Top Transferable Skills for Your First Retail Job
by Stephanie Barna
So, you’re looking for a retail job, but you don’t have any work experience. Don’t let that dissuade you – there is a way to get your foot in the door. It’s called your skill set. Everyone has one, and most people have skill sets that are more expansive than they think.
Determining which retail skills to put on your resume (and then selling yourself through those skills) can be tough. After all, you don’t have retail-specific skills because you have no prior work experience. But you most likely possess skills that can carry over, or transfer, into the world of retail.
One retail job posting at an AT&T store listed the essential skills required for a retail sales associate position:
- Excellent communication
Chances are you possess at least one of these skills, or maybe quite a few of them. Most retail jobs include plenty of on-the-job training focused on the technical aspect of the work (for example, operating a cash register). But a manager can’t teach you how to be trustworthy or enthusiastic. These are skills/traits that people learn on their own, at different stages of their lives, in a variety of situations.
To earn a well-paying job in retail with plenty of room for growth, you need to put your most valuable, transferable skills on your retail resume.
Retail growth continues
Contrary to popular belief, the retail sector is not suffering the apocalypse. A handful of chains may be shutting stores, but the National Retail Federation reports that for every store that closes, five stores open — and retail jobs are growing. Retail sales positions are projected to grow 1.7 percent by the year 2020, with a 3.8 percent growth for first-line supervisors. Check out our retail trends report for more information about the future of retail jobs.
As you review job postings, you’ll start to see many of the same valuable retail resume skills pop up. We checked out a job posting from Dick’s Sporting Goods for a customer service specialist, also known as a cashier. To earn this job, you’ll need to have:
- Flexible availability
- Customer service skills
- People skills
- Basic cash management procedures
- A preferred 1-2 years of retail experience
The keyword to remember here for those without experience is “preferred.” This word shows that Dick’s will consider a great candidate who has the skills to do the job well. So, rather than being discouraged from applying, play up other skills they’re seeking such as your ability to be flexible and your excellent people skills.
So, how do you know what retail job skills to put on your resume and how to best highlight them? The key is choosing the right format.
Reap the benefits of a functional resume format
Rather than using a chronological work history format, the best way to display your transferable skills when seeking a retail job may be a functional resume format. This resume format:
- Highlights your skills
- Emphasizes your best achievements
- Shows your capabilities
- Avoids highlighting work gaps or limited work history
- May be ideal for recent college graduates, entry-level candidates or anyone changing industries
A functional resume format contains the five key components of all resumes:
- Header (this includes your contact information; however, due to recent privacy issues tied to identity theft, we recommend you do not include a mailing address)
- Summary statement
- Skills section
- Work History section
- Education section
The best way to identify transferable skills is to review the job posting for the position you want. Study the job posting carefully and look for keywords or phrases that speak to your skill set. Then apply these keywords and phrases to your resume and cover letter. Doing this can help you get past the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan and sort applications, which could mean the difference between being overlooked and being hired.
What if you haven’t decided which retail environment is the best fit for you? How do you know which skills to focus on? Review your educational and life experiences for valuable skills to put on your retail resume. Consider hobbies, passions and experiences when determining which retail environment is best for you.
- Are you a hunter or a fisherman? A sporting goods store may be the perfect place to put that knowledge to work.
- Fashionista with crazy style? A boutique would be a fulfilling, exciting workplace.
- Did you babysit your way through high school? Working with kids requires enthusiasm and communication skills.
- Did you lead the pack in Girl Scout cookie sales? Use that experience in a cover letter to show your ability to work with customers and generate profits.
- Are you a tech guru who’s always playing with computers? A computer or gaming store seems like an ideal fit.
Older generations re-entering the workforce have plenty to draw from when it comes to transferable skills, such as teamwork, leadership, work ethic, reliability and the plethora of skills they garnered in their previous jobs or careers.
Flexibility and reliability are key
The best place to let the hiring manager know you’re available to start immediately and willing when needed is in a compelling cover letter (which you can create using one of our Cover Letter Examples).
What store manager wouldn’t want to hear that? For someone who is short-staffed, this cover letter could be the key to getting an interview, even if you don’t have the work experience they prefer. The best managers are always providing training and support, so the task of training a candidate who looks great on paper won’t be daunting to a good manager.
Now that you have a better idea of what transferable skills are and which skills to put on a resume for retail, put our Resume Builder to use, and pull together a resume that highlights all your transferable skills and grabs the hiring manager’s attention. Complement that resume with a compelling cover letter crafted with one of our Cover Letter Templates, and hopefully, you’ll be receiving interview requests before you know it.