Jobs of last resort - retail or hold off until I followup with new leads
February 8, 2024 5:38 AM   Subscribe

I started putting into motion applications and had a screening interview with a large retailer on Monday. I was supposed to hear back today but didn't. Retail is a stop-gap effort but I just came across a list of 50 top local staffing, headhunting, and placement firms. I now want to put off any retailer interest or applications until I've explored my new leads for more professional opportunities. I think that's now the best and a reasonable plan. What might you do?

For context:

After a stint of unemployment through COVID and a difficult career change, the year before last, I worked seasonally at a major retailer and they dropped all the seasonal workers earlier than expected. In many cases around the country, as it would be for me, they sometimes just stop scheduling you and you are done.

when that ended I jumped into the first seemingly career-related position that came my way. It was not even entry-level and they made me a deal for full-time work, health insurance, etc. so I took it. Unfortunately, they did not have enough work for a full-time person and I didn't earn what was promised or get my healthcare. It was chaos in so many other ways and I felt pretty burned so I left.

I did get a decent 6-month contract-to-hire job at the end of last year. I was nervous about not being hired directly but was thrilled to have it, and became even more nervous as there was never much work, no direction, or even little contact with my supervisors who were constantly on the road, and the contract was prematurely terminated at just under 3 months with no real explanation.

I want to get my career back on track, and after working at three unreliable workplaces, my goal has been to get something stable. I don't want to keep adding jobs to my work history or resume. I do not want to be underemployed but know that I need to do something and that I should just get another retail job (this time not seasonal) because paying bills is a good thing but while I keep diligently looking for something better. I don't want to work retail and from what I've seen up close and read about online, I don't trust organizations hiring in these capacities to be reliable.

The real meat of this post follows:

Over the last two weeks, to be responsible, I started applying at one specific grocery retailer owned by a giant online retailer. I hear the store treats people well even though the parent company has a different reputation. I spoke to a manager on Monday with the understanding I would hear back today. I'd be ok with the role and give it my best while there but I'm not excited by the prospect. I haven't heard back but I put in two more applications at different locations earlier today with my availability being within a week.

Somebody made a recommendation that I find the recent business "Book of Lists" for my city. My library had the "hot off the press" 2024 edition and I now have leads on 50 temporary and permanent staffing-related firms. Awesome resource!!! Maybe half of those might have one or two remotely relevant job opportunities but I think I should reach out to all of them no later than Sunday evening and have the next week for follow-up or any discussions about any possible better professional fits. if I ended up with 3-5 recruiter conversations from these leads next week I would be very pleased. I'm not expecting the dream role of a lifetime, just something a little better than what I was just planning to do, maybe even find something career-related. Who knows? My dream job could be weating for me to reach out to the companies on that list.

I wish I didn't submit retail applications just as I found this wonderful resource, but what's done is done. I'm not the most comfortable with where I am financially but I'm ok. I have no family to support but things are tight. I may or may not have unemployment insurance coming in but that won't be much and I still might not know if I am approved for another few weeks. I'm doing ok. Nothing is dire, but I had been forcing myself into going full speed ahead on just getting work going whether desirable or not. Now I'm thinking that I should take a week or two to see how this goes. Retail gigs are going to be there. I just wish I didn't throw my name out there just yet.

I'd like to see what others think that they might do in this situation. I know that there is no correct answer. I think that I should spend my time with the agencies. Agencies might or might not always be the most reliable but many of these companies are focused on permanent professional placement. So I now have another resort in front of my last one (retail). I think I should even hold back on any potential retail callbacks for the immediate time being.

Does anybody here have an opinion on what they might do?
posted by Che boludo! to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You are asking if you should decline an interview to take a paying job because you found a list of staffing agencies to apply to (which you haven't even reached out to yet)?

Do both! For heck sake. Stop standing in your own way. Take the job you can get, interview for more jobs that may be a better fit when those opportunities arise. Do both!!!!

I feel for you buddy, you have been asking questions about struggling to find stable, well paying work for almost a decade, and as someone who has dealt with years long un/underemployment I know that is absolutely demoralizing. But do not turn down work because something better might, could maybe, hypothetically, come along. Take any opportunity you get, and pursue those additional opportunities while drawing a paycheck. You won't do your professional life any favors by dicking around for who knows how much longer going broke getting hungry and letting your housing go unstable, trust me.
posted by phunniemee at 5:54 AM on February 8 [26 favorites]

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Do both. Take the retail job, and reach out to the agencies too. This is a very, very common thing to do.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 6:02 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I wanted to add, that part of the reason I pose this is that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of potentially turning away any of the retail opportunities. I also know that they move a lot faster than employers of other workers. I'd just like to just stagger the retailers back a little bit. I've waited this long to apply for retail gigs and that was because I had thought I exhausted almost all other obvious avenues.
posted by Che boludo! at 6:02 AM on February 8

I'm not the most comfortable with where I am financially but I'm ok.

So you don't absolutely have to do this? Then find a retail job with a reasonable schedule, no more than a certain number of hours. If it can be something you have an intrinsic interest in, or one where the employee discount means something to you, even better. That kind of work can give structure to your days and you can leave it behind when you go home. Just make sure you don't get too sucked into it. They will keep asking you to work more than you agreed and (assuming this is the US) they will find ways to be a pain in the ass. For god's sake don't let them promote you.
posted by BibiRose at 6:07 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]

If you get the job - take the job. Pay the bills. Also keep looking. I do not think this is unexpected behavior for retail employees. You're fine.
posted by eirias at 6:09 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]

What are you worried about? That you won't be able to schedule any interviews because you'll be working day shifts every day? That you'll be too tired to keep looking while you're employed?
posted by trig at 6:24 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

Yeah, taking a retail job will not prevent you from getting a better a job. The only downsides to taking a job you don't really like is that it will reduce the amount of energy you'll have to apply to other jobs, but you can always opt to work part-time at the retail job. That way you can devote a good chunk of time to job hunting.

My partner worked part time at a grocery store for a little over two years. This was never the plan - he has a PhD, speaks multiple languages, etc. - but he needed to be bringing in some income as he looked for better jobs, and getting a discount on groceries was nice. The other thing was, he found talking about his grocery store work often helped him in job interviews - either to demonstrate his ability to adapt, or to find fulfillment in more mundane tasks. So even if your goal isn't to go into the grocery industry, it might still help you land your next job.
posted by coffeecat at 6:44 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]

I wanted to add, that part of the reason I pose this is that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of potentially turning away any of the retail opportunities.

You are overthinking this. A retail enterprise is a retail enterprise, and as you've learned, it will churn you out the door faster than you can blink. Take the retail job if offered, and reach out as time allows to the new resources. If you get a better job, drop the retail like a hot potato. Meanwhile, pay your bills.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:53 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]

I worked retail for 10 years, including on weekends when I was a baby lawyer and broke AF. Retail treats employees as disposable and also expects employees to treat them the same way. Take a job so you don't have to worry about paying your bills, keep job hunting, and leave retail in the dust when you're ready. It will always be there when you need it.
posted by notjustthefish at 7:53 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]

Also, note that you have had one screening interview and haven't heard back yet. So i think the first you do about the retail job is nothing. Focus on your new leads and just sit back and see what happens with the retail job before you lose sleep over it.
posted by metahawk at 4:11 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]

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