Career Growth

Sick of Retail? How to Make Your Next Career Move

Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients in retail positions that desperately want to “get out of retail hell.” Working in retail doesn’t have to be a career-ending move; you can use retail experience to your advantage. Here’s a brief guide to help you find a way out of retail.

1) Self Reflect

Figure out what you like about retail and what you don’t. Do you like working with customers but hate stocking? Do you love the analytics and working with monthly reports but hate upselling? Knowing what you don’t like is equally important because you can focus on roles that don’t involve those tasks.

2) Do Some Research

Once you’ve figured out what type of tasks you like to perform, you can do a better search for a job based on the skills required. Search for skills on LinkedIn, like “customer service,” “merchandising analysis,” or “ecommerce sales.” Then narrow down the filters by industry, level of experience, and location. Or try searching for “retail” as a skill, and find others who have moved on to non-retail roles for inspiration.

3) Prepare Your Resume

Whether you have one or twelve years of retail experience, it’s never too late to make a career transition. You will, however, need to position your resume appropriately to ensure that potential employers can see how qualified you are for the role. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the Skills Required for the Role

For customer representative roles, use your resume to show that your retail experience involved positive, consistent customer service. Note how you serviced 300-400 customers per day and had the highest rating among your team based on customer reviews.

For sales roles, use a lot of metrics to show your achievements and ability to sell, upsell, and exceed quotas. Show your leadership and relationship management skills by pointing out your past promotions or at least your heightened responsibility. Use as many numbers and percentages as possible to describe volume, revenue, or any other statistics you have to show that you are able to exceed expectations and take on a fast-paced sales role.

For HR roles, focus on your hiring, firing, and management of your team, as applicable. Note your dispute resolution skills, counseling of employee issues, or any other skills pertinent to motivating your co-workers or creating a more friendly workplace.

  • Use Metrics

Don’t stop short when you describe your responsibilities. So, instead of saying “Helped customers with products, and replenished store stock,” try “Provided customer service to over 400+ customers per day as 1 of 3 floor representatives and was responsible for ensuring that over 350 products were replenished throughout the day.” For more on adding achievements, check out this article.

  • Include an Outstanding Summary Objective

No more than 2-3 phrases, this summary objective should be concise and highlight your best, most relevant qualities. State your top skills required for the role you want, and then state the role you desire (as this may not be obvious from your resume). This will frame your whole resume and provide guidance to the hiring manager as to your skillset. For example: “Customer-service oriented retail professional with 4+ years of experience creating consistently positive customer experiences, exceeding floor sales quotas by nearly 8%, and taking initiative to assist the store manager with store reporting and analysis. Seeking to apply this proficiency to a relationship management role in ecommerce.”

4) Enhance Your Cover Letter

Make your retail skills a solution to a problem that the company has. A background in retail is NOT your anchor; it is your advantage. Use your retail experience to your advantage in your cover letter and your interviews. Retail is widely known as being customer service heavy and very fast-paced. Show that you’ve had an extremely positive experience, have learned many translatable skills, and have honed your [skill that is most valued by the company you are applying for]. Future employers will appreciate that you’ve emerged unscathed, learned from your experiences, and are taking the initiative to take on new challenges.

5) Network

Do you know others who have moved on from retail? Ask them to meet for coffee and talk about what steps they took to transition. Ask them if there are any positions open at their current firm that they might refer you for.

Reach out to alumni (or strangers) on LinkedIn who transitioned out of retail, and ask them for a 15 minute phone call or an informational interview. Ask them how they transitioned from retail to their current job. Reach out to others who don’t have retail backgrounds and ask them to review your resume. Ask them what skills you’re missing and/or if you’d qualify for X role.

6) Do More

If you have glaring holes in your resume and you’re struggling to show value, consider volunteering or picking up a secondary gig that will hone your lacking skills. You might also want to take up an online course (many of which are free), like those available at Udemy, Coursera, or LinkedIn’s Lynda courses, to show that you are proactive about obtaining those skills.