Hands-on Retail Jobs

Smiling cashier.

Most people associate retail jobs with sales and customer-service positions. But if you look behind the scenes, you'll see a number of opportunities for people who prefer hands-on work.

Various Opportunities

Large retailers hire stock personnel whose duties include bringing merchandise out to the floor and replenishing shopping bags at the registers. "If you like getting your hands dirty and keeping busy, this is definitely the way to go," says Derek Culp, who was promoted from backroom team member to team lead at Target's Saugus, Massachusetts, store. Retailers also hire maintenance personnel to keep stores looking their best. Other hands-on roles include shippers and receivers, who unload the trucks and maintain order in the stockroom or warehouse.

The Requirements

"When hiring for these positions, retailers look for a proven track record of getting to work and doing so on time," says Maureen Taylor, former human resources manager for a major retail store in Boston. "They also look for candidates who can follow directions." Enthusiasm, a solid work history and the ability to work in a team environment are high on retailers' wish lists as well.

"If you are trying to get into retail, go in with a fresh mind and attitude," Culp says. "Go into work looking forward to what you are doing every day."

Culp also says you need to be physically fit to work in the stockroom and that the job keeps you active. He should know. Culp lost 30 pounds within four months of starting work. "The day flies by, because you are busy carrying out large goods for customers, making sure the store looks clean and restocking shelves," he says.

Where to Look for Work

When searching for retail jobs, don't overlook specialty retail stores, which allow you to combine your hobby with your job. Consider the following examples:

  • Passionate about scuba diving? "We hire hourly personnel who are certified divers to service scuba equipment such as tanks, regulators and buoyancy compensators," says Mark Potter, president of Mass Diving in Natick, Massachusetts. Positions at the store also include shipping and receiving as well as store maintenance.
  • If you've always been told you have a knack for arranging flowers, consider applying for a position at a flower shop. Kiersten Peterson, human resources manager for Boston-based Winston Flowers, says her company looks for customer service-oriented individuals with floral-design skills. "We require an audition when we hire floral arrangers," she says. "We also look for positive, upbeat individuals, regardless of position."
  • If you feel like you can be on one of those home-renovation or decorating television shows, get off the couch and roll up your sleeves. Start by applying for jobs at your local hardware store, where you will be able to learn about different aspects of home repair. You might also consider applying for work at one of the larger home-improvement stores. They are always looking for hourly personnel with expertise in the trades.

Visit the Retail Career Center to find retail job opportunities.

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