Retail can shape the groundwork for a fruitful vocation in any field

by Melissa Pond   •  

This post is a part of our November blog series on Retail Pathways, to continue the conversation about our latest report, Retail’s Opportunity, which was released during the 2016 National Opportunity Summit, thanks to the support of the Walmart Foundation. Did you miss our first two? Here are links to Savion and Jordan’s stories on how opportunities in retail led to broader career pathways for each of them.

My daughter Charlotte, who is currently 13 months old, has changed the way I look at the world. Everything I do is centered and focused on how to manage an environment that I think is “good enough” if not the “best” for her; moreover, I desire to create that sphere for all kids and families because I have one of my own. When I shop, for example, I expect a clean bathroom – particularly a clean changing table for her. And I expect my purchases to be bagged for safety and quality.

The customer service training I attended more than ten years ago is at the foundation of my work ethic and experience. My expectations for cleanliness, safety, and quality for my family come from hours of training with two different companies – a box store and a local grocer – where I learned how to be a service clerk and cashier. I worked hard to provide a quality customer experience in both of these stores. I gloved up and bleached down toilets, mopped floors, and cleaned sinks and mirrors. I washed my hands properly and returned to bagging stations to bag with care and a smile, even to offer a helping hand out to the customer’s vehicle. And finally, I put on my winter coat and gloves to collect and push carts back inside for the convenience and safety of the customers – sometimes over ice and snow – in the parking lots.

Retail was a great place for me to go into the workforce, gain experience and skills, and shape the groundwork for a fruitful vocation in any field. The industry’s challenges such as low wages and unpredictable work hours encouraged my pursuit of higher education even though I would have to take out loans to make it happen.

Today, I combine those entry-level skills I gained through retail with my bachelor’s degree in business management and my master’s degree in nonprofit management to provide quality public service as a Senior Planner for the City of Quincy’s Department of Planning & Community Development. I don’t doubt that having training in customer service has attributed to my success as an award-winning community development planner. I have an awareness of how to interact with the public; an ethos of service; and most importantly, a desire to do well to earn a living and good quality of life for myself and my family.

By happenstance, I met the former co-owner of the local grocery store where I worked years ago in my home state of Maine while at a Boston Red Sox networking event. I thanked him for the opportunity he provided me and told him what I’m doing today. It’s not often you get a chance to thank people for creating opportunities for you who are so far up the ladder but it felt like a very rewarding day.

Fifteen years from now, which I am sure will go by much too quickly, I will encourage my daughter to find work in retail to offer her service and smile to others – and to also gain a foundation of workforce skills for herself such as interpersonal communications, teamwork, time management, respect for authority, sales, and marketing, to name a few. In closing, I’d like to thank those who are creating entry level jobs for youth and who will create one for my daughter someday!

Melissa Pond

Melissa Pond is an Opportunity Leader and a City Planner for the city of Quincy, MA.

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