How to Survive Retail (Or Any Other Trashy Job)

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I’m in a really good place right now. Not emotionally – that’s a mess – but I’m not working, I’m starting my own businesses, I can sleep in until noon everyday, and my schedule isn’t filled with anything except things I enjoy. I have next to no money, but thanks to my depression, I may be able to get financial help from the government while I deal with my issues. I may be a mess, but my life is not.

However, I’ve done my time in petty jobs and retail. I’ve been yelled at by customers, worked ten hour days until one in the morning, did split shifts, and came to work with only three hours of sleep after crazy panic attacks. I get it. I’ve been there. I’d like to say that my worst shift ever was when I got a phone call during my break because one of my childhood friends just died, but it wasn’t.

However, I came up with a few things to help me get through it. If there’s something I’m good at, it’s creating coping strategies and plans, so here are a few of the things that have worked for me:

Create games for yourself. Working in retail? See how sassy you can get without people realizing what you’re doing. Try to get customers to say a particular word during your conversation. With everyone you talk to, find a way to bring up alligators. Pretend you’re selling magic potions to people instead. Create dumb and ridiculous stories for each person who walks into the store.

Come up with projects that you can only do at work. Before going into a shift, I’d set aside a few things I could accomplish while I was there. Sometimes that would be developing a character, coming up with new blog ideas, shopping, or simply writing lists of things I want to do when I get home. While none of these things made me feel any better, at least I could feel like I was accomplishing something during the day.

Give yourself things to look forward to. This can be as simple as taking a brownie with you for lunch, to getting your friends to show up and stop by for a visit. Work might suck, but at least you’ve got a little bit of happiness in your day, right?

On that note, have something ready for yourself when you get home. That could be a meal, a bath, a really good book, a cup of tea – whatever. Doesn’t help you get through work, but at least you know that you’ll be able to spend your evening recuperating instead of burning yourself out for tomorrow.

Get a good sleep. There’s nothing worse than spending an eight hour shift feeling like death, especially in customer service.

Essential oils are your best friends. Personally, I like Peppermint Halo, Stress Relief, Energy, and Quick Study from Sage. They make you smell good, you can literally slather yourself in oil and it’ll never make you sick, and they really do give you the boost you need to get through your day.

Stop looking at the clock. The more you keep track of time, the worse it is. I always fancied myself in a little bit of a void when I went to work. I’d live for the first four hours before I got my break. That’s all I would care about or be concerned over. And then, once my break was over, I just had to survive another four hours. Break things into chunks so it seems less daunting.

Take as much time out of work as you can. I’m talking bathroom breaks, errands, spending time talking to your work friends in the back, faking management meetings – whatever you can get away with at your job. That’ll break your work up a little and allow for more breaks to catch your breath.

Remember that your job doesn’t need you. They don’t. I know we all like to feel special and needed, but the fact is, working for large corporations like that, they don’t care about you. They care about results and numbers, but not about you. Which means that you have to care enough about yourself to not let them get away with it. Take sick days. Take vacations. Don’t come in early all the time. Because in the end, your efforts aren’t going to be appreciated, and all you’re doing is putting more money in the pockets of gazillionaires anyway. They literally do not care about you as much as you care about them. So stop putting yourself out there for a dude who’ll never value you.

Don’t take on extra work. Just don’t do it. Corporations want cheap labor, and if you’re willing to go above and beyond without being paid properly, they’re going to keep taking advantage of you, and you’re going to end up burning yourself out. Again, think of work as a boyfriend who expects you to work for him, expects you to compromise yourself, but never actually values you as a person at all. You wouldn’t do that to yourself, right? So don’t do it for a job either.

Stop trying so hard. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make an effort and do your best, but I almost killed myself with the amount of things I was taking on in my old job. Literally. I didn’t just think I was important, I thought that, if I didn’t put so much pressure on myself, the entire store would come crashing down. Which, of course, is an utter lie. Not three months since I left, absolutely no one knows me there anymore, and I’ve been completely replaced. All the times I worked for free, missed breaks, took work home with me – no one cares. I did all of that, burnt myself out like that, for nothing. So why should you?

Take criticisms with a grain of salt. It’s the managers job to point out what “you’re not doing well enough.” That’s literally what they’re hired for – to make sure the store’s getting results. Why are they telling you to be more friendly, or ask better questions? Because they think it’s going to affect sales, not because they actually think you’re not good enough. I always took my boss’s criticisms personally, thinking that I wasn’t a good employee until there wasn’t anything anyone could ever find wrong with me. And I tried for years to pull that off, but even after becoming assistant manager myself – and one of the best employees in the store – that still wasn’t good enough! You have to find confidence within yourself, not what people say about your abilities.

So, that’s my list! A little lengthy, perhaps, and a lot of it may not help you at all, but it’s what got me through things. Let me know your strategies for surviving a bad job!

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