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The summer before starting University I decided to get a summer job at a popular health and beauty retailer. I worked every Saturday, the occasional cover-shift and bank holiday in a variety of departments. When it was time to leave for University, I decided to stay with the company and worked there for three years—right up to my graduation. The job certainly had its share of ups-and-downs, however, it was difficult parting with my old workplace when I left to pursue my dream of traveling to Peru.
Of course, there were days when I cursed my few unemployed friends for their free weekends but I knew that my job would be worth the tiny sacrifice of just a few days a week. According to an article by The Independent, eight out of 10 students hold down a part-time job whilst studying at university—and that number is still rising. I definitely wasn't alone on my hustle.
With this figure in mind, here is why I happily worked in retail for three years:
So let's get the obvious one out of the way first. Working in retail was a great little income—if you join the right company you get paid really well. John Lewis, Morrisons, and Boots pay really well compared to other companies.
I used my monthly wages to supplement my student grant paying for food and petrol. If you work enough hours then you may even not need to to take out a student living loan! Any spare income also went on plenty of ASOS orders and my student travels. Learning to manage my income was a valuable experience. Although it isn't all about the money, right?
2. Solid People Skills
The day of my retail interview I was a shaking mess. Before retail, I had only worked voluntary shifts with lots of hand holding. The idea of approaching customers and being accountable for my own mistakes was terrifying. Fast forward three years and I will happily approach anyone, start conversations and be held responsible for my errors.
Starting my retail job was definitely a baptism of fire but I took the "fake it 'till you make it" approach and quickly became comfortable. You learn to keep calm while a customer asks you seemingly pointless questions, turn a customer complaint into a commendation and handle the fussiest of customers. Handling customers professionally really is an art.
3. Employability After University
Having a retail job was a great introduction to the working world. I learned to manage my time on my days that I was working, it also gave me experience for interviewing. This was so helpful in my following jobs.
Retail work also gives you a nice little paragraph on your CV, something to fill out on those frustratingly detailed grad job application forms, and a nice little set of skills. This may not seem like a lot but trust me, these skills can go a long way.
If you are looking at a job in the retail sector after studying, then even better! Supply chain, merchandising, and sales grad jobs love applicants to have some retail experience.
4. To Be the Most Product and Discount Savvy Amongst Your Friends
I love a discount—who doesn't? Working for a beauty retailer, I had a discount card and I was also the first to know about in-store and online promotions. Thanks to this I always bought the latest make-up, knew the current trends and took on an "advisory" role to countless friends and family members.
Most companies give employees a generous discount off of their products. If not, sign up to their loyalty scheme because after advising customers all day you will know the offers inside-and-out. By knowing the deals well, you will not only impress your boss with your company knowledge but you will also cop yourself a bargain! Win-win!
Friends in retail are what can turn an okay little student job into an extraordinary experience. Spending eight hours a day with them means that conversations get deep quickly. Surviving the minefield of Black Friday, Christmas, and even the "payday rush" can be a bonding experience too. Your colleagues understand the struggles of working retail; they know when to bail you out and together you are more than just colleagues, you are a team!
Some of my favorite memories of the friends made in retail were having tea and gossip every morning in the break room before work, watching one of my colleagues in her dance show after work, and thoroughly embarrassing myself in front of all my colleagues at "work bowling" (Imagine birthing a bowling ball... I will just leave you with that image.) And, as you can imagine there were countless in-jokes while working. As long as you remember to stay professional at work, these friendships can really enhance your experience.
There are so many more reasons why you should consider retail work while studying but these are the main ones!