With the changing economy, many people are also experiencing career changes. This interview with an Assistant Manager of a retail store will take you through the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more.
What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
For approximately a year, I experienced the cyclical nature of retail from an Assistant Manager position. On a typical day, I was in charge of managing employees and ensuring they met sales goals, as well as, follow the protocol set forth for the department. I also had the responsibility of leading by example and selling.
What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?
The department was dominated by mostly blacks or African Americans. There were three to four white males and females in the department that I managed. As an African American or black female, I cannot say that I experienced any discrimination based upon my race in the department. In terms of gender, the lines were blurred. All of my managers were male; therefore, it was difficult to tell if their reactions to me were in reference to my gender or out of competition for a position.
For instance, the manager of the department left for vacation and the Assistant Manager with more responsibility of the department started changing displays against company policy. I was relatively new to my position and was unaware at the time that the company policy existed, since I always followed the protocol that was provided to me. His actions made me and the department look bad to the store manager, because I did not correct his behavior.
Do you speak any language other than English? If so, how has it helped you in your job?
We received clientele from all ethnicities. I do not speak Spanish fluently, but I can understand some phrases. I enjoyed the variety of clients that I interacted with daily, but this job came with numerous challenges that I will elaborate on further.
On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?
Overall, on a scale of one to 10, I would rank this job a 6 or 7. The good aspects included:
1. Incredible discounts
2. Non-thinking position
3. No work follows you home
4. Some employees treat you like family
5. Music, if you like to listen to what the store plays
The not-so-good aspects:
• Labor intensive
• Long hours
• Work place threats and harassment
• Lack of Human Resource Support
• Cut-throat competition
• Commission–based sales
What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
I learned so many things about people from this job that I would have never expected. One major thing I learned that if you sign a contract with an employer agreeing not to sue and only arbitrate if there is a disagreement, it is difficult to get someone to represent you. I learned to always keep in close contact with the District Manager and sometimes, the Store Manager, instead of your direct superiors if you are having a problem. When Human Resources will not help, you may have to escalate beyond the store to the corporate level.
What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
With this particular job, I needed to know workplace law and ethical practices in a workplace. After being threatened by an employee at work and being ridiculed constantly by co-workers, who all but forced me to quit, I quickly realized that it is not easy to manage people who do not respect you. If they want your position, they will do anything, ethical or not, to get it.
How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
The process of obtaining a retail position is easy. Simply go to any retail store and apply. Many retail people have experience in fashion design and other areas, but it is not necessary. People, from all walks of life, work in retail. I am not sure this situation is redeemable for me, personally. However, I can suggest that people know their rights in the workplace. Keep a good working relationship with all of your managers even at the district level and beyond. Clearly outline your expectations from all of your managers.
What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
I have to say that I was quite perplexed by the store’s practice of researching my high school background to discover my preferences in high school. I was not asked by the store management, but many of the fashion themes in the store were centered around my high school prom experience or on my fashion preferences in high school. I was unaware where they were getting the information and when I asked, I was ignored. The product I was selling was also named after my family members and friends, which I found extremely weird.
On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?
When I heard music I liked or interacted with a repeat customer, I enjoyed my job. Many of the customers I served understood my previous role as an executive.
How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
The job can be stressful, because of the pay structure. If you are not at selling, you are not making money. So, you must be physically selling at all times to meet your salary goals. If people are not buying your product, you are only making minimum wage. That aspect is stressful.
When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?
The people, employees specifically, can be very trying at times. Many people in the profession are focused on other things in their lives and that can affect their work performance. I was understanding in everyone’s situation, but one employee resented me and wanted to test me every chance she had. No concession I made for her was ever enough.
What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
The salary varies because it is commission-based. In my first year, I was on track to make $50,000. If I had made it through the Christmas sale, I would have probably earned near $50,000. That is considered a good beginners salary. Some of the top sellers and managers make $100,000 or more per year.
I am not really into labor intensive jobs. I like to be active on my own time. In my position, I had to perform a number of jobs that were not a part of my job responsibility, such as move boxes and unpack them. I would have like to been compensated for that aspect of the job or delegate it to someone else.
What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
Being offered the Assistant Manager position and winning the Top Internet Salesperson in the store was rewarding. I was typically always within the top one or two in sales in my department. Those two aspects, along with my paycheck, were rewarding.
What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
The most challenging thing I experienced was being threatened and harassed. Although, I have to say that moving boxes was challenging as well. All other aspects of the job were easy. Because of my schedule, I did not get to take much vacation, but I would have eventually accrued two weeks that I could take after a year. I needed every bit of two weeks to rest my body. The job was akin to an eight hour workout.
How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I was reluctant to take vacation, because I lost sales while I was away. When you lose sales, the amount is deducted from your paycheck. I might have come back from vacation with a negative balance. Vacation is unpaid, unless you are a manager.
Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I enjoy fashion, and I enjoy autonomy. I probably would have enjoyed a buyer role, a District Manager role or even a CEO role more than a sales person role. Owning my own boutique or designing my own line of clothes would have been preferable, since I love to shop and wear clothes. Being tied to a store all day was not necessarily my goal, but we all had to start out selling, before we could progress to other roles in the store.
[author] [author_info]About the Author
Our guest writer has provided an actual interview covering the competition, the perks and unique experiences as told to RetailJobs.org and is one of many interviews with people working in retail, like a bookstore clerk and a sales associate.