Only qualified for retail jobs...how do I break away?
June 3, 2012 2:34 PM Subscribe
How do you branch away from a retail career when that's all you're qualified for? How do you cultivate the passion/resolve to find something better?
posted by stubbehtail to Work & Money (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I like to think I am a reasonably intelligent individual. I have a 2 year degree (an unmarketable one; I am still in debt), am an avid book reader (of nearly all genres), enjoy sociological documentaries about other cultures, and find naturopathic medicine pretty interesting. The problem? I'm just not passionate about anything and that makes finding a suitable career really difficult.
I've worked nothing but retail my entire life (I am in my 30s). I frequently receive kudos for my performance and a lot of responsibilities generally follow suit, with my being put in charge of things like training new employees or writing operational procedures for new employees to learn from. These are generally tasks that I am assigned without extra pay and am expected to do as part of my job (though my title is the same as the new employees I am delegated to 'supervise' and train). This has always been the case regardless of the companies I have worked for and assume it is just industry standard at this point.
I generally start off strong, eager to learn and be a productive employee, but after a few years I simply can't take it anymore and find a new job. This has been the cycle of my working life and it has simply burned me out. I am not a social, extroverted butterfly and working in retail has always caused me a great deal of anxiety. I do not like selling things, nor do I enjoy constantly being forced to interact with people (ie: customers). Doing these things emotionally exhausts me to the point where I isolate myself away from people to 'recover' for the next work day. The little social interaction I was comfortable with has pretty much fizzled out as a result. My relationship has sometimes suffered from the constant work-related stress/unhappiness.
Each day is spent dreading the next work day. I am bored, unchallenged, and tired of having to fake extroversion and empathy. I am ridiculously underpaid (barely above min wage) for the knowledge I am expected to have and the responsibilities I am assigned. In fact, I am making LESS now than I did selling pet food right out of high school, despite glowing performance reviews. I have been recommended for a promotion that I simply don't want but feel inclined to take since I already perform the job duties and it would come with a small (<$1) raise. However, I have no desire to manage people. I just want to be given a task and left alone to do it. I am most comfortable (and productive) performing the clerical duties of the store (ie: balancing change orders, deposits, ect.) or other 'behind the scenes' tasks. However, I do not have the training/experience to leap into more of an administrative or accounting role and have no desire to be crushed even further by more student loan debt.
The solution seems simple--just find a new, different career path. Which I have tried doing. Every moment of my free time is generally spent searching for new jobs. I have applied for countless jobs but have yet to be called for an interview. It seems non-retail jobs are all about networking--putting an introvert like me at a severe disadvantage. I feel as though I will be stuck working retail for the rest of my life, and that thought crushes me, robbing me of motivation and enjoyment.
What can I do? I've read countless self-help books, have investigated dozens of potential careers, looked into free courses/training, and have tried to assess my strengths/weaknesses to find a more ideal job match. But at the end of the day I'm nowhere different. I have some potentially marketable interests: holistic nutrition/supplements (my current industry), dogs (nutrition, behavior, training), and drawing (cartoons/comics, illustrations), but feel that a job doing any of those things will result in my not enjoying them anymore. I did work for a year as a freelance artist which was OK, but destroyed by desire to draw and was an unstable source of income that kept me constantly worrying about making ends meet.
I have come to accept that it is unrealistic and out of touch with reality to expect a lifelong career or for a job to fulfill or define me--at this point I just want a job I can tolerate, and not wish for bodily harm as an excuse not to go anymore. I don't even need to make a lot--I would be content with $15/hr and having a more stable work schedule. I'm a very fast learner but there's nothing I really 'specialize' in and despite my eagerness/ambition, jobs simply do not take chances and do on-the-job-training anymore. I do have goals and dreams (ie: live in a van and travel the US, travel abroad, eat fish tacos in the birthplace of fish tacos, run a blog/online comic) which I need my job to fund, but since things look so bleak I keep whittling those goals and dreams to nothing, hardening myself to the enjoyment they give me so I won't be disappointed by never realizing them.
Where can I go from here? I feel like I've exhausted all the venues available to me. Any advice for someone who hates their retail job but is terrified (in this economic climate) to find something better or do something as drastic as quitting and living out of a van for a while?
*Note: I have been diagnosed with a mood-related disorder, which I am on medication for. I know that this likely contributes to some of my feelings, but does not invalidate them.