What 10 Years of Retail has Taught Me about Life

This realization just smacked me in the face: this marks the 2nd Christmas season in a row that I am not working in retail for the holidays! The season has totally taken on a new meaning for me since shifting my career in 2015.

I’m aware many people look at retail as a part time job and a way they made a few extra bucks back in college. People generally think of it as a pretty shitty job, especially during Christmas season when customers are straight up psychotic (you know you are, too…)

Over the past decade, I’ve spent my entire working career as a retail associate, a store manager, and then owned my own brick and mortar boutique from Age 24 – 28.

When everyone else was suffering through their shift, I was in my element & thriving. It was a  pretty daily occurrence that I would stay late to help fussy customers or to make sure the store looked amazing in the morning. I didn’t need to go home early or even on time, this was better than anything else I had going on.

what i learned from my retail job

This time of year definitely feels different when I’m not working behind the counter, wrapping up gifts, and listening to Christmas music for 12 hours in my store. I have so much love for retail and I truly do miss it. I mean — not enough to go back anytime soon — but 10 years in the biz and building my own boutique made me realize it formed how I think about work & even infused itself into my personality.

Here’s What 10 Years of Retail has Taught Me:

skills from working in retail

How to Always Be On.

Working with the general public is hard & exhausting, but when someone walked into my store, I had to treat every customer like they were my first sale of the day. I had to be passionate, enthusiastic, and helpful. They shouldn’t get a shitty experience because I’m tired or hadn’t eaten lunch that day.  I had to Always Be On with each and every customer because they deserved it.

It’s a well-refined skill to set aside my personal emotions and surrender my energy to the needs of a client. But it’s the best kind of adrenaline rush.

Talking to Strangers Builds Self Confidence.

Every time I had to hire a new employee in my boutique, I was reminded that talking to strangers is not as natural as I made it out to be. People are AWKWARD and honestly, they tend to straight up avoid salespeople.

It’s not easy to strike up conversations with customers when their body language is screaming, “I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU.”

A decade in the retail world has really helped me find my voice & build confidence in those awkward situations. I’ve learned that people aren’t really as reclusive as their body language makes them look, and most people are on The Normal Spectrum if you can get past their resting bitch face.

While I started as that same newbie sales associate who buried myself in tasks so I could dodge embarrassing myself in front of customers — now, as my husband affectionately describes me, I’m the girl “who can strike up a conversation with a wall.”

Becoming a Strategic Thinker.

Admittedly, retail is not brain surgery. I was helping chicks find outfits to wear to their sorority formals. Not life changing.

But also, no single day was the same for me. Every customer had different challenges & problems. Some people had body issues, some people had strict budgets, some people were just really shy and wouldn’t tell me how to help them (but I still had to).

The challenge was my thrill. I only had a short window of attention span to impress my customer, fulfill their needs & make them happy. Retail taught me not only how to think on my feet, but to solve a problem quickly.

This is now what I consider one of my biggest strengths.

People are Really all that Matter.

Business can be so cold. So transactional.

But working in retail taught me the importance of connecting with people. Connections are so crucial to good business. Something as simple as remembering my customer’s name made them feel connected to me. It’s humanizing & real & reminded me that people want to purchase from people they like.

It’s a humbling reminder that I was here to serve these people, they pay my rent & my bills and they are the most important. I WANTED to make a connection with my customers because they were helping me fulfill my dream. And in return, that kind of attitude was why they kept coming back to shop with me.

Retail gets a bad reputation as a sh*t job this time of year. But the benefits of working in a public-oriented job for 10+ years has formed my personality to help make me thrive as a full-time Realtor, blogger & business coach.

If this is your first time at Kristi Means Business, Welcome!! I am a full-time entrepreneur based in Chicago & I do all things like it’s my Business. I am here to share all I’ve learned about running and growing my businesses (yes, I have a few!) & how I live an intentional life. But the best way I can help is if you join my list here:

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