Your First Job Should Be In Retail—Here's Why

By Wen Hsiao

As someone who worked at Topshop for a month, I am obviously the most qualified person to speak about the retail experience. 

Jokes aside, I worked at the Topshop on the busiest shopping street in Amsterdam. From my brief time there, I felt like I saw everything: From the horror that was the unreachable clearance section floor to the ill-mannered customer who screamed at me when the Joni jeans were out of stock, all whilst the in-store speaker was blasting Zedd’s “The Middle” for the third time that hour. This seems to be a shared experience for many retail employees. For €6,30 ($7.11) an hour, it was really, really not worth it. 

I worked four-hour shifts twice a week and worked mainly on nights and weekends (the busiest times) because of my crammed school schedule. On the surface, my job seemed easier than ever: I lurked around the shop floor, picked up pieces from the sales floor, fixed up the clothes on the hangers, and smiled periodically at the passersby. Above all, I spent most of my shifts counting down the minutes.

You learn how to be mindful

Like other jobs in the service industry, working in retail teaches you to be more mindful and considerate of the ones who help make your experience special. 

A retail job shows you what retail workers have to do to ensure stores operate in a way that makes the customers happy. Retail workers often stay overtime to make sure everything in their section runs smoothly. 

Working in a city packed with tourists means there is never an easy day. With such a packed store at all times, it is hard to make sure everyone’s needs are met. Working in this environment, you quickly learn what you could do to make other people’s lives easier. You learn the little things that can truly make someone’s day.

I still remember feeling flames flaring in my eyes when my classmate looked at me and said, “What? They’re paid to do this!” when she was about to bring back a scrambled up mess to the changing room desk. Put your clothes back on the hanger. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but just the attempt of putting it back the way you got it can make someone’s job a lot easier.

You become more eco-conscious

Working in retail helped me become less inclined to participate in fast-fashion. I am still guilty of wandering between racks at Urban Outfitters and Brandy Melville, but seeing hundreds of people coming in and leaving with the exact same styles each day has left a sour taste in my mouth, knowing that new styles and designs made by underpaid overseas factory workers will roll in every other day.

You don’t need previous job experience

In comparison to my friends who worked in restaurants, I definitely found retail to be more laid back. In most scenarios, working in retail requires little to no experience. I remember sending in my application for the sales associate position during a seminar class and getting a call for the job the next morning.

You gain valuable skills and insights for future jobs

In my honest opinion, your first job should be in retail. Having worked in hospitality before, I found that retail is a better stepping stool to the job pool. Your choice of a retail store can be tailored to your preferences, and it allows you better figure out if something is right for you. All of my prior work experiences have shaped me to be the person I am today. Like any other service job, you learn a lot from being on both ends of an interaction. A retail job taught me more than just being mindful, it also steered me towards a career direction I would be more ethically inclined to be a part of.

About the Author
Wen is a Taiwanese content creator located in Amsterdam. She is currently an Editor at Paive. Most of the time, you can find Wen writing about love, music, and culture. Outside of work, Wen participates in directing, editing and filmmaking. You can keep up with Wen on Instagram and Twitter.