A guide to moving from retail into your first office job

As an agency who specialise in office support staff, we see hundreds of people every year who have worked exclusively in retail but are desperate to move into an office environment. Retail can be a tough job at times, with long working hours and pay that doesn’t always reflect the hard work that’s put in. However, the transition from retail into an office-based role isn’t easy, with many people finding that opportunities are limited and interviews hard to come by due to a perceived lack of relevant experience. Nonetheless, there’s plenty you can do to increase your chances: here’s our guide to navigating the transition.

Focus on your transferable skills

Whilst retail- and office-based jobs require different skill-sets to a certain extent, there are plenty of skills which are just as important in one as in the other. Depending on the job you’re going for, there’s bound to be a vast range of skills that you’ve acquired during your time in retail which will stand you in excellent stead for the new position. Going for a customer service position? Talk about times you’ve had to deal with difficult customers, and focus on how you used your communication and interpersonal skills to resolve the situation. Interviewing for a sales role? Talk about targets that you’ve had to work to, times you’ve had to upsell, and techniques that you’ve employed to increase sales. Whatever job you’re up for, make sure that you emphasise these transferable skills – always giving relevant examples – and speak about the ways in which you’d apply them to the new role.

Ask lots of questions

A lack of office experience is generally seen as a drawback, but if you approach the interview in the right way, you can turn it into a positive. Try and communicate to the interviewer your enthusiasm and willingness to learn, whilst acknowledging that there are gaps in your current knowledge and experience. Ask about your KPIs and objectives, working processes that are currently in place, or the software or CRM that you’ll be expected to use in the position. Again, use examples from your time in retail to explain how you could adapt to these new processes and challenges.

Use any office experience you can

Even if all your recent experience is in retail, any past office experience you may have is well worth bringing up in the interview. Showing that you’ve got experience of an office environment, even if it was several years ago, will be a major advantage when compared with someone who has none. A big concern for hiring managers is having to spend time and resources training new employees in the basics, so showing that you have previous experience of, say, answering phones and writing business emails will stand you in good stead.

Need some help with your job search? At Kingsgate Recruitment, we always thoroughly prep our candidates to give them the best possible chance in their interview. Submit your CV now, check out our latest jobs or give us a call on 020 8549 7212.