Life lessons can’t be bought but are still found in stores

By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer

Everyone is a consumer. Each person consumes food, media and a range of retail items, from sports gear to beauty products. However, there are two sides to consumption: one from the perspective of the buyer and one from the view of the seller. Both are important.

As a sophomore in high school, I landed my first real job working at the Gap Outlet. After a year and a half, I not only became a highly experienced T-shirt folder but also gained an invaluable outlook on the life of a retail worker that could only be obtained by being one myself.

As the teenage labor force continues to decline, I believe there is an important push to encourage working in retail. Even though my passion is not retail, the lessons I learned as a sales associate will help me in my future careers.

The main takeaway is people skills.

Honestly, people are difficult to deal with, and outlet shopping is a whole different beast. Keeping a calm, cool and collected facade while a customer challenges you takes practice and is something that can be difficult. The store is where this practice awaits.

The people who come into the store all have different personalities and different goals for their visit. As a sales associate, you have to be flexible and adaptable in each interaction. These quick and easy-to-learn skills are not only helpful traits that make you more hirable; they allow you to grow as a person. Not everything in life is going to be as planned, so flexibility is key.

Another helpful aspect of working in retail is the awareness gained as you shop as a consumer. Being on both sides allows you to become a better customer. The annoyance of discovering a dressing room full of crumpled clothes encourages you as a shopper to pick up after trying on clothes. Long lines at checkouts are less frustrating because you have experienced the pressure that cashiers are under firsthand. Overall, more grace is given because of a mutual understanding of how the life of a store works.

Lastly, working successfully alongside a team of people who have a range of life experiences and knowledge is an important skill. You can grow as a person by learning from others and ultimately learning more about yourself. Teamwork is something that will always be prevalent in life and can help in future careers.

All through retail work, important values can be acquired: kindness, patience, teamwork, adaptability. These life lessons will help you succeed beyond the storefront and into any future plans.