5 Ways Working In Retail Taught Me To Be More Compassionate In Life

by Liz Rae

Working in retail can be incredibly difficult, especially around the holiday season. For those of us in retail, we either love it or we hate it. Many of us tend to hate it around the holidays because customers can be overly demanding.

They throw their clothing all over fitting rooms, ask for managers constantly and always want too much help. These reasons make us want to tear out our hair and walk out the door, paycheck or no paycheck.

Over the years, retail took me from being a shy, quiet high school student to an obnoxiously loud college graduate who found a love for working with people, no matter what time of the year.

Retail may not be for everyone, but the lessons it taught me will carry over to any job, as I've learned a lot about working with people and how to be a more sensitive person:

It’s all about stepping in someone else’s shoes

It can be difficult when someone yells at me for what may seem like no reason. But, being upset back doesn’t make the situation any better, nor does calling a manager every single time someone decides to raise a voice.

By taking a second to listen to the person and gain an understanding as to why the person is upset, I’ve been able to learn how to relate to people better.

This has helped me not only at work, but also in life when friends seem upset for no reason.

Small problems should stay just that — small problems

In retail, it’s about making the customer happy. Depending on the circumstance, taking off a few dollars, extending a return period or accepting a coupon that doesn’t match a product can save a lot of trouble. This applies to life, as well.

Just because a roommate doesn’t do the dishes one day, or a waiter forgets to bring the water you ordered 10 minutes ago, doesn’t mean blowing up the problem will make it better.

Letting the little things go will save a lot of time and trouble for everyone.

All companies teach about charity, giving and selflessness

It is in every company's unwritten duties to have a charity or organization to which it donates time and money.

Any company that doesn’t do this is a company to leave — right away. Sometimes, it’s a publicity stunt; sometimes, it’s completely genuine.

Either way, working for companies that had strong charitable commitments and volunteer events carried into my personal life. I make it a priority to fund small businesses and people in need.

While my impact may not be as big as the company for which I work, it has taught me to be a selfless person and see the need in others more than ever before.

Long work hours taught me the value of others

Before I worked in retail, I took friendships for granted. My friends were always there when I wanted them to be and it was easy to get into contact with them.

Retail demands incredibly long hours and days that can be so unbelievably tiring that sleeping sounds more fun than anything else in the world.

Over the years, I’ve had few friends who have stuck with me through the long workdays. But, many people didn’t want to deal with such an abnormal schedule.

Working these hours taught me which significant others and friends are the most loyal. It’s hard to discover this working a 9-to-5 job.

Money is rewarding and fulfilling

It’s true: Retail doesn’t pay anything. There are a lot of companies out there that do pay their retail employees great wages; those companies value their employees to the fullest extent.

The rest of us aren’t there for the money because, well, there isn’t much money to be made.

That being said, when the paychecks do roll in, it’s more rewarding because it wasn’t just about the money in the first place. Many jobs people hold are for a large paycheck, but without any excitement.

Retail reflects the hard work behind a paycheck, which makes it more gratifying.

Working in retail has taught me how to give to others, how to better communicate and, overall, how to better care for my coworkers and customers. It is satisfying work that will lead me to be the best person I can be.