Subj: Dear Hiring Manager, I’m a Retail Veteran
“The Retail Apocalypse Has Officially Descended Upon America,” trumpets a recent headline. Overblown? Yes and no. “A tidal wave of change” is how I’d describe it.
The facts certainly appear grim at first glance. Roughly 3,500 brick-and-mortar retail stores are expected to close over the first half of 2017, and retail executives are likely to announce more cost-cutting measures in their upcoming earnings results.
Headlines aside, this is a massive, disruptive shift, one that will have enormous human consequences. It’s going to displace a lot of people who work in retail. About 1 in 10 Americans work in the industry, which means millions of people are about to be out of jobs.
But despite all this, I have some positive news for retail workers, too. Or at least non-negative news. Read on for that.
First, though, let’s take a look at why this is happening before we figure out how to fix it.
The rise in power of e-commerce giants such as Amazon isn’t new, and some retailers are exiting the brick-and-mortar business altogether in an effort to shift to an all-online model. This new way of doing business has many competitive advantages, including more convenience for consumers and lower real estate costs for business owners. Why leave your house when you can get everything from laundry detergent to a new suit for an upcoming interview delivered to your doorstep? A recent estimate puts the number of American Amazon Prime members at 80 million. 80 million!
Department stores and other general merchandise stores, like supercenters and warehouse clubs, have been hit especially hard, shedding 89,000 jobs from November through March, according to the New York Times. And automation plays a role here, too. Amazon has launched fully robotic stores that are replacing human workers.
For the foreseeable future, there are many skills that robots will not be able to perform at the same capacity as humans. (McKinsey’s “Will a Robot Take My Job?” tool is definitely worth the click.)
But, still, disruption will continue to eliminate and shift certain types of jobs. It’s actually a symptom of progress and economic growth in many ways, but for individual employees caught in the crossfire, they must pivot their attention to where they can transfer their skills.
Ian Siegel, ZipRecruiter CEO, wrote an essay about this recently as it relates to manufacturing jobs, and here was the key takeaway: don’t try to revive a past golden era that’s already been eradicated by technology. Instead, we should look to train our workers for the jobs of the future. A similar concept applies to retail. While the traditional brick and mortar may not ever make a comeback entirely, there’s still hope. And that’s where my promised non-negative news comes in: many skills possessed by the retail veteran are highly sought after, and valued by, different industries.
In economics, skills are thought of as part of a worker’s human capital. The term capital implies that an investment has been made in order to reap benefits over a long period of time. Any time you learn a new skill or practice an old one, you are investing in your human capital.
Nobel Prize-winning economist, Gary Becker, introduced the idea that some human capital is general, while some is specific (to an industry, to a company, or even to a relationship with a business contact). The more general the human capital, the more transferable it is, and the more marketable to a variety of potential employers — meaning workers can continue to reap those benefits, even after leaving a particular job or industry.
With the help of our data team at ZipRecruiter, we identified general skills that are most common among retail workers. We then looked at which of those skills were most in-demand across different industry and job sectors to come up with the top 10 industries and job categories for retail workers looking to pivot.
Business, finance and insurance, education, technology and healthcare are all applicable fields that retail workers may have never considered before. Those with experience in service jobs make great candidates within categories of customer service, sales, advertising and marketing, business development, and communications. Indeed, this list is an extensive one — notice the diversity in positions and sectors.
At ZipRecruiter, we always encourage people to explore their options. We want people to not just find a job, but a better job. Find a job that doesn’t suck. Hell, find the job of your dreams.
Sadly, many people who work in retail won’t have the luxury of looking for a perfect new job. They’re going to need to work, period. Luckily, many of the skills they already possess are in demand.
See below for ZipRecruiter’s data on most in demand retail jobs.
Top 10 Skills Most Common Among Retail Workers
- Communication Skills
- Customer Service
- Sales and Marketing
- Relationship Management
- Attention to detail
Top 10 Industries with the Most In-Demand Retail Skills
- Food and Beverage
- Finance and Insurance
- Transportation and Storage
- Arts and Entertainment
- Industrial Goods and Services
- Health Care
- Travel and Tourism
Top 10 Job Categories with the Most In-Demand Retail Skills
- Sales (Business)
- Customer Service (Business)
- Advertising and Marketing (Business)
- Restaurant (Food and Beverage)
- Insurance (Finance and Insurance)
- Business Services (Business)
- Communications (Business)
- Business Development (Business)
- Warehousing (Transportation and Storage)
- Events (Arts and Entertainment)