Looking for a rewarding career in retail? Whether you’re a recent grad or have a few years of experience under your belt, there are a number of steps you can take to improve your chances of success in this fast changing field. As with most fields, there are landmines to avoid, people to connect with, and high visibility tasks that can dramatically improve your chances for promotion or boost your employability if you’re just starting out.
Zig-zag your way to success
In college, your progress was pretty much laid out in a linear fashion. You finished this course, then that until you graduated. Today’s retail industry is vast and varied with one job leading you in one direction (marketing) and another taking you into online tech, store management or supply chain work. You’ll need a broad spectrum of knowledge to move up in retail, so exposure to each sub field can help you. Eventually you may stop zig-zagging and find yourself concentrating on one of these disciplines. Check out Rich Christiansen’s The Zig Zag Principle to get an idea of how to succeed without following a straight line.
Learn online marketing
Academia can teach you the basics, but most colleges won’t teach you what you need to know about online marketing. This field is growing and will be increasingly in demand as e-commerce moves into the fast lane of retail. So take on internships (ideally paid) where you can bring yourself up to speed on the emerging trends in e-commerce. If you’re already working, take on some online marketing tasks—work overtime if you have to but don’t be left behind in this area of retail. For an eye-opening look at how e-commerce and online marketing are changing retail, check out The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World's Toughest Marketplace by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart.
Don’t fear mistakes
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to get discouraged by mistakes. But the biggest mistake you can make is fear of making one. It can ball-and-chain you into being too safe, prevent you from thinking outside the box and hamper your creativity. So, by all means, look before you leap, calculate the risks, then go boldly forth into the unknown and suggest, present and act on your gut. Retailers want to see what you’re made of—in other words, can you get up after a mistake and keep going or will a mistake defeat you? Ann Inc.’s Executive VP of Ecommerce, Matthew Siegel noted that wisdom comes from making mistakes and that retailers are looking for people who are unstoppable.
Unite skillset with teamwork
A skillset of listening, speaking, leading and planning is important in retail. But today’s retailers also want employees to work as a team. This is especially important today and moving forward, since retail increasingly embraces so many different disciplines—big data, supply chain, IT, e-commerce, social media and online expertise. These diverse players have to get along and move the ball forward as a team.
If you want to succeed in retail, the rules have changed. Zig-zag, learn ecommerce, don’t fear mistakes and learn to work as a team.
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