Work in retail. Canadian retailers are hiring for a wide variety of positions from full-time career paths in the industry to part-time opportunities to make some extra spending money. And any of these can be great spring boards to launching your career – whether or not you stay in the retail sector.

Several recent surveys indicate that Canadian employers from across industries are planning to grow their workforces, and to hire students. The trouble is, despite there being a large volume of under-employed educated young workers available, many employers are still reluctant to hire these candidates due to their lack of work experience.

Two thirds of employers surveyed by Workopolis told us that they find that even when recent grads have the education required to do the work, they don’t necessarily demonstrate the on-the-job abilities such as teamwork, communication skills, customer service abilities or showing a strong work ethic.

This is how the available jobs in retail can offer a great opportunity for people just starting out in their careers to gain some valuable experience and to demonstrate those soft skills that employers are looking for.

Retail jobs are as diverse as your interests from high tech to high fashion, from home and gardening to groceries and much more. And any of these opportunities allow young workers to start building their professional brand.

Here’s how:

  • Show up on time or early, every time.
  • Never cancel a shift leaving others in the lurch – in fact readily offer to take up the slack for those who do.
  • Take every opportunity to learn new skills on the job, and look for chances to take on additional responsibilities whenever possible.
  • Be positive, even in the face of problem customers (this is not personal, you will encounter these in any retail job anywhere), and find friendly, empathetic ways to resolve their issues.
  • Be honest and ethical.
  • Be good with money.


These are the building blocks of a career. They give your resume the problem-solving, teamwork, and communications skills that employers are looking for across industries. It also gives you a network of professional references who have worked with you and would be happy to do so again or to speak highly of your work ethic to future employers.

I had a retail job in a book store while I was in university. I worked the special orders counter tracking down books that weren’t in stock for people. I was relentless in my quest to find what my customers wanted. Some of them were fairly obscure. I once ended up talking to a monastery in Hawaii to track down a photo book that the monks themselves had produced and only sold on site. They agreed to mail me one if I sent them a money order in advance. (As they were monks, I assumed I could trust them.)

I even (although it wasn’t the store’s policy to sell used books) bought some copies of client’s favourite author’s long out-of-print books from a used book store on my own credit card in order to avoid disappointing a frantic customer. I had a seven-month stretch before I encountered a book request that I just couldn’t find. (Granted the description that “it was blue and about horses and I loved it as a child” wasn’t much to go on.)

The point is that when it came time to move on in my career, I had demonstrated a passion for my work at the store, built up a track record of success, and proven my research, negotiating and customer service skills. Having these on my resume made getting that all-important first job in my field that much easier.

Plus there’s often great employee discounts. Check out the great opportunities available now in our Retail Career Centre.


Peter Harris

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