Whilst I was at uni, like most students, I had a part-time job. I got the job purely with the thought that it would pay for my books and maybe some treats if I budgeted well. I certainly didn’t think it would help give me skills to help me get a career years on. My job was in a shoe shop but I think these skills will apply to most student jobs.
Patience and Restraint
Working with the public can be trying at times – whether it was customers asking for “this shoe- but in red and without the stitching, can you take the design off for me?” (I actually got asked this), or people blatantly trying to trick a discount out of you. There have been times people have been rude and even racist towards me but knowing you represent a company (and fear of getting fired) helped me learn how to have more patience with people and be polite with them even when they are being horrible. This underrated skill and learning how to stay cool and polite can be transferred to any job, or even personal situations.
Keep Calm and Carry on
Talking of staying cool, keeping calm is a big one. On Boxing Day it’s normal for me to have 5 customers at once, all wanting my undivided attention. At first I was flustered and would try to juggle all of them. Now I have learnt to stay calm and carry on. Some may have a longer wait, but I’ll apologise and do my best, and that’s all I can do. Getting stressed will not help me or my customers.
Before my experience in retail, I wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose. Yet shop work forced me out of my comfort zone…I had to start conversations with strangers or I’d lose my job. End of. Yes, it was awkward at first, there were more than a few embarrassing silences. Yet perseverance paid off and now I can start – and enjoy – conversations with perfect strangers. This confidence will undoubtedly help with networking later on.
The Work Doesn’t End Just Because the Shift Does
The first time I got ‘homework’ from my job I was flabbergasted. I was contracted to eight hours of customer service. Why was I expected to complete worksheets and ‘activities’ in my spare time? Customer service isn’t rocket science, right? I’m glad I had to do it, however. I know now that sometimes you need to put in that extra bit to progress – even if it’s in your own time.
Playing Office Politics Isn’t Worth the Time
I work in a department with nearly 30 other members of staff, so it’s only natural that there will be some disagreements. At first I loved hearing the ‘she said, he said’ tales. But I quickly learned that none of it matters. Ok, Sarah took your customer – it’s annoying but it’s not the end of the world. You have to see these people on a regular basis, so try and stay out of the politics. That way you won’t be faced with your slip of the tongue coming back to haunt you.