Lessons I Learnt Working In Customer Service and Retail


Gone are the days I have to work in customer service or retail, and boy am I glad. Although I can't promise i'll never end up back in that kind of employment, I really feel like I've endured my bit for the retail industry. As a naturally shy person, retail has never been my forte, but bills, rent and education is expensive, and i'm pretty proud to say I never relied on family for money. Whilst it's easy to dwell on working in retail, it really did teach me a lot about life. Here's what I learnt:

Patience
Oh patience, probably one of the most important skills you learn working in customer service or retail. Learning to stand there intently, whilst being rudely spoken to and not losing your shiz really is a skill. I dread to think how many rude customers I have served, but it's certainly raised my patience game.

A good boss can make or break a job
I was fortunate enough in my previous two part-time jobs to have amazing managers. My first ever job was pretty bad though- aside from the blatant sexual harassment that went on in the work place, and the bending of rules (like irregular breaks and refusing to supply us jumpers when we worked in a transport station without heating), there was no support at all. These was genuinely not one thing I enjoyed about the job (aside from becoming friends with some of my co-workers). My other jobs, although not something I really wanted to do in terms of a career, had great bosses who were understanding and fun to work with. 

50% of the population will annoy you, 40% you'll hate and 10% you'll love
But that 10% will regain your faith in humanity, and it's always nice when someone takes an interest in you and asks how you are, with intention. I always remember this now when I go into a retail environment, and make an effort to smile and chat to staff.

Holidays are nightmares
School holidays? I'd be surrounded by screaming children when I worked at a museum/attraction. Christmas holidays? Everyone goes ape sh*t crazy and buys enough food to feed Africa- it's pretty sickening to watch. No longer are holidays a time to chill out! It's actually pretty nice to be one of those people who can go shopping or on a day trip out during the holidays now!

People skills are important
As someone who also gets pretty bad anxiety, customer service jobs have really pushed my boundaries and made me more comfortable approaching strangers and the whole small talk thing. I've recently been having regular meetings with quite a few 'up there' academics as I try and organise my PhD, and have found the confidence and experience I got during my jobs has made me more comfortable with the whole process. This is so important when you get a 'real job'- you might be the brightest spark in the world, but how does anyone know if you can't talk to people?

You can always expand your skill-set however unrelated the job is
Whilst none of the previous jobs I have had directly relate to my career (I've worked as a casual au pair abroad, in a museum/visitor centre, bakery and supermarket), I've learnt new skills in all of them. They've really made me appreciate the job I have now (which is actually related to the career I want), and taught me from a young age the value of money.

Have you worked in retail? What have been your experience and did it teach you anything?