Working at a retail store was my very first job. The initial challenge: the horror of using the intercom to complete a price check. But there was a loophole! I asked my co-worker if she could check prices for me, as I was busy bagging items. One day, she caught on and said it was time for me to use the intercom. It felt like everyone was going to watch and listen to me ask for a price check on a pair of socks. I turned on the intercom and asked for a price check. I looked around and was relieved to see that no one paid attention. Rejoice! First lesson learned: sometimes a little tough love goes a long way to having people face their fears.
Working retail is where I learned to multi-task people. When I was busy showing an item to a customer and another customer came and looked like they needed assistance, I wouldn’t ignore them. Instead, I made eye contact, smiled, and nodded at them, communicating that I recognized and welcomed them. Lesson learned: a smile and recognition of presence go a long way to building rapport.
In counseling, we do not practice beyond the scope of our knowledge and training. In retail, I quickly learned that in order to prevent harm to customers, I had to be upfront about my lack of knowledge on a product. It was at this job where the words “I don’t know” became more comfortable to use. If I didn’t know the answer, I would help find someone that did know. I would not abandon my customer. In counseling, we can’t be experts at everything and shouldn’t try to be. Lesson learned: be aware of limits and be honest, but know how to go about researching information for our clients.
I remember when I first started working in retail, I would be so upset that a customer came to me in a bad mood and left in a bad mood. I thought it was part of my job to make customers happy. As in counseling, I quickly learned that not all sessions end in butterflies and rainbows, that sometimes things can become pretty gloomy. But that’s okay! I learned to try to not take people’s unhappiness to heart. Lesson learned: to allow people the space they need to be unhappy.
Working in retail was a unique experience and full of lessons. Price check!
Jackie Torres is a counselor in Colorado with a particular interest in the world of work. She enjoys helping people find what makes them feel strong and energized at work. She is also learning to play the guitar.