The retail sector has continued to take a battering over the last twelve months, not least with a number of high profile company administrations. This has resulted in a large influx of candidates coming on to what was an already an overcrowded and highly competitive market. It can be a heart-breaking situation for many candidates who have developed an excellent skillset and still have the passion and drive to grow their career. However, if you are flexible and open to new ideas there are a wealth of opportunities out there. Retailers tend to pick up a broad and highly transferable skill-set. Indeed, there are few other industries that could better prepare you to move to a different sector. If you are keen to consider options outside of traditional retail, the first step to understanding what you could do next is first identifying what your transferable skills are:
- Leadership & People Management
Clearly this is a broad and complex subject but in my experience, the two core skills that are often in demand are; the ability to motivate direct reports, indirect reports and other stakeholders and; the ability to manage performance in a formal and structured manner. Retailers generally learn how to do this both on the job and in the classroom – an option not always available in many companies. This skill is perhaps in itself the single most important as it really does allow retailers to move in to virtually any industry where people management is the key requirement.
- Profit & Loss Management
Most retailers offer varying levels of accountability however broadly speaking, most have a strong understanding of the key lines in a P&L and what pulleys and levers they can operate to drive a result.
- Business & Project Management.
Again, this can cover a multitude of things but in this case I believe that retailers have an excellent ability to manage a broad range of objectives. The skills employed will be time management, priority identification and ensuring task completion.
- Strategy and tactical development.
The degree of exposure and therefore capability will depend on the level that you have reached but retailers learn from very early in their career, at the very least, how to develop a tactical plan on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.
- Sales & Business Development
Not every retailer is given the opportunity to ‘sell’ or indeed develop their business on a wider context, however those that do are able to develop a highly transferable skill. This, coupled with people management ability is in high demand currently as many companies are looking for an additional edge in a stagnant economy.
Arguably this could sit under general people management. However, retailers will often develop this skill in matrix management structures whereby they are coaching individuals that are not direct reports.
- Customer focus.
There are very few industries where managers are exposed to customers directly in such volume and regularity. Retailers have to react to market changes at pace and with a high degree of accuracy. Balancing customer focus with profit is not always straightforward.
- Operations Management.
Depending on your retail background the experience you have here will vary. By operations management I am referring to the management of the supply chain and the store operation. Food & ‘big box’ retailers tend to have the most advanced skill-set in this regard. Understanding the cause & effect of moving units from one place to another may sound simple but in high volume environments it can be incredibly complex.
- Relationship management.
Retail Managers up to Director level will generally develop the ability to manage multiple relationships often with stakeholders with varying agendas. The ability to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders is often overlooked but is in high demand in numerous industries and job families.
- Change Management.
Given the scale of change that the Retail Industry has faced and continues to face, the ability to manage change has become essential for most senior retailers. Change management is often a combination of the aforementioned skills with a set of behaviours that allows for a successful delivery.
I have generally found that it is a combination of these skills that most attracts employers to ‘fish from the Retail pool.’ I would love to hear from people that have changed industry and what enabled them to make a successful transition.
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