Escape from Retail Hell to What?

Steven Slater’s cathartic and humorous escape from flight attendant hell inspired me to get busy writing again about escaping retail hell. Over the ten-plus years I worked in retail and fast food, I must have fantasized hundreds of times about telling off rude customers and hitting the door. There are few people working in retail hell who haven’t had that wish, but they don’t have the luxury of just quitting.

If your goal is to make a less dramatic escape and not burn any bridges, you’ll need to plan ahead and take it one step at a time. The first step and one of the most challenging obstacles to escaping Retail Hell is deciding what to do next. If you are lucky enough to know which career you want to pursue, I envy you, and this post is not for you (I’ll cover your next move in a later post). This article is for the rest of us who still don’t know what we want to be when we grow up.

First, get a clear objective:

When I was planning my escape from Retail Hell, I had no clear objective. All I knew was that I wanted a “real” job, any real job. At one point, I tried out for police academy and passed all the required psychological and physical tests, except for the sit-ups. They were willing to work with me on the sit-ups, but I knew it wasn’t my calling, so I declined their offer. Still, the knowledge that someone offering a “real” job was interested in me was a significant boost to my confidence going forward in the job search.

Having a clear objective would have made my escape much easier and it will yours too. A clear objective allows you to create a targeted resume and focus your time and efforts on a compelling goal rather than grasping at straws that you’re not even sure you want.

So how do I get clear on my objective?

No one can tell you what you should choose as a career path. It has to be your decision. However, there are tools and resources to help you make that decision.

If you can afford it, hire a career coach. I didn’t know career coaches existed when I was attempting my escape. I wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out on my own. A career coach can guide you in uncovering your skills, interests and personality traits which lead to a successful career choice. You can find certified career coaches through Career Coach Academy. Or ask for referrals from successful people you know who have benefited from a career coach. If you can’t find a coach in your area, no problem, most offer coaching services by phone now.

Assessments are another way to identify your skills, interests and potential careers. Some assessments must be administered by licensed professionals such as career coaches while others can be taken on your own. Some are skills based while others are personality based. There are too many good assessments available to go into detail about in this article, but here are two that you can take on your own:

Keirsey Temperament Sorter

Campbell Interest and Skill Survey

If you prefer to go it alone, read books and explore the O*NET and the Occupational Outlook Handbook  (OOH) online. The O*NET and OOH are databases that contain well researched job descriptions and other job information for both government and private jobs. They offer a broad range of job information, such as specific knowledge, skills, education and other requirements.

There are hundreds of books at the library and in bookstores that address career choice. One of my favorites, I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was by Barbara Sher, helps you identify what inspires you. And my e-book, Escape Retail Hell, offers advice and resources on getting out of front line retail and into a job you love from someone who successfully made the escape after ten years in retail preceeded by four in fast food.

What if committing to only one career sounds as unfulfilling to me as retail?

If no job or career sounds appealing enough that you would want to do it for the rest of your working days, you might be a “Scanner.” Those of us who are Scanners are genetically wired to be interested in many things according to Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was. Go ahead and pick something that sounds interesting with the knowledge that you don’t have to do it forever. Try it out for awhile and then you can move on to the next thing that interests you.

I hope these resources will help jumpstart your Escape from Retail Hell. The process of choosing your career or next job can be an interesting journey of self discovery. Take your time and enjoy it!

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