Erasing the Retail Worker Stigma

I have begun to realize from seven years of working retail that the stereotype of being undereducated is simply just a stereotype. Many of my coworkers at the major department store I work at, Kohls, are either college students or are college graduates. With the economy the way it is right now, it has become more difficult to obtain full-time jobs that we have the credentials for. That is certainly the case with me—I have had a hard time finding a full-time job that I am qualified for so working retail is my source of income at this point in my life.
Is there a stigma around working retail? Yes, I definitely believe there is. Customers may treat you like you are uneducated and unskilled when in reality we are very bright and skilled individuals that deserve to be treated as such. I want to erase this stigma and have customers embrace us as individuals just like them, people just trying to make a living.
The people I work with have become a second family for me and Kohls has become a home away from home for me. I’ve watched my store evolve over the years and adapt to the times and I can honestly state that I have some pride in being a Kohls associate. Do I complain about what goes on? Yes, I must admit that I do outside of the store but it does not replace the good feelings that are usually associated with my workplace.
What I would like for us to realize is that everyone has to make a living somehow. Sometimes we have to work retail until the right opportunity comes to us. It may surprise you though that good opportunities can come in the retail environment as well. If you work hard enough and show that you are someone who can be a valued employee, then you may be rewarded with higher positions and higher pay rates. You can be promoted from within and I have seen coworkers go up the ladder to full-time positions within the store.
I know that the memories I have made at Kohls will remain with me forever and the people I’ve met there will be friends for life. I take pride in the work that I do at Kohls and making my department look great for customers. There may be things I want to change in my store but what I never want to change is the feeling that we work in a caring environment where we feel secure and comfortable.
I want to reiterate that there is no shame in working in retail. There are some great opportunities for advancement in this industry and you may find that you never want to leave this job behind. Right now I couldn’t imagine my life without Kohls and I do believe that if I were to be considered for a full-time position there I would definitely pursue it.
The next time that you walk into a store I want you to think about the gifts that retail workers bring to the table. Engage with us and learn more about what makes us unique individuals. You may even develop friendly relationships with the employees you meet during your shopping experience. I definitely have my regular customers who appreciate the work that I do and continue to come back and shop in my department. Don’t think of us as lesser people for the work that we do and treat us the way that you would want to be treated yourself.

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