10 Skills You Can Gain After Working in Retail
Updated March 16, 2023
Skills are the qualities you develop in certain roles that help you advance your career as you take on additional or different responsibilities. Working in retail, you can develop many skills because of the fast-paced and quickly changing environment. Learning about these skills can help you discover how you may apply them to other careers after leaving retail.
In this article, we discuss what skills you gain after working in retail and share some possible career paths that require these skills.
What skills do you gain after working in retail?
You can gain a variety of skills after working in retail. Positions like sales associates or customer service agents can help you develop skills that many hiring managers hope to see in their candidates. Some skills you might gain from these roles include:
1. Customer service
Though many retail stores have dedicated customer service departments, one of your biggest responsibilities might be to provide a positive experience for all guests. This can involve making connections with guests, understanding their needs and helping them find the products and services they desire.
By performing these tasks, you can build customer loyalty and encourage them to return or recommend your store to others. Depending on your role in retail, you might develop your customer service skills while working a register at checkout or assisting customers on sales floors.
Empathy is the ability to understand another person's feelings, even if you don't share the same experience. In retail, customers often have a need, so understanding their issues by listening actively and showing compassion can help you build a relationship with customers. By asking clarifying questions and making product recommendations that fit their needs, you can develop your empathy skills and create customer relationships that might be more likely to last.
3. Industry knowledge
Depending on what retail industry you work in, you can expect to learn about specific products or services. For example, if you work in a cell phone company's store location, you learn about the latest devices, different services, providers and common customer requests.
Sometimes, a company may require you to take tests to assess your product knowledge or require you to attend company meetings or seminars to learn more about the field. This can help you develop in your retail role or when applying for jobs elsewhere within the same industry.
4. Business knowledge
Retail work can teach you the basics of business operations. In industries like clothing retail, management can share overall store sales goals and individual quotas for each team member to achieve. These skills can be transferrable to sales jobs that may be in corporate offices.
Similarly, you might manage cash registers, take part in promotional sales and review inventory, which all can increase your general business knowledge. Learning what strategies your company implements to increase sales can provide you with innovative business ideas in future roles.
Patience in retail is the ability to remain calm and attentive while helping customers with their needs. Sometimes, you may have to spend a long time with a specific customer as they decide what they want, or you might need to remain calm and patient while they express frustration. Learning patience can help you manage your stress in the workplace while minimizing conflicts with customers or colleagues.
6. Time management
Working in retail, you often have a designated list of tasks to complete. These can include calling a certain number of customers, reaching a sales goal or stocking a certain amount of shelves. With all of these duties, it's important to learn time management to ensure you have enough time to complete everything as needed.
This could mean learning how to prioritize and multitask. Time-management skills can help you schedule and focus on tasks in future roles where you might have additional responsibilities.
Many retail positions have teams of people for different responsibilities. Though sometimes you might strive to reach your personal sales goals, collaborating with your colleagues can create a positive and productive work environment. There might be people in other departments that you need to collaborate with, so learning the roles of different teams can help you support different customer needs.
For example, as a sales professional, you may refer a customer to the customer service department to complete a return. Knowing how and when to collaborate with others is important, as you might work on different teams throughout your career.
8. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills are the ways you verbally and nonverbally interact with others. This can involve a series of other skills like patience, communication and active listening. Working in retail, you can expect to work with diverse groups of people who have different needs and cultures, so learning how to adjust to each scenario and maintain positive relationships is important for building sales and a strong reputation for your company.
Problem-solving is the ability to develop solutions for unique problems, often quickly. Many times, customers come to retail locations or contact retailers to solve a problem they have. This can be with a product or service sold to them or a life need they hope to improve.
Effective problem-solving can help you quickly analyze the situation, propose various solutions and resolve the issue while providing excellent customer service. You might apply this skill in other roles when thinking about how you might improve business or processes.
10. Attention to detail
You could develop a strong attention to detail when performing various tasks in retail. With customers, learning personal details can help build your relationships by showing them how you remember information about them.
With other tasks, like managing inventory or cash registers, it's important to be detailed with every transaction as each item or dollar helps the company improve performance. Many other jobs require this skill, especially those that use math like accounting roles.
What career fields can retail skills transfer to?
With the skills and experience you learn from retail, you might consider a career change after some time. These can be to a different role in a company, different roles within an industry or completely different industries. Some fields you might explore include:
Administrative: Using skills like communication, collaboration and customer service, you may consider an administrative position like an executive assistant or office manager. These positions exist in different areas like in corporate offices, law offices and accounting firms.
Sales: Rather than retail, you may explore additional sales opportunities in other industries like health care insurance or software sales. Many corporate offices, like book publishers and marketing companies, might look for retail sales experience for entry-level positions.
Real estate: Becoming a real estate broker or agent can help you apply your communication and problem-solving skills to help customers find homes. Depending on your location, you may be able to start a career in this with the right skills, even with little real estate experience.
Health care: As you develop skills like empathy and communication, you might consider a career in health care. Positions like dental hygienists, registered nurses and massage therapists provide services to their clients while maintaining a calm and positive environment.
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