Serving Up Opportunities: Making Your Retail Career Work For Your Future


Working in a Starbucks store is different from any other job, because what they offer isn’t just a job: it’s opportunity. Handcrafting perfect beverages, ensuring best-in-class customer service and managing a team are all part of a day in the life of a Starbucks store manager. But that’s not all – there is also the opportunity to develop sharp business and management skills.

Heather Estabrooks, a seven-year Starbucks partner, (the Starbucks term for its employees), has seen first-hand how front-line retail experience can translate into a variety of exciting positions and skill development in the retail industry.

A hospitality graduate from Ryerson University in Toronto who spent time working in hotels around the world, Heather joined Starbucks as a store manager in 2006. After one and a half years of managing a profitable Starbucks café, she became a District Manager and earlier this year, was promoted again to the role of Regional Licensed Manager in Vancouver, leading Starbucks licensed store operations and managing a team of district managers in West and Central Canada.

If you’re keeping track, that’s three roles in just seven years. Her on-the-job experience at the store-level has helped her secure these promotions and excel in her career within the company.

Opportunities to learn

Retail stores are a hub of activity and rely on the integration of many different people and skill sets to run well. There are dozens of learning opportunities every day, which can lead to other great careers in retail.

For Heather, the experience of running a Starbucks store, paired with the exposure to different parts of the business has been invaluable.

“The more experience you have, the better!” Heather says. “Don’t discount that part-time job! There is plenty you can learn while working during your studies.”

The key, she explains, is gaining leadership experience along the way. “At the end of the day, it’s all about people management.” Whether you are managing a team or working within one, it’s important to understand what motivates people and that individuals have different working styles.

It’s also important to take initiative. She recommends networking and taking on new responsibilities at work in order to make yourself stand out.

Throughout your career, but especially early on, there may be times when you feel “stuck.” Rather than waiting for an opportunity to come to you, Heather says it’s up to you to take action. “If you are in a retail role now, you have to network within your organization. Most people are very willing to sit down and connect regarding their role and their career path,” Heather says.

“Look for an opportunity to work cross-functionally with other groups and identify a new project outside of your role that you might be interested in, and volunteer to take on that project,” she suggests.

Put your experience to work

Unsure of what types of jobs are great matches for your retail skills? Here are five exciting career opportunities that put your retail experiences to work for you.

1. District Managers
District Managers at Starbucks “lead teams of Store Managers in a specific geographic area and help them drive business results, while ensuring the company’s brand standards are met,” Heather explains.

This includes developing store managers and helping them learn to solve problems and drive business results. District managers are accountable for having all stores in their districts meet every standard of quality. They’re also responsible for building local strategies to manage their district’s performance by knowing their markets, their communities and their customers.

2. Facilities Management
Think about how much equipment and furniture is installed and maintained in each and every Starbucks store in Canada. The Facilities teams are the people who make sure everything in the store is working the way it should.

“Facilities team members are subject matter experts on everything related to the store including installations, repairs and preventative maintenance,” says Heather. “They also work closely with development teams during construction projects and store renovation.”

3. Store Development and Design
Store development and design teams work hand in hand building new Starbucks stores and renovating and updating existing stores. These teams manage everything from working with landlords and property managers to find the perfect sites to developing the layout and the look and feel of that ‘third place’ (first place – home, second place – work, third place – Starbucks).

4. Human resources
With thousands of employees from coast to coast, and many more roles to be filled in between, human resources professionals are highly valued within retail companies like Starbucks. From recruitment to training, benefits administration to health and safety – just to name a few – there are many different functions that fall under a company’s HR umbrella.

“Retail experience is very beneficial in these roles,” Heather says. “For example, a Recruiter who has had experience as a retail manager will know exactly what to look for in that next great Assistant Store Manager candidate.”

5. Marketing
Launching new products, forecasting sales and promotions, and managing the brand through advertising and social media all fall under the marketing functions of organizations. Understanding customers purchase decisions every day in a store gives retail employees great perspective when it comes to what does and doesn’t resonate with customers.

Whether it’s on a mobile device or in one of their stores, Starbucks’ Category Brand Management team (formerly known as Marketing) strives to deliver genuine moments of connection with their customers while driving transactions.

Getting started

So you’ve decided what’s next but you’re still not sure how to get there? Go for coffee, Heather suggests. Ask a professional whose career you are interested in if they wouldn’t mind to sit down with you and talk about their experience. Invite Store Managers, District Managers, Merchandisers and HR professionals for a coffee to talk about their roles and any opportunities they may have coming up. It’s a great way to broaden your network and explore your options.

Check out other exciting Starbucks partner development stories here.

A job at Starbucks is the beginning of something big, something better. It’s an opportunity to be more than an employee. Become a partner.