TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Retail therapy: how a seasonal holiday job humbled me

in Career & Retirement by

Two years ago around this time, my feet hurt like hell.

In 2015, I took a seasonal job at Bloomingdale’s to supplement my paltry adjunct professor and part-time researcher income. I was on the job market, but had yet to land a job that I wanted.

In between circulating CVs and resumes, I discovered that a multimedia production firm decided not to hire me. On top of that, I wished to be in Los Angeles for my grandmother’s last holiday who passed several months later.

However, I was in a crowded north New Jersey mall, repeatedly listening to a Pentatonix Christmas song for the hundredth rotation and wanting to rip my ears off every time Mariah Carey crooned another note. Oh, and I cringe in malls.

When I applied for the position at Bloomingdale’s, the manager looked at me inquisitively as she went over my application then suggested that I try out purses. Bless her heart. She gave me a chance and I took it.

The purse section was like a foreign country in which I clumsily attempted to learn the language and customs. I never, ever purchased a purse more than about 40 bucks, or knew what a Tory Burch bag looked like. Nonetheless, I hustled to keep up with the veteran staff. At the end of the day, my sales report did not come close to theirs.

I was humbled.

I saw former students, old colleagues and my husband’s clients who were surprised that someone who just earned their Ph.D. and taught at a fine school would be working in retail. However, my bills were bigger than my salary so I got over my ego to learn the lesson.

I thought. This was a stepping stone to something bigger, wider, grander, lovelier. But that was not the lesson. That was still my ego.

I worked alongside those who are the fiber of an American economy that this election overlooked and exploited. There were millennials home from college attempting to earn a little money to take the weight off of parents who were flooding in loans. Then there were some young adults who decided to go straight into the work force. And retirees who have taken up retail as a second career. As well, the staff included lifers who worked for the company for decades, and those like me, who were passing through.

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