Last summer, I spent my first few months as a new college graduate in a retail job (we’ll call it Company F). This company had a somewhat toxic environment, so I quit the second I could. When working there, I also had a retail job (Company X) in an environment so enjoyable I am still working there. Now that it’s been several months since I left my job at F, I can look back on what I’ve learned since leaving the company.
1. If possible, get out of a toxic work environment.
I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but if your job is sucking the life out of you more than you would expect it to, do what’s best for you and your mental and physical health. Removing unnecessary stressors is a good thing. My job at F drained me mentally and physically, and I felt no sense of pride in what I accomplished. I felt unappreciated and lacked the motivation to do anything when I was off the clock. Luckily, I found another job to replace the toxic environment, and I now look forward to working. I guess my organizational behavior course was right: A positive work environment is crucial to motivating employees.
2. Retail can be a good place to work!
It really can be. F wasn’t, but X is. Several people who started with me at F are now at X too and quit F as I did. If you need a few more bucks a week to make ends meet, apply at a favorite store. That way, you can use that sweet, sweet discount. You may even know some companies that have a good reputation for taking care of their employees. Recently, after giving me a project at X, my manager straight up said, “I really appreciate you.” And while it’s a textbook manager kind of line, it was nice to hear, especially since I didn’t hear that often while at F. That interaction made me realize I made the right decision.
3. It’s okay if you feel you’re not using your degree right now.
Everything in the world is a bit off, and many companies just aren’t hiring. Suppose you are like me and graduated in the past year or two and realized that jobs in your field might be a bit scarce or that you are competing against seasoned professionals looking for a replacement after being laid off, looking for work can be a bit disheartening. At a certain point, I decided to stop looking for jobs in my field. I realized there were small ways I was, in fact, using my degree at my other jobs. So try to find a way to spin it for your future resume. Before we know it, the job market will be a little steadier.
While I didn’t tumble right out of college into a fancy degree-needing job, I still think my summer was a productive one.