As much as I adored patterned sweaters, skater skirts, fringe, boots, statement necklaces and tank tops, I did not belong there. I don’t think any rational person belonged there. Not behind the scenes.
I had plans to intern for a big law firm and become an overnight success. Such a success, in fact, that all of the top law schools would tell me I didn’t have to take the LSATS in September; instead, could just happily join the throngs of students flooding their classrooms in the fall of 2015.
Oh, what a summer it would be, indeed.
Instead of important, successful lawyers, I found myself wedged between chaotic piles of unfolded clothes and angst-filled customers who did not understand that I actually had not managed to memorize the entire store inventory.
My days were chaotic and cluttered; I was tired, stressed and hopeless. I could not wait for classes to start so I could stop working at this dreary job, stop complimenting complete strangers and stop standing for 8-hour shifts, straightening clothes and putting back the garments the customers misplaced. It was just a lame summer job anyway, right?
Finally, the day came and I realized I would never have to work as a sales associate again if I didn’t want to. And then I felt sad. I realized as much as people suck and as much as tedious, pointless work may suck, there are still lessons to be found in an otherwise meaningless job:
Not only are you expected to dress to impress every day, you also have to be comfortable enough to approach strangers. Like, “Hey, I’ve never met you before and I know nothing about your life, but really you should consider buying this skirt!”
You also have to find some way to not only get along with your coworkers, but become friends with them because they’re probably pretty cool. Also, you guys probably have something in common. Never lose an opportunity to make a friend like this; they’re invaluable. (You’re also going to need someone to commiserate with.)
2. Time Management
This just gets more and more difficult as you get older. Not only do you have to allot time for this pesky job you hate (I mean it’s just a summer job), more importantly, you need to reserve time for fun, friends and Netflix.
Not to mention, there’s your actual internship, volunteering and studying for post-undergraduate exams (like the LSATS). With any commitment, no matter how much you hate it or how small it may seem, it is imperative you balance it among your leisure, your pleasure and your future.
3. Money Management
Working in my favorite clothing store tracking all of the new arrivals was literally the hardest thing I have ever done in the 21 years of life. Every time I made a round through the store, I would come up with excuses for why I needed to buy that dress or sweater.
Now, I have enough kimonos, dresses and patterned pants to keep me dressed without having to do laundry for months. This was bad. I was spending more money than I was earning, and it was because of where I was working. I had to learn to set rules for myself and listen to them.
4. Interpersonal Skills
Talking to strangers is uncomfortable; I have always hated it. Working in retail not only forces you to acknowledge customers and say a common polite greeting, but also establish a semblance of a relationship.
You have to compliment them, ask them what they’re shopping for, and although it doesn’t sound like it, this has the potential to open one up for some very personal responses. Be prepared to console, encourage, listen, agree, sympathize and to advise.
Become friends with your coworkers. This is advice for any job at any stage of your life, but especially when working in retail because it’s daunting.
If you complain to anyone else who doesn’t work retail about your retail problems, he or she will think you’re just complaining unnecessarily and won’t understand.
6. Work Ethic
Bet you didn’t see this one coming. It’s not a laborious job, which makes it that much harder for you to put forth your best effort. You might not see any greater meaning or purpose in what you are doing and, therefore, not see the point in doing it well. Don’t fall into that trap. Be nice to everyone, and work hard.
Keeping up with the responsibilities of a job you feel like you are wasting your time at is something you hopefully never have to get used to.
However, this could be the perfect opportunity to practice. You need this job or you wouldn’t be working there, so try your best. You never know what opportunities could lead to career advancements.
8. There’s a bigger world than law school.
Whatever your version of law school is, it’s imperative as a young adult that you remain open-minded. Don’t miss an opportunity because you stubbornly have your mind set on only one possibility.
Broaden your skills and meet as many people as possible. Life is way too short to waste learning from any experience, independent of how much you may dislike it.