For two months of my life I worked as a salesperson in a bookstore. Most of the work was lifting books and putting them in alphabetical order, placing prices tags or removing old sale stickers, organizing shelves so books didn’t fall over or cleaning up after inconsiderate customers. Once in a while someone would enter the store and then there was a new challenge: to squeeze as much money as possible out of this person by convincing him to buy everything you could possibly offer him.
I made 21.40 NIS per hour, which is roughly 5.4 US dollars. At 36 hours a week, it was enough to cover my rent, food, and have a bit left over for saving and spending. Because I had no experience or knowledge of how to be a proper employee, I was fired. But the two months I worked there were invaluable.
What are the perks of a lousy paying job, you might ask? Allow me to list a few:
Learning how to sell. The three hours of instruction I received on how to sell the bookstore membership I learned skills I have used in every job I’ve had since, as well as the interviews. Sales tactics can be an advantage in many areas of life, beyond just selling your own things. Finding a new apartment, making friends, advertising, even making plans for the day. The ability to convince others, not necessarily against their will, is a great tool to have up your sleeve.
Knowing book titles. In any social situation, if someone mentioned a book they were reading, I had read the back of it at work. I had not read most of them, but I knew what they were about and what kind of people were likely to buy them. I was able to hold intelligent conversations with friends for several minutes without letting on that I had never opened the book. Just knowing about it made me feel more educated, and gave me a platform for starting conversations with strangers. Even if you don’t work in a bookstore, knowing what the hottest products are has the same effect.
- Meeting lots of people. Nuff said.
Understanding the sales industry. When I walk into a store, and someone offers to sell me a membership, or extra items, I know what’s going through their mind because I’ve been in that position. I knew that the 10% off everything she’s offering me is a white lie, and that if I don’t shop here frequently, it’s not going to pay off.
Empathy for people with minimum wage jobs. When I’m standing in line at the café, and the girl behind the cash register enters the amount incorrectly, I don’t get upset because I know how confusing cash registers are. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office and the secretary takes three phone calls and has three more on hold before she even looks at me, I’m patient because I know there is an idiot on the end of each line driving her crazy.
I think that experience working in these jobs has the potential to create better customers. I work as a secretary, and the worst customers are the ones who clearly didn’t have to work during college.