Working a job in retail taught me some really crucial life lessons

Next month, I will officially graduate college, and hopefully find full-time employment in an industry I am passionate about. However, while potentially achieving my dream occupation is an exciting possibility, I’m also completely and utterly terrified about entering the full-time workforce.

For the past three years, throughout the whole of my undergraduate degree, I have been working in a huge department store. My job at the store is part-time and usually includes a combination of customer service and store presentation roles. And guess what: I learned to truly love it. No, I’m not being sarcastic — I’m serious. If you had told me I’d be saying this one day during my first shift at the store, I probably would have thought you were joking. Working in retail during college has actually been really great, and here’s why:

You develop communication and people skills. 

Working in a field like retail forces you to talk to customers and other staff on a regular, minute-to-minute, basis. Initially, as an extreme introvert, I found this really difficult — but that’s what made working in retail extremely beneficial for me. It has helped not only strengthen my communication and people skills, but also really boosted my confidence and helped me come out of my shell.

You learn the art of organization. 

We can all understand and appreciate how important being organized truly is, but it’s often something that’s easier said than done. Working in retail during college has meant that I have had to balance my studies, internships, hobbies, and social life alongside my work responsibilities. Retail work truly teaches you how managing and organizing your daily routine is a beneficial practice.

You realize how to better cope with high pressure situations.

Initially, I found working in retail to be overwhelming. Like many jobs, it can sometimes feel like you have to complete a number of different tasks — things like answering phone calls, greeting or helping customers, and tidying the store — all at once. However, I learned that being under this type of pressure is usually when I have accomplished the unexpected, yet most fulfilling, achievements.

It can act as a break away from essays, exams, studying and deadlines — and you make money while you’re doing it. 

Working always took my mind away from the stresses of university. You can easily forget about your university assessments and examinations when your complete attention is on something entirely unrelated. Not to mention the fact that while you’re focusing your attention on something other than algebra, you’re adding to your bank account — not a bad deal. 

Staff discounts and name badges.

Come on, staff discounts always end up coming in handy. Plus, weren’t name badges just the coolest when you were younger? Everyone loves to feel official, and I remember how grown-up I felt when I got my name tag my first day on the job.

It prepares you for the real world — you learn that people can be awesome, but things can go wrong, too. 

It might seem obvious, but having a job during college can really teach you a lot about how people are the “real world.” Being surrounded by a variety of people makes you appreciate how truly incredible and selfless someone can be. A simple smile or compliment from a customer can really light up your entire day. On the other hand, you also deal with people on their worst days sometimes, and you have to learn not to take things personally.

You get to be a part of a team (and make life-long memories).

Having a part-time job in retail means you are surrounded by a (hopefully) diverse group of people, and who knows what friendships can form. I have been lucky at my retail job, and working with wonderful people helped make all those late night and weekend shifts all the more memorable and enjoyable.