As a student, I worked in customer service for nearly six years. Two of these were spent working in retail at a local mall. This had to be one of the most stressful jobs I’ve had to date. Retail is a challenge for the average person. It can be even more difficult for an introvert. Here are a few things that really helped me to survive working in retail. A lot of these can apply to other types of jobs as well.
1. Get enough sleep.
Make sure that you get at least 8 hours of sleep before your shift, if at all possible. Sleep deprivation leads to less energy, and for an introvert, that can affect your whole day. On days that I was only able to get 5 or 6 hours of sleep, I was irritable, sleepy, and usually wandered around in a daze. Its just not worth it. There are always going to be situations where you have no choice, but try to get to bed early as much as you can.
2. Eat properly and enough.
Ensure that you’ve had a full meal before you go into a shift. Also, if you’re working long enough to have a break, bring food with you. Bringing your own food is usually healthier than the food available, especially if you’re in a mall. And its also a lot less expensive. Running on full energy is only possible if you keep yourself well fed. And for an introvert, we need all the help we can get.
3. Stay hydrated.
Drink water before you even start work. If you’re allowed to keep a water bottle with you, that’s awesome. If you have to keep it in the back, try to go back periodically to hydrate. Your body will thank you.
4. Take time to relax and unwind.
Plan your day so that you have quiet time before you go into work. Then make sure you schedule in some alone time after work to unwind and recharge. Having quiet time both before and after work will make the rest of the day more enjoyable.
5. Bring music or a book.
Listening to music or reading a book are both great ways to block out the world during a break. Also, if you’re taking public transit, its a great way to isolate yourself from your surroundings. This reduces the stimulation you feel. I still listen to music every time I take the train or bus. It makes things a lot easier on me.
6. Escape to the back.
If the opportunity arises, volunteer to grab an item from the back room. Not everyone will have this option. But if you do, make sure to use it. Even a few seconds off the floor can provide a change of scenery. And you can come back feeling a little bit refreshed. Obviously, don’t do this all the time, or people might start to catch on 😉
7. Choose a different shift.
This may not be an option for everyone. But if it is, you can request different shifts, if working at a certain time is too draining. For example, I volunteered for the 6am to 4 pm shifts because half the shift was opening inventory before the mall even opened. I still had to work some of the busy full days, but those early mornings were a lot easier to do.
8. Change your mindset.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable about going up to strangers, try to see it from a different perspective. See it as a way of helping people. You’re there to help them out, see if they’re doing alright, or if they have any questions. There are always going to be people who don’t want your help, but at least you’ve offered.
As a sales associate, we had to greet every person as they entered the store and inform them about the current promotion. For an introvert, this was nerve-wracking. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. But then I started to view it a little differently. By saying hello, I was being courteous to the new customer. And mentioning the new promotion didn’t mean I was pushing it on them. I was just informing them, and if they were interested, they could act on it. Once I started seeing it from that perspective, I didn’t feel as if I was imposing on them at all.
9. Deep breathing.
If you find that you’re getting overwhelmed, stressed, or irritated, slowly count to ten, breathing deeply as you do. Slowing your breathing slows down your heart rate, which has a calming effect. Its one thing that I still use to this day.
You’re always going to come across rude and messy people when you work in retail. I once entered a change room and saw a mountain of at least 25 items piled on the floor. The previous occupant was long gone, and didn’t have the courtesy to hang up what they tried on. There’s really no use in getting frustrated about things like that. Even though you have to clean up after them, their behaviour doesn’t reflect on you. And here’s the secret that most people already know, especially if they’ve worked in retail before. The customer is often wrong. So even if you have to cater to them, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you were right.
These are just a few things that helped me survive working in retail. I find that most of these still help me in my current job today.
Do you have any survival tips for work?