5 Career Tips for Retail Employee Reset in a Time of Layoffs
Spring represents a season of change—but it’s more than flowers blooming and temperatures rising. It’s also the season for an uptick in seasonal layoffs following the holiday shopping season that ends in January. This year, that uptick comes on the heels of multiple bankruptcies of major retailers, followed by several large location closures. Fortunately, there has been some counterweight to these layoffs. In the first quarter of this year, the retail sector has seen an increase of 50,000 job opportunities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to Indeed, as more of the retail sector moves online, retail job opportunites that emphasize technology and warehouse fulfillment will continue to rise.
With the retail industry growing ever-more competitive, retailers are upping the ante, raising their expectations of their employees regarding sales, and technical skills but also raising the bar for management to create a positive employee experience for retail workers. When LinkedIn published its March 2018 Top Companies list of “Where the U.S. wants to work now,” several retailers topped the list thanks to creative HR strategies and employee development tactics. Even outside of job opportunities in the retail industry, there are a growing number of customer service jobs available with innovative companies across the Internet, IT services and finance sectors.
For recently laid off employees, or employees going through a job transition, it can be a great time to be in the market. As employers go out of their way to create a positive employee experience and employment rates continue to stabilize and even grow, job seekers can discover a myriad of opportunities. If you are in the market for a job in, or outside of retail, these five ideas will help you take control of your career and navigate the possibilities to land the right job.
#1: Know what drives you
When employees find purpose in their jobs, they are happier and tend to stay with an employer much longer. In fact, 73% of people report job satisfaction when they feel they have purpose at work. If you are between jobs, it’s a great time to self-assess. Ask yourself: What made me happy in my last job? What parts of my job felt the most fulfilling? What am I most passionate about (even outside of work)?
Use the answers to these questions to direct your job application efforts. Try to find alignment between your values and priorities, and the mission of your potential employer. Making the connection is easier now that organizations are focused on establishing and communicating workplace culture information and mission statements are clearly displayed on their websites. For job seekers, it’s becoming increasingly commonplace to select an employer for more than a paycheck. In fact, employees surveyed in Indeed’s Best Places to Work in Retail focused on innovation, honesty, flexibility and philanthropic efforts as well as standard employment issues of job security and advancement. Finding a best fit, not just a new job makes you a better candidate in the eyes of the recruiter who is looking for culture fit as well as skills and experience. Feeling like you belong will also likely to lead you to stick with the company longer and help you avoid looking for a job again in the near future.
#2: Understand your skillset
The most sought-after skills for individuals seeking employment in retail-oriented jobs, according to Indeed, include customer service skills, sales experience, supervisory skills, ability to work in a fast-paced environment, and strong communication abilities. What’s already on your resume that checks these boxes? The sweet spot for finding the right job is the intersection of your skills and interests and the market.
When you’re creating your resume and interviewing stories, don’t fall into the trap of confusing “experience” with skillset. While both are important, there’s a good chance you obtained multiple skills from the same experience. If a job description calls for supervising skills, for example, and you feel as though you have little experience in this area, consider how other skills you’ve mastered might prepare you to excel at supervising. For instance, have you mentored new employees in customer service or trained teammates on a new software system? Have you managed a project, such as closing a retail department? On your resume and in an interview, hone in on these skills and communicate to the recruiter how your skills apply to the new role.
When you begin to understand how your existing skills can be translated to meet the various requirements of a job, you will immediately widen the breadth of jobs for which you apply. Once you widen your view of potential job opportunities, it’s possible you might be ready to tackle a new position or role you would have never considered applying for based on your direct experience alone.
Many companies are focusing solely on hiring employees with the right skills set, or transferable skills. In fact, the 44th ranked company on LinkedIn’s Top Company list, Box, now focuses specifically on recruiting employees with the skills they need to be successful. To ensure that everyone with the necessary skills applies to their open positions, the company updated its job descriptions to include qualifications that are necessary to be successful in the role. Interestingly, having relevant skills is a must-have for Box, but having a four-year college degree is not.
#3: Don’t feel pigeonholed by industry
When starting a job search, try to consider alternative industries, or even alternative specialties within the retail industry. The highest paying customer service jobs are not in stores; they are in the insurance and finance sectors, and some of the most readily available jobs – albeit the lowest paying-- can be found the restaurant industry. To unlock the plethora of job opportunities, it’s essential you do your research regarding industries and companies. To capitalize on that knowledge, you want to learn how to leverage the skills and accomplishments you’ve gained in past positions and be able apply to new, different opportunities.
Employing the services of a career coach who specializes in guiding transitioning employees through the job search and application process can help you to identify and present your transferrable skills in a powerful way that will land the job. All job seekers should consider seeking mentorship and guidance through a coach, as often times third-party resource will guide you to see how you can expand and make the most of your job opportunity horizons.
#4: Read between the lines
It might go without saying, but it’s important to read job descriptions carefully. It is a good practice to use the exact words from a posting for required and preferred skills. Those key words should show up in your resume, cover letter and interview.
As businesses work to diminish bias from the hiring process, it’s becoming typical protocol to be upfront about hiring practices. Many companies have stated goals regarding diversity hiring. Over 35% of employees of the company Salesforce are minorities. Starbuck’s pledged to hire 25,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses by 2025. IBM is hiring "new collar" workers, employees with nontraditional backgrounds, many of whom are based in parts of the U.S. that lack major tech industry presence.
Going back to the lesson learned from Box’s job description, you don’t always need a four-year degree, even for an office job. Employers across retail, insurance, finance, technology, and other industries are on the lookout for individuals with applicable skills. Use this in your favor by really understanding what the employer seeks, and learning to “sell” your applicable skills on your resume and in the interview process.
If you have the opportunity to work with a recruiter early in the hiring process, it’s typically appropriate to ask what the top candidate requirements for the position are. This will set the tone from the very beginning and help prepare you for future interviews. Try asking questions like, “What is the number one quality you hope to see in the person you hire for this position?”
#5: Consider alternative paths
The retail industry is changing drastically-- less of an emphasis is being placed on in-store experiences (e.g. traditional cashiers) and the focus is shifting to driving online experiences and technological advancements. If you are a traditional retail worker looking to make a transition into another industry, or perhaps a “back office” job, now is the time!
Many companies named to the LinkedIn Top Companies list tout in-house training and internships opportunities for workers who are passionate and willing to learn. Louis Vuitton SE will even go as far as to train aspiring artisan skills including tailoring and silversmithing.
Unlock new skills for yourself through free online training, gaining new skills through volunteer experiences, taking courses through your local community college, or even obtaining an unemployment workforce training grant. If you are impacted by a layoff and considering trying something new, you don’t have to follow the traditional path to obtain new skills, or to land your next job.
The future is bright for retail employees, with job opportunities on the rise, and concerted efforts by employers to create a positive employee experience. Amazon is the second largest private employer in the United States; with a global headcount of 566,000 employees. In addition, major retailers are raising their profiles in ecommerce and store pick-up, and retail salespeople and cashier’s jobs account for 6% of all U.S. employment.
As a job seeker, it’s up to you to hone in on your skills and experiences in order to put yourself in the best possible position to successfully land a new job. You’re only steps away from securing your next job, and it’s important to put the right amount of work in on the front end to ensure you land the exact job you want with a company you’re proud and excited to work for.