My first job was working a cash register at a well-known department store. I was freshly out of high school, terrified of interviews and trying to find something to put on my resume as fast as possible. When I accepted the job offer at this store, I thought it was a smart decision because the pay would be two dollars more than what I would make at a nearby grocery store.
For a while, things were great. My job was cliche retail, but since I expected to only be there for a few months until I started college, I stuck with it.
Then life happened, and suddenly I needed to keep working this job for an indefinite period of time. Three months of cashiering became three years, then four years. I was advised by those close to me to try and find a new job that would be either more enjoyable or more profitable, but I dismissed this advice by pointing out that my job had very flexible hours and as I was attending Bellevue College, I needed to change the hours I could be scheduled at least four times a year.
It took longer than it should have for me to realize I needed to quit my first job. Although it was not as physically or emotionally demanding as other careers, it was still frequently stressful, especially around the holidays. I dreaded going into work and hated most of the time I spent there. The management at this particular store was excellent at finding problems with how the store was run or how the staff worked, but struggled to find any solutions that actually solved these problems. Their lack of innovation and inability to recognize the hard work of those below them led to an unpleasant work environment, which caused many of my coworkers to find work elsewhere. Most importantly, I disliked my job because it did little to utilize my skills as a communicator and did not offer me upwards mobility, especially mobility that was relevant to my long-term life goals.
I finally left because the Human Resources office and the store manager both would not partner with me to find a way to schedule me around my most recent class schedule. When this happened, it became clear to me that I was not valued by my leadership team and chose to quit.
It is easy in a society obsessed with work to feel that a person is confined by what they do, and this mentality can make saying no to a bad work environment and finding a better job elsewhere seem intimidating. However, more opportunities are out there, especially for those who work retail.
Financial obligations like rent, car payments and paying for school can make finding a new job especially stressful, as job hunting while working and going to school just adds an additional layer of pressure to a person’s day. The expense of daily living can also keep a person from looking for a new job if their current one keeps pace with their monetary needs. Settling at a workplace that does not value its employees is simply not healthy. If you are able to leave a situation like this, I encourage it.
Finding a new retail job is as easy as looking for “help wanted” signs when out shopping and dining. Many places also have information about hiring on their websites, and Craigslist is a decent way to find local businesses looking to hire.
For folks looking to start making a portfolio that will help them build a career as a writer, freelance work is available online, and budding artists can make extra cash selling designs on Redbubble. While these side gigs might not replace a part-time job in retail, they can help build confidence in your skills and give you something to fall back on if you quit or lose your job.
Your retail job should never define you. Never stop searching for an opportunity better than the one given to you.