Skip to content

Can I help you find anything?

by on October 26, 2021

Three and and half years after getting a master’s degree in in peace and sustainable development studies, and dozens of applications later, I got a job as a training to be a manager in a retail store.

Before I critique the job and retail in general, I should say more about the application process.

Most jobs ask for an extensive work history. Sometimes you can “upload resume” and it will populate the fields of your work history for you (this function never works properly – it ends to with some of the work history, and mashing other in places they don’t belong, like the next job title falling into the contact section of the previous one). Fine, so you, the employer wants to know that I can perform mundane tasks. This job application asked for the last ten years of employments, including any volunteer experience! I listed of what I’d done in the last ten years, focusing on things I’d talked about in my cover letter. I am thankful to myself that I didn’t list every thing I’d done in the last ten years.

After going to an interview, I was asked to submit letter from the five different places I’ve worked or volunteered in the last ten years (at least, the ones I listed on the application). I’m grateful to the five people, most of whom I haven’t had any words with in more than five years, who promptly responded to me and acknowledged that I do, or did, work for them. I’m not sure that I was being asked to submit a letter of reference or merely an acknowledgement that I worked for these people or organizations, bu I’m not sure there’s much of a difference. A letter saying I was there and that I put in effort is a letter regardless of what you call it, and five of them for a retail job is (just a little) excessive.

I wasn’t expecting to be working in retail. With a master’s degree I thought I’d be working on policy. Trying to enter or reenter the job market is a grueling process, though.; I’ve heard that algorithms will look at recent experience, and ignore people who may have education, but not recent experience. I lost track of the numbers of applications I’ve submitted over the years, and to some extend the number of types of jobs I’ve applied for. Nonetheless, I try to only apply to jobs that I would be I would actually want to do.

Part of my master’s lever education is peace through sports. This point of discussion during the interview may have been the reason I now I have a job training to be a manager at Big 5 Sporting Goods, although I feel it’s hardly relevant to what I do. I’m making something close to minimum wage to learn to oversee everything at the store.

Nobody knows how to to do their job on the first day, of course. The interesting thing about retail is that they throw you in at the deep end, and at the same time expect you to know your way out. This is a bad analogy, perhaps, but there is a established pattern of how clothes are hung, or which socks go on each rack. Yet there is little instruction except to do the job, without instruction on how to do it.

Great Customer Image & Photo (Free Trial) | Bigstock

It’s not hard to pick of the lesson of how to greet a customer when the walk in, and ask them “can I help you find anything?. The hard part is that we who work in retail are told to do this on the first day, without having the faintest clue where things are in the store.

The structure of the job is another issue. Although I could ask for some days or time off, I have no real control over my schedule. I’m scheduled at different hours on different days each week, and I never know my schedule more than a week a head of time (unless I say I’m not available on some day at some hour in advance). The law says that if you work more than five hours (most shifts are either 5 or 8 hours) you get thirty minute to eat. On evening shifts, that mean we’re having at 5pm, if we remember to have a lunch before work, or we’re having dinner after 9pm after getting home. For some lucky mortals, this isn’t a big deal; for others food is essential even if not desirable. The law also says that if the employer doesn’t have to provide part-time workers with benefits, but my experience is that as a part-time worker the hours are about as long as a full-time shift. Part-time employees are often asked to work 35 or 38 hours in a week, but because that’s not 40 hours benefits don’t need to provided.

The takeaway from all this is that the application process for jobs (minimum wage jobs in retail in particular) is ridiculous, that the expectations of knowing how to do a job without being taught how to do a job (even a retail job) is ridiculous), and that the laws regarding who gets benefits and who gets basic needs like foods while on the job is ridiculous. Perhaps one day we’ll value both workers and non-workers.

I will continue to post on this blog. The energy used for working is amazing, and may impede even my best ideas.

From → Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: