How do you quit retail and move on to other careers?

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Retail Ready People - Enfield
I have worked in retail off and on for 10 of the past 15 years, and it’s time to quit. Standing/bending/folding all day is aggravating a pre-existing back problem. After a busy day, the pain is just awful.

The problem is, even though I have some experience in other fields, most employers outside of the service industry won’t even talk to me!

It is logistically and financially impossible for me to get another degree. I’ve exhausted every contact I have. I won’t be applying for disability, since I technically can work and am therefore not truly eligible. I’m out of ideas and am tired of crying in frustration.

How do I break out of service jobs and go on to other fulfilling careers? -Anna

While we have a whole tag full of job hunting advice, and we’ve talked about quitting careers and working retail before. But what about doing the opposite?

How have some of you quit retail and procured jobs in other industries?

Comments on How do you quit retail and move on to other careers?

  1. This won’t be the most glamorous answer, but I had a similar experience myself after finishing art school and working as a barista for almost three years. I am now working in a call center as tech support, and while it has not made me want to stay there past the year deadline I gave myself, it did get me out of retail. My employers (accurately) said that my barista experience would translate over the phone to customers, plus I am gaining other work experience with data entry and assisting HR. Additionally, the more reliable schedule has helped me go back to my art. While my center does not have a work from home option, some call centers do for anyone who needs a flexible schedule.

    • I left retail to work at a company that had work from home call center positions. The company was large enough that I could movie into other internal non-customer facing roles after developing skills gained from the call center position. People criticize the cubicle corporate work life, but that seriously became my dream job after working in retail for so long. What’s so wrong with getting to sit during your shifts and not getting verbally abused by customers all day? Nothing, that’s what. Good luck as you transition to a new role! Also, http://askamanager. org was a godsend in helping me rewrite my resume and sharpen my interview skills. Better days are within your reach!

      • askamanager is definintely a fantastic resource, not only for helping in the initial jobsearch, but even afterwards and navigating all sorts of workplace issues. I can’t reccommend it enough.

        I also have to say my route out of retail was through call centre work. It’s not glamorous and at times doesn’t feel much better than retail.. but you end up picking up skills and experience which you can use to transfer to other departments or organisations. Similarly, receptionist-type jobs may also be a good half-way house. Your customer service skills will be a big plus, but it’ll be more of a traditional office setting and you’ll be able to pick up office-related admin type skills to prepare you for a more standard office job, if that’s what you want.

    • This is pretty much exactly what I was going to say. I think a lot of people (including me) fall into the trap of thinking working retail doesn’t give you the skills to do anything except work in retail. But one thing it absolutely does give you is people skills, and that’s useful for pretty much any job.

      I can’t count the number of times since leaving retail I’ve heard people say things like “you can teach someone IT/surveying/organisational skills, but you can’t teach them to be good with people”, but you absolutely can and working retail is a great (if not always desirable) way to do it.

      If nothing else once you’ve had customers screaming in your face because they couldn’t be bothered to read a sign all the way through and want the deal they made up in their heads there’s relatively few “difficult” conversations you’ll encounter in most lines of work that will seem genuinely difficult.

      • To add on to the comments above, I would make sure to tweak your resume to highlight the kinds of skills that can translate to something more customer service or corporate oriented. Some skills that translate include customer service (as said above) but also any sort of buying or ordering duties you may have been in charge of, any management skills, knowledge to work with a certain clientele, knowledge of specific types of software (like Quickbooks or graphics software), or even window dressing.
        But it’s also important to focus on the skills that you use regularly relating to your hobbies. Volunteer work, arts & crafts-type skills, language skills, or even a love of microbrews can translate into employment in another field.

        • I wanted to add that volunteering is a GREAT way to add experience. On a resume, it doesn’t matter whether it’s paid work or not–experience is experience. It’s a lot easier to get volunteer jobs too.

  2. I worked in retail from the time I was 19 until I was 31. I was tired of being poor, basically. I worked longer, harder hours than most of my peers, and they were getting married and buying houses and I had exactly zero dollars and hoped every month to pay my rent. So I am entirely sympathetic to feeling trapped by retail. My best advice is to let your managers know you want to learn new skills. Take on different aspects of the job for experience. I started working in the cash room. Then I got a corporate (still retail, still horrible pay) job where I continued to ask to learn new things. I became an auditor and that led to my current job, not in retail, with excellent pay. I took a longer route, and I sometimes regret the time I lost, but I think I also have a better attitude about work and my boss appreciates that. When others complain, I am happy to take on something else because I’m so grateful to be where I am. You’ll make it if you let yourself take new opportunities, even if you don’t see now where they can lead.

  3. I’ve had quite a few friends move out of retail and into banking (varying from the call center to teller positions) and were later able to move up after gaining that entry level experience. While I totally understand thinking that you’d rather do anything but retail…really think about your end goal. What direction would you like your career to go in? Then start looking for entry level positions that can bridge the gap in your experience. Initially there may still be clients or customers that you regularly interact with, but look for a career path and company that will allow you to move up from there. When considering a company/position, talk to people who have worked there a while or at least check out to see if there is any upward mobility. Good luck!

    • Indeed, banking is a good choice to move along in your career. I work at the big green bank in Canada, and the corporate culture here is about upward mobility. Sure, you’ll probably start as a teller, but a lot of people at the bank did (including senior executives) and moved on to other types of jobs when they showed that they wanted to learn and progress in the company. In a bank, there are a lot of retail service jobs, sure, but also call centers, and centers of expertise, auditing, credit review, HR… really all kinds of careers that would not require you to stay standing all day and be much kinder to your back. And banks are usually very supportive of you getting the right kind of degree or certification to grow in your career.

      • Fair warning about being a teller, at the (kind of large, American corporate type) bank I worked at we were forbidden from sitting. I’ve since been told that’s becoming more common. So, if that’s really an important aspect for you, make sure you ask questions about the position like that because I was pretty surprised.

  4. Similar to what ‘Kirstin’ said, try to move up/around within the company to get additional experience. I was able to work HR and the Cash office at a retail store to got more experience for other jobs. I also worked for temp agencies for a few years to get more office and business career skills. You can then show potential employers that you have more experience than ‘just’ retail. Use your retail experience to show that you have lots of different skills to offer to a new company/job opportunity. In retail, you have handled money on a daily basis, dealt with difficult customers, problem solved to provide great customer service, worked with diverse communities of people, potentially worked in many areas of the business. You are flexible and determined to do what needs to be done to get the job done. etc. etc. etc. If you are able to beef-up your resume and get your foot in the door to an interview, spin your experiences in retail to show that you have the skills for the job, can learn quickly, and are ready for a career change! Don’t talk negatively about the retail jobs or industry, or why you want to leave ‘really’ your current job. Say that you are ready for a new challenge and want to move up within another industry. Potential employers can understand that people don’t want to do retail forever.

  5. Depending on what exactly you’re defining as something more fulfilling, I’d say looking into temp agencies. You’ll work a lot of random jobs, but you’ll make really good contacts. In my life all my jobs have been about who I knew more than my previous experience. Often times there are specific temp agencies that will work with certain job providers, like one for manufacturing, another for healthcare work, another for jobs in government office buildings. Ask the other people in the waiting room at the temp agencies where they’ve applied also. Don’t fall into the online job application hell cycle, go meet people face to face about jobs. When I have wanted a job I’ve stalked the place for weeks showing up in person at various times feeling out when the slow time is, and when would be a good time to talk to a manager. Another great option is to find out if your college has a career center. Where I went to school had job placement center for alumni that was super helpful with resume and mock interviews as well as loads of job postings I’d never seen before. Make sure you’re being extra gentle with yourself during your job search, all that rejection builds up and it’s crazy, but people don’t like to hire someone who’s desperate for a job.

    • Alumni career centers are a great place to start. Some high schools even offer this service, if you don’t have a college/advanced education. They are a great resource not only for the job search itself, but can help with things that may seem silly, like helping you format your resume or portfolio into the format your industry is looking for. ex) I asked my career office recently to help me turn my writing sample into a 200kb PDF, and they were able to format it for me when I was struggling with it.

  6. I know exactly what you’re going through! I started working at an insurance company as a Claims Manager after years of working off and on in retail. I highlighted my customer service background, which helped me (insurance companies don’t get a lot of high marks for customer service, so they look for people with that experience). They trained me in the claims management, and now there are working from home options too.

  7. If you’re still willing to do customer service, apply for customer service positions in offices. If you do well, this could be your foot in the door to move to something else.

    Also apply at temp agencies. They often have entry level office positions available and while they are temp, some positions lead to full-time, and temp agencies can be the only way to get one of these jobs sometimes. Temp agencies will also often do computer testing for their candidates, and office jobs require computer skills now. But unfortunately, they won’t see your background in retail as any evidence of computer skills.

  8. I worked in retail food service for a large corporate company my entire working career. Moved to the other side of the state and used my cash handling skillz to work at a bank for a while (do not suggest) but THEN.. after months of scanning I found a job as a Chiropractic Assistant. Which sounds really fancy when I tell people. I get “cool!” instead of “oh” now when I tell people where I work. I don’t know if it will be my “forever career” but for now it’s a lot better than scrubbing food out of tile grout and kicking out hobos on the daily.

    I had NO experience with insurance, making appointments, doctor lingo, or anything else involved. When I submitted my cover letter and resume I was convinced I would never hear back from them, I didn’t even bother calling because I felt it would be futile. Lo and behold, they called me and liked me. I’m not surprised they hired me after meeting me because I AM AWESOME (own it, people, OWN YOUR AWESOMENESS) but the fact they called me in the first place blew my mind.

    ANYWAY. That’s my story. If I can do it, I firmly believe others can. You might have to move to the other side of the state, tho….. Just kidding.

    • I’ve worked hotels for many years and although it is still a standing job, many of my coworkers came into it from retail. You’ll pick up some more office-type skills (answering multi-line phone, sorting mail/receiving packages, data entry, etc), especially if you ask your manager to learn extra stuff. I found that it helped me transition into a medical receptionist job (which is sitting down!!!) since I already had people skills plus office experience. This might be a route to consider!

  9. I would ditto what other people are saying about both the banking industry and temp agencies. I actually utilized both in my process of getting out of a long-term food service job.

    One thing I would add, is to utilize your network! Do you have friends who work in office jobs/HR/etc? Let them know that you are looking for a job! I work at a small company (<40 employees) and every single person who had been hired after me was known by one of the other employees who put in a good word for them with HR. This didn't necessarily guarantee them the job, but it DID bump their applications up to the top of the pile and basically guarenteed them an interview. Do you have any friends who are good at putting together resumes? Ask them to help you develop yours! The skills that you've developed working in retail can absolutely be applicable in a white collar office job, but it can be tricky to figure out how to word things so that it makes your specific retail strengths sound more broadly applicable.

  10. I too, worked in retail for my entire adult life. I went back to college and aquired a degree, in the hopes that I could escape the gravitational pull of retail. I too, found that most employers did not view retail as “valid work experience.” It was highly discouraging. So I found a job that is still technically retail, but is a desk job, in an office, on a M-F 8-4 schedule. So, I can continue to use the skills I have aquired in my years of sales, simultaneously develop “office job” skills, AND work the cake shift that the white collars work. Best of all worlds. My hope is that when I am ready to leave this job, it will be viewed as “office experience” on my resume. In short, look for a retail job disguised as an office job. Play off your strengths- sales, learning on your feet (literally), people skills, etc.

  11. One thing I would truly ask yourself is, are you sure it’s not financially possible to get a degree? If you make less than 60k you should qualify for fafsa, and there are all-online fully accredited nonprofit universities. I know several people who finished their degrees at WGU at their own paces, and with tuition low enough to be covered 100% by grants. A degree is truly a cut-off requirement for most employers, even if it’s unrelated degree. I have an undergraduate degree in general studies and I was able to find employment with just that degree. Bonus: the employment I found paid for my masters degree.

    You could always try getting certifications for your skills, too. Those often cost merely the price of taking the examination.

    That being said, it is very possible to break out of retail with no degree. I know people who have done that, and have gone onto things like executive assistant, human resources, and medical billing. It’s all glorified customer service. It takes hard work and persistence, and often industry connections to land jobs without breaking through the front door (apply online, etc). Try connecting with your friends and family and coworkers on LinkedIn, you’d be amazed how many people at how many companies you’ll find that either know you or can be introduced to you by someone you know.

  12. This advice will go in sort of a different direction, so take it or leave it.
    What are you interested in in your free time? How can you leverage that into doing something you enjoy more, even if it is just part-time to start? For instance, do you like to work out? See if your gym or yoga studio needs people to work the desk, or consider a training so you can teach others. Do you like board games? Maybe you can work at the local shop (still retail, but perhaps more enjoyable). Do you craft? See if there are opportunities to teach your skill to others or sell your products in local places or on etsy. Are you a photographer? Get into selling stock photography or booking small gigs. You get the idea. Going this route might not allow you to completely leave retail all at once, and you run the risk of turning passion into work, but on the other hand, you can turn passion into work! Good luck! 🙂

    • Speaking of photography, you can also look to see if any photographers need assistance with posing or similar duties. Sometimes that type of work involves office duties as well. (I actually found out that an old classmate who’s a photographer for a small but prestigious studio is looking for an assistant to help with school photo shoots. The job also involves some equipment management and filing paperwork.)

    • Can’t agree with this more! I went from retail to an entry level office job to a full blown social worker, but yes – it took time. However, take it from me, you are NEVER EVER too old to make the leap! One of my favourite sayings is “A year from now – you will wish you had started today”. So true – we waste too much time wishing & not enough time on action. Don’t worry about making a giant leap right away – just set some small plans into motion, and you can build on that momentum as you achieve things.

      What exactly is it you WANT to do, or, what else do you ENJOY doing…? If it’s something you can create, such as art, photography, weaving etc – start small with it as a sideline & see if you can’t build it up into a business, whether it be weekend fairs/events, local markets, online, etc. In fact, if you do this, HAVE an online presence, so you can then also print some business cards up at a copy centre, and pass them out/post them up, where ever you go. If this leads you into applying for a part time job in a photography studio, or as an art gallery attendant, or for an office clerk for the municipal organization that organizes weekend events in your area – yay! Put your ‘hobby’ on your resume, and the HR folks can see your work online. Gives you credibility. Also – volunteer for a cause you believe in – don’t over think it – what’s dear to your heart? – children’s groups, women’s org’s, environmental causes etc. You will make a ton of connections, and there is always some sort of paid jobs that go with these initiatives, whether it be in the office, a hands on position, IT, accounting, etc. Often doing what you love as a part time paid or unpaid opportunity, will lead you away from the current job you are no longer fond of. Plus who better to get a paying job with a great cause, than a volunteer that the hiring folks have probably already met & can get a good feel about? The good thing about retail & restaurant work is, that it can often be something you dial back from full time to part time on, ’til you no longer need it at all.

      As others have said here, too – always mail a handwritten thank you note after an interview. Apply in person to places you’d like to work, when ever you can. Even if you can’t get past the receptionist – hey – make that person remember you, so they ‘do’ pass your resume on. Dress appropriately when you go in, and have something memorable on you – a sparkly pin, a cute bright purse, that tiny sliver of colour in your bangs (where appropriate!) – smile at them, and make a comment after your greeting, i.e.: “Hello. Oh, I like your earrings! Where are they from?” and THEN do the here’s my resume bit.

      If there are free courses or lectures or even mini seminars on any topics that interest you in your town…? Go to them! Doesn’t matter that an astro-physics talk or a mini ballroom dancing lesson isn’t tied right into what you think you want to do. Go for the chance to make connections, broaden your mind, and enjoy life outside of the job you don’t like. If there are classes you’d like to take but can’t afford – I know this sounds risky, but – mention it in conversations to family & friends. You’re not asking for money per se, you’re letting people know without saying it, that you want a different life. Because I now make fairly good coin, and appreciate other opportunities people gave me along the way (i.e. hiring me when I had no experience, etc), I wanted to give back to another woman who is struggling. A friend of mine still in retail has talked a few times about how she wished she could take some part time classes. So I put my $ where my mouth is, & she’s signed up now for a night class at a local college. I paid the fee (I’m getting the rec’t & the tax credit for it), and for the textbook. We’ve agreed it’s her Xmas-b-day gifts from me, for the next 2 years. And she knows it’s a 1 time thing; I can’t fund her whole education. I am hoping once she gets a taste, she’ll move heaven & earth to do more. If that means a part time job on top of her full time one, whatever, but the main thing was, I wanted her to know that someone believes in her. And I bet there is someone out there who believes in you – hey, it’s worth a shot!

  13. When you apply for jobs, write a cover letter. In the cover letter, tell the hiring manager how your retail skills are translatable to this job. Use key words from the job posting, tell them why you want this job.

    I’m trying to hire for a specialized position where I’m prepared to train someone if they have a basic skillset but are lacking a specialized set. But, if they don’t have the background, I expect them to tell me that they’re interested in the topic in the job posting. Otherwise, I reject the resume.

  14. I’ve been with my current company for almost 9 years and I started here after doing retail. I took a job doing phone based customer service and when I came on board I was making less money working full time than I was doing part time in retail (I got paid base hourly plus commission), but really didn’t want to work in retail anymore.

    I did customer service for four years. Our company is still pretty small (under 100 employees) so there were lots of opportunities to take on additional work, which eventually led to me having a part time HR role, then a full time HR role, and now I’m the HR manager.

    Retail skills are very transferable to other jobs, particularly anything where you’ll be in a service industry interacting with other people, but you need to help employers along and show them this on your resume. Many employers are using applicant tracking systems which search for keywords in your resume, so make sure you’re reviewing their job listing and using some of those words in your resume (if they apply, not advocating lying).

    Put everything you do on that resume. Its easy to think of retail as being an unskilled job, but you’re definitely learning and using transferable skills. Customer service, time management, organization, prioritization, money handling, etc. I worked with medical information, so I added that to my resume as well. If you’re not already writing cover letters, start sending them with your resume. This is a great place to explain your value to employers (and I hardly ever get a cover letter, so I’ll probably read your resume first if you add it).

    Since I’ve been working here so long I’ve seen the company through most of the recession. We’re growing very quickly, but many other companies still aren’t. There are still a lot of people out of work, which means that the companies that are hiring are getting a lot of resumes. Hiring people is risky and expensive, so most companies will hire people who have very similar work history to the job they’re hiring for. One issue you may be running into is that companies just aren’t willing to take a risk with you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you wouldn’t excel at the job, but if I can hire an admin who’s been doing that kind of work for 10 years I can be reasonably sure that she’ll be good at the job and I won’t need to put as much effort into training.

    A phone based customer service position where you can sit all day is probably going to be ideal for you. It’s easy to explain to those employers how your retail skills will translate and employers won’t feel like they’re taking a risk. It may not be what you want long term, but it is a great starting point to build your experiences.

  15. If you are really adventurous and really self motivated you might also be able to break into the entrepreneurial world. You give a resume to no one but yourself. It’s hard and scary making a living as a start up so having a 6 month emergency fund is almost vital but if you are willing to take the plunge it could be well worth it.

    Do you like antiques and keep up with new trends in vintage decor? You could learn to flip furniture for a profit.

    Always have the scoop on the latest happenings in town? Freelance journalism is an option. Not all journalists went to school for it.

    Have you ever thought of something that would make your current or past retail jobs easier and potentially would be a marketable product? Investigate viability and the market for the product.

    Can you learn a new skill in your free time? Most of my programmer friends have in fact told me that Googleing stuff and forums taught them more about programming languages than their school degrees did.

    For that matter you can Google ideas for potential startup businesses and find materials for continued learning online from successful entrepreneurs. The Offbeat Empire is just one example of an entrepreneurial success and Ariel posts occasionally about her skills and tactics for maintaining the Empire.

    It was a no brainer for me to jump out of conventional work, but seriously it’s not for everyone.There is a lot of market research to do in every direction. On the other hand my husband is quite comfortable taking orders from higher ups because he feels comfortable talking it out with them if there is a better way. He’s pushing to learn more in his job so he will be not only qualified but experienced and able to take over positions above his own later down the road. In essense we are very different people!

  16. I worked in retail for years, then bartending, and I needed a sit-down job due to a back injury too. I managed to get one by catering my resume and cover letter to the job I wanted (admin at a law firm), drawing from the likenesses in people-pleasing service roles like retail and admin work. They really aren’t that different – it’s basically customer service (helping and being a “yes-man”), even if your “customer” is just your boss.
    I also applied 3 times to the company I had my eye on. I didn’t get an interview the first time, then got one the second time and was turned down, then applied again to another job there and was accepted. After interviews, I immediately popped a pre-addressed, pre-stamped thank you card in the mail, as I walked to my car from their office. I worked there for 4.5 years, 2 of which I was busy applying to better admin jobs. Now I am an executive assistant and I actually love my job (as much as someone who hates working can “love” a job anyway.)
    My advice is stay positive, stay ten steps ahead of other people, prove your high quality service ethic any chance you get (immediate hand-written thank you note for example) and be persistent and humble. I wouldn’t take no for an answer and nobody seemed to think that was odd. Also, make sure your grammar is PERFECT in your resume, cover letter, and any emails. A single typo in an interview scheduling email can blow any chances you have.

  17. When looking for jobs don’t forget about the skills you use in your free time. If you use a computer then state that you do. Do the admin/money/ organisation for a society you are involved in state that as well.

    Are there apprenticeships in your area? Typically for school leavers (UK) but that doesn’t stop them hiring people who have been in the work force, especially if you show interest and enthusiasm.

    What about becoming a Draughtsman (Draftman), CAD? Entry level jobs are usually available, if you have good basic computer skills, you learn on the job, no one has draughting skills from everyday life. Don’t panic about not having the skills now, I’m an Engineer and while I can read drawings and get them built I am terrible when it comes to making the models.

  18. You can do a ton of things with retail skills! Think about things that are customer-facing, but not retail, as immediate/entry-level ways out. I work for a municipality and lots our of city departments (parks and rec, animal services, water, library, code enforcement, etc) need people to work their service desks. If you have good people skills and know your way around office equipment, you are qualified for a ton of stuff. Think using a computer, ten-key typing, data entry, using a multi-line phone, any equipment you’ve used for inventory control on the floor, loss prevention, cash handling, opening or closing your location, supervising other employees, coordinating anything with other locations of your company, multitasking, problem solving on the go, etc. These things carry over to other work, and are very important in other work. Any requirements specific to the job can often be handled in training on the job.

    Most importantly, don’t think of retail job history as a negative. I’ve supervised interns working on their masters degrees, and for some of them, the most valuable advice I can give is to work retail for six months or so. It is a crash course in working with the public, plus all the things I listed above. I worked retail before getting into a my current profession and the skills you have will be useful the rest of your life. Capitalize on them. Good luck to you.

    • That’s really good advice for graduate students to work a retail job. I have a law degree and a master’s, and I was asked during my job interview whether I ever worked a non-office job, such as retail. They were looking to see whether I had basic skills like being able to use a copy machine or a fax. I totally understood where they were coming from because after having recently come from a job where I supervised grad students, it would surprise you to know how many couldn’t work a fax machine and scanner.

  19. If not school, then skills! Almost every post on here talks about “experience” and what they really mean is skills, so find ways to leverage the experience you already have or a way to build new skills that go above and beyond retail experience.

    Maybe look into getting a certification? They are usually pretty quick and mostly relatively cheap. Just make sure you do your research and choose one that’s legit and will be useful to employers. There are sadly a lot of scams out there. When I hire, my priority is finding someone who has the skills to do the everyday work without too much supervision or excessive training.

  20. Consider how your resume is structured. An employment centre may be able to help with this, but try organizing your resume to showcase skills and accomplishments within your retail work (and volunteer work, if it’s relevant). My husband was trapped in a retail job, and part of the reason he was able to break out were his resume and cover letters-they showcased very specific examples of the skills he developed within his previous job (things like organizing booths for trade and home shows, expanding his client network to professional organizations, developing a new stocking system, etc).

  21. I am facing pretty much the same thing right now – I’m 35 and have been working most of my adult life in hotels. Long days on my feet, getting yelled at by people, for low pay. I’m not miserable yet, though I am getting really tired of being poor, and I know I’m going to hate it eventually.
    I did get out of the hotel business for a while at one point, translating my customer service skills into a call center job. I could have stayed with the company and moved up to a higher paying position (one of my friends started around the same time I did in an entry level position as well, and within a few years was a department head) but the corporate life really didn’t interest me and I went back to hotels.
    But as I get older and standing all day gets harder to do, I’m going to have to make a decision. I actually have 2 college degrees that I have never really done anything with, not for lack of trying. I just keep ending up mostly going back to hotels because that’s where I can get hired. In my experience the job market is basically impossible for anything that isn’t a stifling corporate cubicle desk job. Any kind of accounting/bookkeeping/billing stuff makes me want to claw my eyes out. Ditto for programming. One of these days I’m going to have to suck it up and figure something out though – move up into management in the hotel biz (which is really unappealing) or give up and join corporate america. Sigh.

  22. Retail skills that are relevant to office work:
    – You’ve worked with the front end of multiple different databases. You can adapt to new systems quickly and efficiently, even under pressure. (example: when you changed employer / your employer changed the software on the tills, and how you coped)
    – You are a strong communicator, and are comfortable making yourself understood to people from all walks of life, including those with a different first language to your own. You are capable of communicating ideas clearly and concisely, and customers have complimented you on your customer service skills. (example: a situation where communication was difficult, but the customer successfully got what they wanted with your help)
    – You know how to handle complaints professionally and with detachment. You strive to find a solution that works best for both customer and business, and understand the importance of repeat business. (example: a time a customer misunderstood a sale sign and got stroppy, and you made them happy without giving in to their demands entirely)
    – You have strong attention to detail. (example: noticing when a sale sign was wrong / an item didn’t ring up correctly)
    – You are flexible in your working hours, and willing to make alterations to your schedule when required. (example: working every bloody saturday)

    Depending on what roles you’ve worked, you’ve probably got tons more. Being responsible for fire evacuations, for example, or managing other staff (even temporarily – have you ever been the highest ranked staff member on site?). The other thing not to forget is hobbies and interests. You’ve had articles published on popular international blogs, for example (i.e. this one!).

    Really comb through those application looking for buzzwords, and try and find specific examples from work or home that fit it. Don’t just say you can do it, show you can do it.

  23. It is totally possible to make the move out of retail and into something else, it is totally possible to make the move from anything into something else but the thing is that often the most achievable way to do it is to dream big but plan your route there the long way and in small steps.

    When you are stuck in a job you hate, this is not what you want to hear, you want a new job and you want it now. It seems like the most sensible thing to do is find the nearest slightly connected thing, the thing that is only one step away and go for that. It seems like much too much of an emotional risk to dream big and take a new job which is only the first of several steps towards the big dream. It’s also scary financially, after years in retail few people have any savings or back up. What tends to happen though is that that option that you chose just to get out turns out to be just as unfulfilling and when it’s closely connected it tends not to pay much more either.

    I would suggest thinking about what it is you would really like to do, give yourself total freedom, just blue sky it (I say it like that is easy, I know it’s not). Then think about what all the steps are that you would need to do to get there. Try to do this neutrally, not to be put off by the fact there is more than one step, it’s more likely that the thing that would make you happy is going to be quite different to what you are doing now which does mean likelihood of more than one step. A fulfilling job only one step away is not impossible but much much less likely and therefore a very high stakes thing to pin all your happiness on.

    Sometimes something is too many steps away or is just not possible and letting go of a dream and moving on can make your present much better, but check those assumptions. I found out I was completely wrong about not being able to go to university financially and entry requirements wise and did a degree in my 30’s. But most often the thing you want is more steps than you would like, not impossible at all, but just too scary, often for good reasons like having been rejected when we have tried to branch out before. But check those rejections too before giving them too much weight – making a final selection but not being picked is not a sign that you shouldn’t ever apply for that kind of role again, it’s a (scary) sign that you should apply for more!

    Finally don’t discount the idea that steps on the way can actually be really satisfying in themselves. I know so well that feeling of being desperate for a change and wanting to scream at someone who suggests something like I stay in that job I hate and increase the complications in my life by doing an evening course at the same time but……….they probably have a point. What gets discounted in the desperation to be doing ANYTHING ELSE is that actually that evening course (or other step on the way that is not actually the final goal) may become a life line and a breathing space, it’s you digging your tunnel out of Shawshank with a spoon and not just achieving the escape but keeping sane in the process.

    Good luck!

  24. I did this a few years ago as well. I was very lucky to land a job with a small software company (under 10 employees). Now I work 4×10 from home, which is both great and terrible. Before this I did retail tech support, which I definitely grew to hate. Before that was a video rental store! I do not have a degree or any higher ed experience worth mentioning. In addition to my retail background, I also had several years experience as a volunteer staffer for a convention working as a celebrity handler, definitely include any hobbies or volunteer work on your resume.

    I started my search by considering what kinds of jobs interested me and then focused on what those jobs seemed to be looking for. Basically, I read a million job postings and took note of the ones that sounded the most interesting, and what their “requirements” were.

    After doing some research, I ended up with two versions of my resume, and cover letters to match. Each resume was focused on a particular aspect of my experience, the customer service one focused on problem solving, money handling, keeping cool in stressful situations, etc. The tech support one focused on troubleshooting experience, computer skills, communication skills, etc. Before submitting my application, I’d personalize my cover letter a little with relevant terms from the job posting. That’s what would get me in the door for a job I wasn’t technically qualified for, the cover letter and resume that were tailored for that field.

    You’ll see a lot of dream jobs go without so much as a call back, and you’ll have some frustrating interview strings that lead nowhere. That’s part of the process, don’t let it get you down. Try to take something away from each, and make frequent adjustments to your resume. If they call and say they’re going with someone else, see if they’ll give you feedback on your interview. Never trash talk former employers, if you hated an old boss, even if they were the worst person you’ve ever met, don’t bring it up. If you can’t avoid it, say your personalities just didn’t click, but you were still able to work together. If you have a friend who works in HR or recruiting see if they’ll proofread your resume and cover letter. There are lots of jobs you can transition to with a retail background, you just need to tell them why your experience is relevant. Happy hunting!

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