For many of us, it’d be hard to get through university without working a part-time job. How will you afford those beers on Thursday night if you haven’t worked a couple of hours this week?
As a student, your options are pretty limited to hospitality or retail. And if late nights and drunk customers aren’t your thing, retail is the way to go. But while it’s great to be earning some cash to support yourself during uni, there are a few things someone should warn you about working in retail.
#1 There Are Some Customers That Will Never Be Happy
Sometimes even the most skilled retail assistants make mistakes. Maybe no one remembered to take the security tag off, or there aren't enough bags on the self-serve. While some things can be fixed, there will be customers that will never be pleased.
No matter how hard you try, these people are just there to cause trouble. Tell-tale signs include trying to barter down a $10 pair of socks, sighing uncontrollably, and refusing to speak to anyone but the manager.
On the plus side, these people make a fun story for you and your colleagues to laugh at in the tea room.
#2 Just Because It’s Retail Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Important
“Retail isn’t a real job!” I hear you say. While it might not be your end goal, it is for a lot of people. Many of your colleagues may have aspirations within the company, or might have actively chosen to leave another job for the retail industry.
While you might not be saving the world, people would be pretty screwed if no one stocked the shelves at Woolies or if no one bothered to show up in the lead up to Christmas. Work hard for your money and you’ll learn a lot of skills that will come in handy later in your career.
#3 You Actually Have To Meet Your Commitments
Working in retail is the foundation for good working habits, no matter what job you end up in. Unfortunately, you may have to give up most of your weekends to work.
If you’re part-time, you’ll most likely have to give a fair bit of notice for any plans that require leave from work. While this can be a bit of a bummer, particularly if your mates aren’t very organised, it’s just part of being an adult.
Keeping to your work commitments is the best way to get a glowing reference if it comes time to move on.
#4 Your Co-Workers Are Valuable Connections
Lunch break discussions can be an eye-opening learning experience. Other uni students can be a source for the best bars in town, while older coworkers are generally pretty happy to help you make some life decisions.
These people can be useful to know in the future, as they tend to come from a range of backgrounds. Having friends at work also helps the time pass a lot quicker, and if you’re lucky you might even get a LinkedIn endorsement for ‘teamwork’ from them.
#5 Humans Are Really, Really Messy
You’ll never know how gross people can be until you work in retail (or hospitality, to be fair). Change rooms are seemingly there to be used as personal bathrooms. If a child vomits, it’s supposedly your responsibility to clean it up, not the parents’. And sweaty bra or crotch money in summer is apparently not disgusting.
The big tip here is to wash your hands as much as possible, even if nothing visibly gross has happened yet. Wash them twice if it is visible.
#6 You’ll Never Find A Job As Flexible As Retail
At the time, getting up to work an eight-hour retail shift after a night of drinking might seem like the worst thing in the world. Once uni ends, though, you’ll miss the days when you could cover up a hangover by drinking a Red Bull and sleeping on your tea break.
Retail managers also generally understand that your schedule will change each semester, and that you’ll need a couple of weeks off for exams. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”