Let’s be realistic here: the job market sucks at the moment (for some people) and, even though a lot of Ivy League economists are saying that the recession is over, millions of people are still out of work. Now before you tune out because you think I’m going to trail off on some political, anti-Wall Street rant, realize that this is not a bitchfest. No, this is about solutions.
It’s hard to find work. Or is it just hard to find your ideal career at the moment? Surprisingly enough, there are a lot of jobs – it’s just a matter of temporarily lowering your standards. Which brings me to my main focus: retail. Yes, I said retail, that small step above the asshole of the workfore that is food service (here’s looking at you, McDonald’s). Sometimes you just have to make the best of your situation, just like this guy did.
So you’re a regular college kid, looking for work and possibly having to settle for retail. This isn’t the worst case scenario, but it doesn’t live up to your ideal situation. Here’s a few tips to make it more bearable. And trust me, this isn’t some airy advice like “keep a positive outlook” or “try to smile and maybe you can trick your body into releasing serotonin for the illusion of joy!” No, I’ll give you something you can actually use.
1. Seeing through the corporate bullshit
I’ve seen enough corny training videos to know that most retail outlets have ridiculous policies. An example would be Target’s policy of writing up employees if their break times are a minute off or if they call a customer a customer instead of a “guest.” But here’s something to consider: your boss hates the policies as much as you do. There aren’t too many managers who are going to go strictly by the book on every single mundane rule the corporate headquarters throws at them. If you do your job right, nine times out of ten you can get away with bullshitting with a co-worker when you should be “trying to look busy” (whatever the hell that means).
2. Make sure the boss is cool
Everybody knows that one kid in high school who got messed with and ended up becoming either a cop or a manager as a weak attempt to fulfill the old “I can boss around/arrest the prom queen/star quarterback” delusion. There is at least one of these guys at every store, either as a manager or the constant ass-kisser of the manager. So while you can’t necessarily prevent yourself from getting pulled over by this PBA card-ripping maniac, you can make sure you don’t work for him. If it’s a big place like Target, Best Buy or, God forbid, Wal-Mart, find the department everyone likes and make sure you can get in. You may have to suck it up as a cashier for a few months until a position opens up, but remember that people quit or get fired all the time. The law of averages is on your side. If it’s a small place like CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens, use your judgment and the volume of locations. The manager in Syosset’s CVS could be an asshole, but the one in Hicksville buys his workers lunch. The best way to get a feel for what it would be like to work for someone is to shop in their store and create a situation where the manager needs to help you (“Excuse me, I can’t find…”) How the manager handles you as a customer is a good indicator of how he/she would handle you as a worker.
3. Always ask for crazy money
If you have to work in retail, DO NOT WORK FOR MINIMUM WAGE. Screw that. Ask for fifteen bucks an hour. The worst they can do is lower it. At long as it’s above ten bucks an hour, it’s a good deal. Usually, anyone that’s not a cashier or that poor bastard the company hired to round up shopping carts will get at least ten if they ask for it. Most kids have this misplaced sense of modesty or self-defeat where they think a manager will write them off because they asked for too much money. They won’t. Truth be told, most managers look at your availability before they even look at your name.
4. Work with friends
Most companies make you apply online nowadays. So apply in droves. If you don’t follow any of the advice I gave you before, at least follow this one. Working with friends is every bit as awesome as you think it is. You can literally turn a crappy job into a place to hang out (and get paid for it.)
5. Don’t get sidetracked
No one on the planet is meant to work in retail. That is not your future. It is only temporary. I’m not going to sugarcoat things and say, “There’s nothing wrong with being a cashier. It’s honest work.” That is a lie. There is a lot wrong with being a cashier while you’re in college. It’s all motivation for your real goals in life. And if you didn’t declare a major yet and you don’t really know what you want to do for a living yet, you at least have a worst case scenario; an “I don’t want to still be here in ten years” situation. Better jobs will come in time. That’s why I put the word forced in the title.