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Is There A Career For Me? Working in Retail, But Hating It.

Updated on October 6, 2010

Almost all of us have done it. We've taken the job that we weren't passionate about because we needed the money. Many of us have stayed there for years, because we weren't quite sure what else to do or how to go about doing it. Sure, we've heard the advice: follow your heart. But what about when you simply can't hear the beating of your heart beneath the noise of customer requests, last-minute store returns and the bill collectors who can't understand that your minimum wage job doesn't cover your maximum wage tastes.

It can feel like a vicious cycle. You want to stop working retail because you really don't like it. But you don't have experience doing anything besides working retail. You could go to school, but you'd need to have a part-time job and that would probably mean sticking with retail. And you don't even really know what you would go to school for ... you'd like to say that you're passionate about a certain career path but you just can't find that passionate heart beneath your nametag.

Don't worry. You aren't doomed to retail hell forever. Here are some tips to get you started on the path away from the customer service counter:

  • Have a positive attitude. Be positive about your retail job, even though you don't like it right now. The more you focus on the negative, the harder it will be to get out of the cycle. Believe that you aren't going to be doing this forever and try to enjoy the aspects of it that are nice - the camaraderie with certain co-workers or the (admittedly inexpensive) discounts.
  • Cut back on your responsibilities so you can focus on yourself. If you're a manager or assistant manager, consider stepping down to being "just staff". If you work full-time, see if you can shave a day off of your shift. With some budgeting skills, you should be able to work less. This will allow you to stop feeling like you retail job is your whole life which will help you get on track with figuring out what your next step is.
  • Brainstorm about your future. You don't have to know what you want to do for the rest of you life. You can start with what you don't want to do. Make a list of all of the reasons that you don't like working retail. Then make a list of all of the things you might like better. Just starting to think actively about other job options is a great start towards finding a career.
  • Get into new work slowly. You aren't going to figure out what you want to do by just thinking about it. You have to try new things and see whether or not you like them. You can start by volunteering. Or, make a list of all of the skills that you've gained from working retail and see if you can't spruce up your resume to get a job that uses those skills but isn't in retail.

Most of us have worked at jobs that we didn't love. And many of us have worked in retail ... and then gotten out of it. The years spent in that work often provide valuable skills and learning experiences, even if it may not feel like it at the time. So, make the most out of your retail job while you're there but know that you aren't stuck there forever. Start thinking about the different options that you have. You don't need a full-blown plan, just a willingness to start thinking outside of the gift box.


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    Random Guy 9 years ago

    I wanted to say a very nice read.

    The hard part is taking time off for other job interviews, I have finished school but find it hard to find employment (well I did get one good job but they laid me off when the full time position came around!) and now I have to return to retail. There are no jobs in my immediate area (yes immigration DOES play a role in this, more than I'd like to admit) so I find myself looking in places with a 1 1/2 hr commute back and forth.

    It's painful, very painful how much freedom a person has in this country and how much time they have to do what they love. I think though in the end, if you just do what you love whether or not its going to make a career, you have lived wisely.