I've worn a Hawaiian shirt for over 10 years, what now?
January 21, 2022 7:39 PM   Subscribe

It's looking more and more that I may be moving away from a career in Grocery. What other careers should I be looking into?

I've worked for a National Chain of Neighborhood Stores (well known for it's Hawaiian shirts and tasty food) for 11 years, 7 of which I've been a Mate (Assistant Manager). The last two years have obviously been super rough what with Covid and all that. Thankfully I no longer get yelled at on the regular by customers who don't feel like wearing a mask, but in the past year the company has made some decisions that have left a sour taste in my mouth and has set my anxiety back to early pandemic levels. Rather than go into detail about how to make my current work bearable I'd like to start exploring what other options I have. I think that if I know what other jobs I could pursue I'd feel less trapped in my current situation.

So, what's next? What sort of careers would benefit from my skill set? I am exceptionally good in the position I'm in and if it weren't for me looking at other career options I'd probably be a Captain (Store Manager) within 2-3 years.

Things I'm good at:
-Very adaptable, can quickly make decisions on the fly and adjust to changing conditions
-Able to learn new skills (and absorb new information) quickly and pass that knowledge along to others
-Customer Service and De-escalation
-I like knowing how things work, have put a lot of time into learning everything I can about everything inside of the store and have been a go-to person for information for years
-Decent carpentry and electrical skills (I've done most of the work on my home renovation)
Things I struggle with:
-Work from home. I need at least semi-loose structure to my day to get things done otherwise I tend to lose focus.
-Burnout. I tend to be very empathic and will often over extend myself to make those around me less stressed. I think maybe working 3-4 days a week would be my sweet spot.

In a perfect world I'd love to:
-Work 3-4 days a week, semi-flexible schedule (Wife and I want kids in next 2-3 years)
-Be mobile, whether indoors or out
-Opportunity for self growth
-Salary roughly equal to what I make now (about $55,000 before taxes)

Thank you all for helping me wrap my head around all of this, I've only ever done grocery and I have no idea where to even start looking!
posted by carnivoregiraffe to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You sound like a competent manager. Which applies to many retail fields. That being said, are there any local grocery stores in your area? Not chains, but, independents? I'd go there first. Most retail is hurting for employees right now, so you should be able to parley 7 years of being a Mate into something...
posted by Windopaene at 7:48 PM on January 21

You could be a product vendor, going from store to store within a region and setting up end-caps/etc. There is usually some flexibility in scheduling, and it helps to be handy.
posted by Schielisque at 8:09 PM on January 21 [7 favorites]

One place to look, depending on your location, is a manager in a call center. Not the most glamorous field though.
posted by itsamermaid at 8:15 PM on January 21

Colleges have positions consisting mainly of supervising student workers. Retail management is a lot like managing students. Maybe you could put your carpentry skills to work in a theatre department (admittedly, it hasn’t been a great couple of years for theatre).

Medical office work requires de-escalation skills. Obviously there’s a lot of hiring going on there.
posted by Comet Bug at 9:40 PM on January 21 [5 favorites]

If you'd like to try your hand at restaurant or F&B management, mefimail me and I can probably help, tell you some of the right things to say in an interview, etc.
posted by vrakatar at 10:04 PM on January 21

A member of my family had a career in the grocery business, including owning his own supermarket. After that, when he wanted a less intensive job, he was a salesman in a lighting store. The basic skills of being a reliable employee and dealing with the public have wide application.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:44 AM on January 22

I don't know how mobile you are or what kind of educational background you have, but if you have a Bachelor's degree, I know people teaching overseas in "international schools" (which are not only for diplomats' kids, but also, in many cases, for many people working overseas' kids or just wealthy locals' kids) who earn around that, or indeed much more, in places where the demand for overseas educators is very high.

The salary numbers may not work out exactly, but in most big, wealthy cities in Europe, the Gulf States or Asia, you'd have better (often free) health care than at home, a cost of living not nearly as high as it might be in a large US city, a lower income tax rate, and much better benefits and vacation time. For example, you probably wouldn't need a car if you lived in Seoul or Milan or something, so you'd also not be paying for car insurance or gasoline (in the Gulf perhaps you would, but gasoline would cost almost nothing). You'd have no private healthcare premiums to pay. You'd probably live in a rented apartment instead of in a house, and in the best jobs your housing would be free or heavily subsidized. Even small things that might seem unimportant at first may really end up saving you a lot: for example, imagine if dentistry in your life was 80% cheaper than it is now, or if all your prescription medications had no co-pay. Post-pandemic, you might live two hours from Bangkok or Mumbai instead of twenty and go there for the weekend. Schools will pay for your flights and offer a moving allowance.

("Teaching?! In a pandemic?!" I know, I know. But while Covid has been rough on every educator everywhere, the way things have been handled in these kinds of schools to keep people - especially teachers and students - safe has been better than just OK; after all, parents have paid to make this work. Remote teaching, done well and in a setting with the right IT support and vision from school administrators, can work brilliantly; again, it may be the case that in a setting like this and a customer base like this, every single kid has great internet at home and a school-issued laptop. It's really a question of student, teacher and parental expectations being managed well; these parents expect a good service, and they get it because they are willing to pay for it.)

Now, in the past, the foot-in-the-door location for this work would have been - for a new-to-teaching teacher with a BA and no teaching experience from a country where people speak English interested in teaching English in a public school - EPIK in South Korea or JET in Japan, or for a bit more money and a bit more experience, the NET programme in Hong Kong (The NET programme pays the most; friends who have done it have made over $75,000 US a year, after tax.) I'm not sure how Covid has affected those places, but I do know that it's really, really hard to attract overseas talent to Hong Kong right now, and many schools are quite desperate. This is peak hiring season for the fall of 2022, too. TES is also a great resource for education jobs overseas.

Now, life outside the US is, obviously, not the same as it is at home, but neither is education. Wherever you go, you will find a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion in education as a field. If you want your personal freedom to matter outside the school, though, you have to pick where you go wisely. Taiwan or Japan isn't going to be as restricted legally in what you can say or do as Hong Kong or Singapore. Spain has gay marriage but Italy only has civil unions. You can buy alcohol in Dubai but perhaps not as easily or at all in neighboring emirates. It may be that none of this matters to you, but it may be that you fall in love with where you go, want to set down roots, but find it legally impossible to square the circle on your rights.

Anyway! I'll close with this: if indeed you have a BA but think about it as "just" a BA, you might be surprised at how valuable your skill set is to schools, especially because unlike many, many teachers in the field of international education, you have had actual employment experience outside of education. In many places, especially in places with a demand for talent that the local market cannot provide, this could be seen as an asset:

- you already handle demands for near-instant solutions to complicated problems; this is every classroom

- you understand how preparation and background knowledge rewards you in a crisis; this is every school's safety procedures and training and development offer

- you can talk to every kind of person under the sun and can de-escalate so everyone's happy with the outcome; this is every interaction with an administrator, colleague or parent

- you like the structure of a set schedule and a limited amount of home-based/remote working; schools can tell you 11.5 months out whether or not you have to be somewhere at 7:00 or 7:05 and remote working is something schools only do when legally obliged to do so, with very few ever even having attempted it before Covid and essentially all schools very eager to get back into class once it's safe

- you're looking for a way to put guiderails on your empathy; this might surprise you, but because schools are essentially just large teams of adults who shepherd children toward adulthood, avoiding burnout among those adults in a well-run school is a very, very high priority for administrators, who will have already worked with parents and students to manage expectations about teacher workload on a cultural level

- you're looking for limited hours; teachers work hard, but schools literally will not let you into a building before a certain time and make you leave after a certain time and the vacation time is hard to beat

MeMail if you'd like to know more!
posted by mdonley at 5:15 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I worked for the Big Natural Foods Chain at the store level for five years, then worked as a category management and club store intern at the HQ of a major food manufacturer while getting a food marketing degree, then worked as a data analyst and marketing jill-of-all trades at a marketing order (kind of like a trade association). When I was at the Big Natural Foods Chain I was the go-to question person in the store too.

I think you would get the best starting salary out of looking for jobs that would trade on the food and retail expertise you've gained rather than entering a new field. Moving to sales or marketing on the manufacturing side was what quite a number of my co-workers at the Big Natural Foods Chain also made when they tired of retail.

I second Schielisque's suggestion of looking for product sales rep opportunities; that seems like a natural fit for your desire to be on the go and have a structured day. Look for those opportunities at food manufacturers and food brokers. Visit CPG Jobs and other boards with the same focus, as well as looking for those sorts of jobs on the big hiring sites; take a look at the food groups on LinkedIn.

If you have a bachelor's, food trade association and marketing order jobs are an option.
If you are out West and COVID calms down some by March, as the employee of a retailer you could register for Expo West, and that would be a great place to make contacts with hundreds of companies that would be aligned with your expertise. Expo East isn't until the fall, but maybe you can wait that long. If you're in the Midwest, Western Michigan University's Food Marketing Conference is in March and while it's focused on education rather than being a trade show, it would be another potential place to make contacts.
posted by jocelmeow at 7:36 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might look to the Reddit page for Hawaiian shirt employees for advice - my partner works for the Entire Foods store and on their Reddit page there are various threads about people looking to leave and giving advice, and it appears to also be true for your store's page as well.
posted by coffeecat at 9:21 AM on January 22

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