How to Turn your Seasonal Retail Job into a Career

Retailers are gearing up for seasonal holiday hiring, and people are asking how to convert their temporary job into a long term opportunity.  If you’re considering retail as a career, (and many people are after long and brutal searches in other fields) here are the rules for success.

Retail is a great place to make a living if you’re interested in the products or brand you work for.  So Rule Number One is: apply where you shop.  It makes sense for you to apply for jobs where you can become a strong brand advocate.  When you love the products, you can recommend them with warmth and confidence to customers.  If you don’t particularly understand or care about the products, you won’t be much of an asset when it comes to sales. 

 Rule Number Two: Be reliable.  Scheduling is a big headache for retail managers, who must open the store on time, make sure someone is there at closing, and accommodate unpredictable crowds (in addition to the predictable “rushes.”)  The retail workforce is often filled with part-timers who are young and not very dedicated to their jobs.  That creates scheduling challenges; last minute call-ins mean opportunities for you to earn shifts and show that you’re serious about your job. Your ability to come in on short notice or stay after your shift will eventually earn you more  – and better  – hours.

 Rule Number Three:  Be nice.  Be nice to your teammates and especially nice to the customers, no matter how you’re feeling when you show up for your shift.  Without customers, you have no job.  The formula for retail employment (no matter what the product) is based on sales per square foot of store.  So your job is to get customers to like you, interact with you, and most importantly, buy from you. Most retail operations have a well-tested formula that works for sales.  Take that training to heart. 

When you’ve mastered your training, watch the associates that do a great job of customer service and imitate what they do.    The difference between lackluster customer service and great customer service is usually about watching body language.  You can learn to tell when a customer is confused about a product or looking for something specific.  If you watch closely, you can spot the customer who’s torn between two styles or not sure about the fit.  Your job is to engage these customers and help them decide what to buy.   If you can master the art of upselling (“if you love that jacket, you should see how it looks with this scarf”) you will become a real asset to your department or store. 

 When it comes time to decide who stays and who goes after the holiday shopping season, managers will make the choice based on several factors:

  • Sales aptitude (if you’re on the floor)
  • Reliability and attitude during your shifts
  • Accuracy and attention to detail (if you’re a cashier)
  • Interest and passion for the brand or products

I checked several national retailers (Macy’s, Pottery Barn and Target, among others) and here are some of the terms mentioned frequently in their online recruiting sites:

  • Teamwork
  • Passion
  • Imagination
  • (Fast) pace
  • (Product) knowledge
  • Customer-focused

 Most retailers tell you exactly what it will take to succeed in their workforce right up front.  If you can follow their formula, you can start a successful career.

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