After working nearly three years in retail I have learned some valuable lessons quickly. Working retail has not only taught me important lessons about life, but also about the public relations field in general. Even on my résumé and during job or internship interviews I always mention the experiences I have had while working retail and state how it can help me with my future in PR.
Some of the points that I note when discussing the PR lessons I learned while working retail include:
• Patience - Patience is key when working a customer service job. Customers will constantly have problems that arise that you will magically have to solve at the drop of a hat. Folding a million t-shirts during your five hour shift that day might be tedious and boring but it is a task that still needs to get done. You might have to deal with difficult customers, long lines, register errors, cranky managers, etc. Staying patient is the only way you will get through the work day. This is great practice to prepare for the PR world when frustration is guaranteed and you need to remain calm and collected.
• Quick Thinking - Dealing with complaints and issues is a skill that you will master after working so long in retail. You constantly have to think on your feet as these issues arise throughout your shift. PR is also all about the fast-paced reactions and decision making. Did your client just have a crisis? Saw an opportunity to send out the perfect tweet? You need to constantly be thinking quickly and being able to make intelligent decisions.
• Research - Are these coffee mugs on backorder? Does the shirt come in red? When is the next big sale? Knowing the ins and outs of the store and company means that you can better assist the customer and ensure they have a positive experience. The same goes for working at a PR agency where you also have to make sure your clients are happy and that their needs are being met. Doing an extensive amount of research will eliminate any gaps while representing your client. Know them like the back of your hand!
• Anticipate - Knowing what your audience is looking for can be difficult. Observing and drawing conclusions on what the customers are looking for, how much they might want to spend, and who they are shopping for are all questions you have to ask them and draw your own inferences. This will allow you to better anticipate their needs and wish-list. Working in a PR field is all about anticipating the next move, the next big idea, the latest trend, etc. Anticipating what your clients wants, as well as what their audience wants to see, are both key for a successful promotional campaign.
• Sell, and sell it well - Retail, as well as PR, is all about selling a certain product and being able to sell that product to the best of your ability. Trying to convince a person to buy an overpriced, out-of-fashion, sweater is talent. Think of that as a pitch you are giving to a major client to win their business for the PR agency you work for. The best feeling is persuading the customer to buy into what you are telling them.
Never be afraid to share your experiences of working retail, food service, or even babysitting on your résumé or during interviews. Be proud of all your experiences since they have been learning lessons that will shape and prepare you for the PR workforce.
Follow Lisa on Twitter, @LisaCroccoPR!