Finding and Keeping Best-Fit Retail Jobs

Apothecary shop owner taking inventory with clipboard

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of June 2019, there were 5.8 million people employed in the U.S. retail sector. Many of them were looking to create a rewarding retail career path that included one or several best-fit retail jobs.

Those looking to make a career in retail must be customer-focused and derive satisfaction from helping others acquire things they need or want. If that doesn't sound like you, you should probably consider a different career choice.

If it does sound like you, you should focus on finding and growing in a series of retail jobs that fit your individual interests, values, and life outlook. In the short term, it might seem more important to select a job based mostly on compensation or on which store is offering the biggest employee discount—and that discount is a nice perk of retail jobs. But over the long haul, many workers are chronically dissatisfied until they land a job that provides them with personal fulfillment—one that is the best fit for them.

Evaluating Yourself and Potential Employers

The first step in finding a best-fit job is to think about what motivates you, makes you happy, and holds your interest. Think about your values and goals in life. Then start matching the priorities you've established with those of retailers that have a presence where you live.

One place to identify retailers that offer good entry-level jobs and opportunities to advance and that stay true to their stated company values and purposes is the list of the 20 Best Workplaces in Retail compiled by Fortune and Great Place to Work. The 2018 iteration of this annual list is based on anonymous surveys of over 631,000 U.S. retail employees. Each survey consisted of more than 60 questions aimed at quantifying employees' experiences of trust and reaching their full potential as part of their company, regardless of job title. Great Place to Work also considered employees’ opinions on company innovation and the effectiveness of their leaders.

Another way to identify potential employers is by reading retailers' websites to see what they say about the businesses' ethics and goals. Sometimes, of course, these statements are only feel-good words that don't reflect the day-to-day reality of employment at the company. But they're a decent starting point to determine whether, at the very least, an organization's stated priorities align with yours.

Landing the Job

Once you've settled on a few potential employers, look on the jobs page of the companies' website or ask in person to find out whether they're hiring.

It's often helpful to have had previous retail experience when applying for a retail job, but businesses know everyone has to start somewhere.

Your ability to demonstrate enthusiasm for the job and the references of trusted people who can vouch for your potential in the retail sector can make up for a lack of experience.

Write a great cover letter and resume that are directed at the specific job you're applying for. Learn as much as you can about the company so you will be well prepared for your interview and you will have intelligent questions to ask. You should also practice answering the most commonly asked interview questions for retail jobs.

During interviews with an HR representative and the hiring manager—or perhaps only with the owner of the store, if it's a small business—conduct yourself professionally but show your eagerness for the job.

Play up any experience you have exceeding customer expectations and make it clear your No. 1 goal is to help patrons.

Before accepting a job offer, consider whether the position is truly the best fit for you. Think about the priorities you set at the beginning of the job search process and honestly evaluate whether the job and the employer jibe with them. If they do, take the job. If not—and you are able to hold out for something better—turn it down.

Keeping the Job

Once you've gotten your best-fit retail job, the winning-est strategy for holding on to it is to do your best work every day. If the organization is truly interested in promoting the hardest and most capable workers, your contributions will be noticed and you will be rewarded.

If you go above and beyond what your job description requires, the company will want to retain you and offer you even greater challenges. Your employment will be as secure as you can possibly make it in the ever-changing retail world.

Creating Your Retail Career Path

Regardless of how well you perform, your career is unlikely to go straight up one company's ladder. If you feel stuck or are finding it hard to be motivated in your current job, it's probably time to look elsewhere.

Go back to your list of priorities and research opportunities for your next best-fit retail job—one that will keep you on your best-fit retail career path.