way to do it. Now, whenever I wrestle tasks at my internship that have seemed to be done inefficiently in the past, I find a way to make a more economical and better use of time.
Working with customers is also great practice at making first impressions. Coming in contact with hundreds of people a day has trained me how to read body language as well as become a master at dealing with other people’s needs and emotions. These interactions will make working/meeting future clients or co-workers a breeze. In my experience, I now know that when someone starts to get defensive with their tone or body language it usually means that they feel attacked or overlooked. This is when you take a moment to listen, show that you value their opinion, and try to have a calm discussion about the issue. I learned all this just by helping a customer return a pillowcase.
My current retail job has also made it clear that networking yourself is the key to making big things happen. For instance, a co-worker of mine made it known that her boyfriend was a producer at The Second City Network. TSCN is a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge deal to me because Saturday Night Live was made possible by the comedians that performed there and I am just in love with the plays and improve shows they create. I got the producers email and asked if he needed an intern to do some grunt work around the office. 3 weeks later, I started my first internship at one of the most well-known comedy clubs in the USA. NETWORKING, PEOPLE, NETWORKING!
Sometimes when you’re looking at things close up you can’t tell how big of an effect they have on your life. In retrospect, the time I’ve spent working in retail has helped me foster skills that I know I will use in my future career and interactions with people.