Drawing on our experience, we understand that the idea of transitioning from a retail job to an office position may seem challenging, even intimidating. But, it is absolutely possible, and in fact, many have successfully navigated this path. Retail work equips you with a plethora of transferable skills that are desirable in an office environment. So, if you’re planning on moving from retail to office work, this article will guide you through the process and help you understand how to maximize your chances of success.
The Value of Your Retail Experience
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that your time in retail is invaluable. Retail jobs help cultivate essential skills such as customer service, communication, teamwork, multitasking, and problem-solving, which are highly desirable in almost any profession, including office work (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Also, due to the often fast-paced and dynamic nature of retail, you’re likely to have developed a strong work ethic and resilience, qualities that employers in any sector value.
Understand Office Culture
Due to our practical knowledge, we can attest that a significant part of the transition from retail to office work involves understanding and adapting to a new work environment. Offices tend to have a different pace and structure compared to retail jobs. You might need to get used to a more formal communication style, different software, or sitting at a desk for long periods.
Research has shown that successfully transitioning into a new work culture involves a process of socialization where newcomers learn the behaviors, skills, and knowledge needed to participate as organizational members (Bauer et al., 2007). You can start this process before even getting the job by researching office culture, talking to people who work in offices, or even doing some volunteer work or internships in an office environment.
Highlight Your Transferable Skills
One of the most crucial steps in the transition from retail to office is translating your retail skills into language that resonates with office employers. Here are a few examples:
- Customer Service Skills: You have experience dealing with customers, handling complaints, and problem-solving on the spot. These skills are similar to those needed in customer-facing office roles like account management, customer service, or sales roles.
- Communication Skills: Retail involves constant communication with customers, colleagues, and supervisors. This means you’ve likely developed strong oral and written communication skills, which are crucial in any office environment.
- Teamwork: Working in retail often involves being part of a team. This experience will serve you well in an office environment, where collaboration and teamwork are often key to success.
- Multitasking & Prioritizing: Retail workers often juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, a skill that’s highly transferable to many office roles.
- Problem-solving: In retail, problems need to be resolved quickly and efficiently. This experience can be applied to an office setting where troubleshooting and problem-solving are often required.
Education and Skill Development
Depending on the type of office job you’re targeting, you might need specific qualifications or skills. If the job you’re interested in requires a certain degree or certification that you don’t have, consider taking online courses or enrolling in part-time study. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer numerous online courses in various fields.
Research by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that completing certain courses or gaining certifications can boost your chances of getting an interview (Deming & Noray, 2018). Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Labor Economics suggests that even “soft skills” training, such as communication or leadership skills, can significantly increase employability (Hoffman et al., 2018).
Also, you may want to consider learning commonly used office software such as Microsoft Office Suite or Google Workspace. Digital literacy is becoming increasingly important in the modern office environment (Digital Skills Observatory, 2020).
Networking and Mentoring
Networking is a crucial part of any job search. The old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” still rings true in many cases. Engaging with people who work in the industry you’re interested in can provide valuable insights and potential job opportunities.
A LinkedIn survey found that 85% of jobs are filled via networking (LinkedIn, 2016). So, attend industry events, join relevant groups on social media, and consider informational interviews where you meet with professionals in your desired field to learn about their job, company, or industry.
Mentoring can also be beneficial. According to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, mentees often experience enhanced personal growth and career development (Eby et al., 2013). A mentor in your desired field can provide you with industry knowledge, guidance, and even connections.
Create a Winning Resume and Cover Letter
To make the transition from retail to office, you’ll need to revamp your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant skills and experiences. Instead of focusing solely on your tasks in retail, focus on the skills you’ve gained and how they apply to the office job you’re aiming for.
A study by Ladders found that recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume (Ladders, 2018). To stand out, make sure your resume is well-structured, free of errors, and highlights your most relevant skills and experiences at the top.
Your cover letter is a chance to tell your story and explain why you’re making the transition. Be honest about why you want to move from retail to an office job, and emphasize your transferable skills and enthusiasm for learning new things.
Prepare for Interviews
If your resume and cover letter have done their job, you’ll land an interview. This is your opportunity to shine and convince the employer that you’re the right person for the job.
Be ready to answer questions about why you’re making the transition and how your retail experience makes you a good fit for the role. A study in Personnel Psychology revealed that job applicants who prepare for interviews with structured practice are more likely to receive job offers (Huffcutt et al., 2016).
Conclusion on Moving from Retail to Office Work
Moving from retail to office work may seem daunting, but it is undoubtedly achievable. It requires understanding the new environment, leveraging your transferable skills, gaining necessary qualifications or skills, networking, and creating compelling job applications. Remember, your retail experience has already equipped you with valuable skills. It’s now just a matter of packaging these for your new career path. Embrace the journey, stay positive, and remember that every step you take is bringing you closer to your goal.