5 Important Transferable Skills You Gain In Retail Jobs


When you work in retail, you don’t (or at least rarely) get the luxury of a set schedule.

The customer is always right (even when they aren’t).

You can spend a good portion of your shift cleaning up messes made by other people.

You may have to refold the same sweater 27 times in a single day.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but that won’t help your career, will it?

On the more positive side, working in retail allows you to gain some amazing experience and highly transferable skills that are valuable in any sector, which you can take with you as you move between roles or industries.

So, whether you really want a long-term career in retail, or are simply working in a part-time or seasonal retail job to keep yourself busy and make some extra cash, your time spent behind the counter at a store or bank branch might prove to be more beneficial than you realized.

Take a look at how those classic points that employers seek on resumes can be supported by your time working the kiosk in the mall.

“Excellent interpersonal skills”

First and foremost, working in the customer service industry gives you the chance to spend your entire day communicating with people. You learn to be helpful, but genuine. Friendly yet efficient. You also get the chance to work with quite a diverse group of people, allowing you to experience and deal with a mixture of personality types.

Perhaps most importantly, you learn how to fake a smile when you need to. Not sure how exactly to answer the question your interviewer is asking you? No problem – you worked retail.

“Effective time management skills”

Your Monday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shift is followed by Tuesday’s 12:30-7 and Wednesday’s 5-close. A flexible schedule forces you to learn how to utilize your time to get everything done.

Perhaps you are on the prowl for a more permanent position or you’re still trying to fit your badminton games in three times a week.

Working a job with ever-changing hours forces you to be ever-on top of things.

“Ability to stay calm in stressful circumstances”

You’re behind the cash. The line is halfway through the store and you are ringing through one customer’s purchase while someone else is wagging damaged items under your nose.

Every industry is going to throw situations at you which require you to multitask. Fast. Having this previous experience can only help. Remember the most challenging circumstances you’ve faced in your retail career and how you overcome those circumstances – they’ll come in handy in a job interview one day.

“Experience handling cash, debit and credit card transactions”

Handling money indicates that you are trustworthy and able to count (which, believe it or not, is a skill in and of itself). A future employer will appreciate both of these things.

“Ability to problem solve and think on your feet”

If you’re working on commission (or aren’t but still have managers watching you like a hawk), you better sell – meaning you better learn how to handle that customer who says she’s “just looking”. Coming up with creative ways to make sales and converse with customers is going to impress any future employer – and in the meantime, maybe even make you that commission.

Which on-the-job retail skills have proved to be most beneficial in your career so far?

Retail Week featuring jobs from Loblaws, Reitmans, Target, Starbucks, Rexall and TJX Canada / Winners Merchants International

Photo credit: cafemama