Working an unreliable retail job is typically synonymous with long hours, unreasonable pay and irritable customers who have absolutely zero room for upward movement unless the boss suddenly croaks or hits the lottery.
It is a time when most 20-somethings daydream about steady hours, health benefits and their own desks to decorate with mementos of their fab lives.
And while it would be a complete lie if I said retail is a land of butterflies and dreams, it is true that working in retail can prepare you for some of the lowest lows and highest highs, and all of the unexpected middle parts of adult life:
1. Learn how to deal with people who actually suck.
When you have to depend on people you would never associate with in real life in order to make it out the door before 1 am, you really start to learn how to pick your battles.
You look past the small stuff and deal with people who are not ideal to work with.
2. Cultivate relationships.
The older you get, the less time you have to find new friends and figure out things you have in common with strangers.
Working in retail is almost like going away to summer camp; it forces you to create relationships with others and learn about them. Some of the people you meet there will become your lifelong friends.
3. Whine less, work more.
When you meet those unlucky few who have never worked a mall gig folding clothes or stacking shoe boxes, you will notice their ability to just whine and complain with little to no action to back it up.
In retail, employees have no time to sit on their behinds and complain about how unfair life is because there is a line of customers forming and a new shipment to be put away.
When you work in retail, the word hustle takes on a whole new meaning.
You will hustle to find the right size, hustle to give the best suggestions to needy customers and hustle to clean the store in time to get home before the sun comes up.
You will literally hustle your butt off, your check will look exactly the same, but that work ethic will transfer over to the real world and nothing will get in your way.
5. Meet deadlines.
In most, if not all, retail settings, employees are put on a sliding schedule.
When you are scheduled to come in for the closing shift, your coworker has to wait for you to arrive so he or she can leave.
That constant time clock ticking over your head will keep you on your toes when it comes to being on time and meeting deadlines in the real world.
6. Filter out your thoughts.
Customers are probably the most irritating part of retail. They can say whatever they want and you have to take it, digest it and return with a smile.
In life, friends, bosses and plenty of strangers will bombard you with unsolicited opinions.
You will be able to take a breath, digest it and return with a smile.
7. Be a problem-solving ninja.
The number of out-of-this-world issues that customers are able to craft will blow your mind during your retail days.
You will become a problem-solving ninja, and have to quickly think on your toes.
That will be an amazing asset to have when you hit the corporate world.
8. Be patient.
We have all been behind that lady who waits until she gets to the register to find her membership card, searches for it for the longest five minutes ever, only to realize it's actually expired and she has no interest in renewing.
In retail, you deal with that on an hourly basis, and the patience it builds is astounding.
9. Be neat and tidy.
The first thing customers notice when they step foot into Target is how neat, tidy and appealing it all looks.
The constant need to straighten and reorganize will set high cleanliness expectations for your own home and workspace.
10. The eternal juggling act: scheduling.
The dreaded retail schedule is notoriously unreliable, unsteady and unbelievably inconsiderate.
It is almost impossible to plan ahead for anything.
But, once you find that sweet spot of being able to juggle the infamous schedule and some sort of social life, those skills will carry you through even the worst scheduling woes.
11. All work, low pay.
In retail, hard work does not equal higher pay. Sometimes in life, when you have a passion for something, you have to bust your ass for years before you even see a dime in return.
12. Selling, selling and more selling.
The number-one thing in retail is sales, obviously. In some companies, you have to be hit a quota, which means you have to be able to know your stuff while not seeming overbearing to the customer.
In life, you have to sell just about 24/7, whether you are selling a new business idea, your attributes or yourself on a résumé.
13. Go above and beyond.
Customers expect retail employees to jump through fire-laced hoops with ear-to-ear-grins.
Life also requires us all to do more than we are expected or asked to at times, and with a smile on our faces.
14. Make it work.
With notoriously low pay, retail workers have to pay real-world bills with a high school kid’s check.
That may mean creating a complex house of cards when it comes to the bills, or a lifetime supply of ramen noodles.
The real world can have you flying on the most epic highs, or crashing into some incredible lows.
No matter which end of the spectrum life thrusts you toward, you definitely need to be able to make it work.
15. Be a multitasking master.
It’s the middle of your shift and the phone is ringing off the hook, customers are surrounding you like sharks and the only other person there to help you is in the bathroom recovering from a hangover.
In retail, you manage to do it all. With life, sometimes it is required for you to do it all and do it well.