How to Survive Your Post-Grad Retail Job

1 . Be prepared to be tired.

If your college jobs involved sitting at a desk, babysitting, or an occasional 2 hr barista shift, your body has forgotten the stress and fatigue of retail. The first two weeks back, your knees and feet and shoulders will ache. Invest in some good shoes, pop some ibuprofen, and take a post-shift nap until your body adjusts to the new routine of standing for 6+ hours at a time.

2. Look forward to something at work

I work in a copy center right now, and because I’m somewhat new I am still looking forward to learning new skills (like custom stamps and laminating foam board). There’s also a customer who comes in every Thursday night to have a meeting agenda printed in a very silly font. Knowing he’s coming in around 7:30 gives me a little bit more energy through a closing shift. Consciously picking something to look  forward to makes a long shift or a long week a little less draining.

3. Do something outside of work every day

Before I go to bed at night, part of my evening routine is writing down in a notebook what I did that day. It’s a little bit of purposeful reflection that prevents ruminating in the dark. But when all I did that day was watch Youtube videos and eat chips until I went to work, I don’t close the notebook feeling very good. To prevent this, I try to accomplish one specific thing outside of work every day. Sometimes it’s mundane, like doing laundry or booking a doctor’s appointment. Other times I bake cookies or go for a run or talk to a friend on the phone. Making time and energy for these personal things keeps me grounded and reminds me that we all have lives outside of careers.

4. Remember: you are not your work

In the age of “do what you love”, I feel bombarded by messages that your identity is entirely wrapped up in your major/career/job/parenthood status. Break away from that. Your job is how you make money. Maybe it’s emotionally fulfilling, maybe it’s not. But either way, you have an identity and worth outside of whatever you do to earn that paycheck.

5. Get over yourself

Is there a voice in the back of your head insistently whispering that you should have a ‘real job’ by now? That this doesn’t count? Maybe that voice isn’t just in your head – maybe these are things you actually say out loud. Shut that down and get over yourself. This is real work, real work that millions of people do every day. This is work that keeps society running. I feel very lucky that in my store there’s people at all stages of life: managers who used to work at corporate, high schoolers, students working their way through college, people who studied graphic design, a recent engineering grad who hates offices, middle aged moms. This is not any more or any less of a job than whatever your old roommates are doing in Manhattan. I’m not saying you have to work here forever, but please, quash those elitist thoughts before you sabotage your relationship with your coworkers. Take some ibuprofen, pick something to look forward to, and put on your nametag.

It’s time to go to work.

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