Travails of a retail worker

When young people imagine what their first job may be, many would envision paper routes, landscaping and babysitting.

Regardless of what it may be, there is a trend of getting a job that you do not enjoy or would not want to pursue a career in. This is something I believed I would inevitably have to face when I was younger.

At the beginning of grade 12, I was offered a part-time position as an electronics sales associate at a local Walmart — I was in the department I liked, had reasonable hours and was working close to my home. It felt like a dream come true.

At the beginning it really did seem like the perfect job, but as the months went by I began to realize the limitations that working in retail had put on my future.

I have been working there for over two years now, and in that time I have noticed two distinct types of employees: the older, full-time employees who choose to work at Walmart instead of staying at home, and students working part-time.

In addition to the types of employees, I noticed that if a student was close to their graduating year, they would be offered more important tasks, more hours and a transfer to a department that is short-staffed.

And when the employee graduates, they would be offered a promotion as a mid-level manager in the department they were conveniently transferred to.

It always seems great for the employee — they have just graduated and are immediately offered a job. It may not be in the field they studied in, but it’s a job.

Many associates in this situation accept the promotion and consequently push other career plans back to work full-time.

It makes sense for high school graduates who have to fund their own education to do this.

Studies show that 45.9 per cent of Canadian students have to independently pay for their tuition, and only 15 per cent of those chose to rely on student loans alone, meaning the rest has to depend on other means of acquiring the fund — usually through finding a part-time or full-time job.

But often throughout their work year, those employees would be offered more opportunities within the store — chances to climb the corporate ladder — and before they know it, they need to make a decision between continuing an already established career at Walmart or quitting to pursue their dream job.

Often, employees are put under a lot of pressure to make this decision.

Currently, 38.9 per cent of the retail workforce in Canada is composed of people with post-secondary education and 36.1 per cent with a high school diploma.

So it is becoming more common for graduates with a higher education level to remain in the retail workforce despite an average annual income of under $30,000 for retail associates.

On the other hand, the average annual income for all other professions in Canada is just over $45,000, with the majority of employees achieving post-secondary education.

With an employment distribution of 38.6 per cent for persons aged 15 to 24, it is likely that those numbers will be added to the employment rate of the next age bracket in the upcoming years, and this will take away a portion of employees from other professions, such as research and medicine.

Therefore, students need to be informed that other career opportunities are available, and if you leave retail it is not the end of the world.

Many employment agencies are available to recent graduates such as the Career Development Centre on campus and countless online resources dedicated to career placement for recent graduates.

The bottom line is, it is way more advantageous to pursue a career in your field of study rather than taking a higher position in an occupation such as retail.

Sure, working at your first part-time job is great in the short term, but just make sure it does not blind you of your full potential.

Even if you have to search endlessly looking for the right job, it is still not a dead end.

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