Careers After Retail When You Have No College Degree
Retail jobs can pay the bills, introduce you to great coworkers, keep you active, and be highly enjoyable for people who love people.
However, there may come a point where you'd like to try something new.
Open one of these many doors and transition from working in retail to a different career, even without a college degree. If you're considering taking a short course to further your career, connect with a trade school or college near you.
The Transition From Retail
It can feel like a big deal when you decide to move from one career—that you have been comfortably settled into for however long—and transition to a new career. Here are some preparation steps to help:
- Research the job market. Find out which companies are hiring. Narrow it down to the ones you think would best suit you and your skills.
- Get your resume ready. Update it, adding all the skills you’ve gained during your time in retail, and phrase them relevantly to your new career.
- Network. Get familiar with people in the industry you want to join. Stop by offices or businesses and schedule a time to speak with someone about the career.
- Don’t go at it alone. Tell your friends and family about your job hunt. You never know when you’ll need a shoulder or a brain to pick.
Transferable Soft Skills
During your time working retail, you’ve picked up many soft skills employers want. Use these qualities as your key selling points when you update your resume and subsequently go through the interview process.
- People are your people: Working retail brings with it loads of socializing and communication. That’s a plus for many employers. Whether you move up the retail career ladder or jump on over to a completely different path, communication is a crucial component looked for in employees.
- Solving problems is natural to you: You've dealt with all types of customers. You know how to ask the right questions, get the right answers, and therefore, solve problems.
- You don’t combust under pressure: You have had to balance many tasks at the same time, which can cause anyone some stress. But you’ve had practice, and can carry coolness over to your new line of work.
- You’ve got amazing balance: Retail isn’t a 9 to 5 Monday-Friday office job. Night, weekend, and holiday hours had to be worked. Plus, a house to run, mouths to feed, and sleep to be had. You've learned how to balance both work and life.
- Details are no problem for you: You had to pay attention to every single thing happening on the sales floor, plus keep an eye on your customers for their wants and needs. You’re in tune to the smallest of nuances, and this skill needs to be bragged about.
The following is a basic guide of keywords that may be applicable as you’re putting your resume together.
- Customer service: You made sure all was good for your customers, and if it wasn’t, you fixed it.
- Communication: Because of your retail and customer experience, you are a clear and concise communicator.
- Teamwork: Working retail means being part of a sales team, moving together toward a common sales goal. Knowing how to work well with others will serve you well in every other possible career.
- Information Technology (IT): You’ve worked with cash registers, computers, and handheld inventory scanners, among other electronic equipment.
- Numeracy: Making change for customers, handling money for both the store and the customer: It makes you instantly trustworthy.
Job Options Available
You may decide you want to stay in the realm of retail—you just don’t want to be on the floor anymore. Let's look at some other positions you could pursue in retail.
Careers in Retail:
- Retail field management: If you have proven you have strong leadership skills, then you may be a good fit for retail field management. Most likely, you’ll start as store manager before moving up to area manager, then become regional manager. The highest level would be head of stores. Retail manager salary runs an average of $44K but can go up to over $69K. Taking a business administration program will help you advance.
- Visual merchandising: Visual merchandisers make the stores look appealing. They decorate the windows and do all the displays both inside and outside the store. It can be an exceptionally fun career. The average salary of a visual merchandiser is around $40K, but it varies depending on where you live and who you’ll be working for.
- Buyer and planner: Someone has to decide what and how much of each product will be going into the store, and it may as well be you. Buyers and planners earn an average of $65K annually, but they can make well over $100K if they’re at the top of their games.
- Supply chain management: Entry-level supply chain would be positions such as drivers, warehouse employees, and dispatch. As you move up the supply chain, you can work in corporate. You’ll start in the mid-$50K, but can end up making well over $120K.
- Security and loss prevention: Store security and loss prevention are employed to protect the building and its occupants and deter or catch shoplifters. Loss prevention earns around $44K, but depending on a variety of factors such as location and store, they can see that increase to more than $80K. Taking a criminal justice program is a good step in this direction.
Careers Related to Retail
Maybe you enjoy selling, but you just aren’t interested in the retail end of things? Your skills are transferable to many other similar yet different careers. You don’t need any college for most of them.
- Customer service representative: You’ll be interacting with customers, responding to complaints, and helping them with products. The median annual salary is $32K.
- Insurance sales agent: As the sales agent, you’re drumming up new clients for the insurance company, as well as selling insurance. Most insurance sales agents make an average of $50K. However, some earn over $128K.
- Real estate broker and agent: You have to work as an agent for one to three years before you can become a broker. Similar to agents, brokers help their clients buy, sell, or rent properties. The major difference is a broker can own his or her own real estate company. Brokers earn an average salary of $57K, and agents make about $44K.
- Wholesale or manufacturing sales rep: You’ll make customer and client contacts in order to sell goods and products. Some industries will require a bachelor’s degree, such as pharmaceutical reps. On average, $57K is the annual salary, but the highest 10 percent earn well over the $121K mark. Find a warehouse job now.
- Sales engineer: For this career, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. You’ll sell more complex products in the scientific and technology realm. Extensive knowledge is a must. The average salary of a sales engineer is $100K, but it’s not uncommon to make more than $166K.
- Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent: You’ll work in the financial sector, connecting buyers with sellers. A bachelor’s degree is a necessity. Your average annual salary will be more than $67K, and you can make an average of more than $208K after a few years.
Careers With Fast Training
There are many career directions that have nothing to do with retail that allow you to go from training to ready to work in 6 months or less.
Skilled trade careers are a great option for people with retail sales backgrounds because you already know how to interact with customers, and you know what it takes to make them happy. Here are some trades to consider:
- Welding: Welding is creative, artistic work that suits men and women. Train in as few as 10 months.
- Dental hygienist: The average annual salary of a dental hygienist was $77,230 in 2019 (bls.gov), and it takes 18-24 months to become one.
- Registered nurse: In as few as 2 years, you can be trained as a registered nurse. The field is expected to grow 7% percent through 2028; many jobs will be available.
- Massage therapist: Massage therapy training can be completed in as few as 10 months. According to bls.gov, careers are expected to grow 21 percent through 2029, and in 2019, the average salary was $47,180.
- HVAC technician: Technicians install and repair heating and cooling equipment. The career has high pay, and you can train in as few as 6 months!
- Cosmetology: There are many different cosmetology career choices, from hairdresser to nail technician to makeup artist. Train in as few as 10 months.
- Trucking: There is a shortage of truckers, and a CDL Class A program can take only 3-6 weeks to complete.
- Phlebotomy technician: With as few as 10 months of training, you can start your phlebotomy tech career where you'll draw blood from patients for lab work. Employment growth is a projected 17% through 2029 (bls.gov), meaning many jobs will be available.
Still gathering ideas? Try taking some of these practice tests. It can be daunting to move on from a retail career when you have no college degree. But you’ve got the skills, the drive, and the determination to transition from retail to whatever new career awaits you. Good luck; you’ve got this!