- Belinda Clarke is a freelance writer and a director of alumni engagement at Northwestern University.
- She recently Clarke took on a second part-time job as an employee at a mall Lush store in Skokie, Illinois.
- Although re-entering retail was intimidating, Clarke says she enjoyed interacting with people again and feeling valued for her hard work.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In mid-November, I signed on as a holiday associate for Lush Cosmetics at the Westfield Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Illinois, near my home.
While my primary driver for taking a second job was extra income, after nearly a year at home, I also really wanted to be around people again. This might sound off to some, since the pandemic is still raging, but I felt very comfortable with the company’s COVID safety protocol, which involved a required stop at the hand-washing station and masks at all times. (If you’re wondering, yes, you can still smell the bath bombs through your mask).
I worked at Lush until my holiday term ended on January 10. Here are lessons I learned from taking on the job.
1. You’re never too old be scared on your first day
On my first day on the job, I was very nervous. I hadn’t started a new job in 20 years. But within a half hour of donning the LUSH apron and getting out on the sales floor, I was already working the register, a testament to both good technology and cool managers who took time away to walk me through things.
As I worked through my first day, I was impressed by how organized and put together the team was. Even better, I was encouraged to take time when the store was slow (which didn’t happen often) to read product descriptions, ask questions, and even make samples to try at home so I’d get to know the products. Never did I feel like I was being a burden to my colleagues, who graciously helped me learn the ropes.
2. Quality output takes extra time
I’m a task master and I do things quickly. Sometimes this is a good thing, and sometimes it results in sloppy work. For example, if you want to make a good impression, you probably don’t want me wrapping your gifts. So when it came to the cutting and packaging of the bulk soap, I was a little apprehensive.
Turns out, by doing things carefully and taking a little extra time, even I could wrap a bar of soap to the standards required! Not only that, I found it extremely therapeutic to take the extra time to slow my roll and cut and wrap the soap tightly and neatly.
3. Team effort goes a long way
Holiday shopping can be stressful enough, but throw in a global pandemic and maximum store capacity limits and you’d think things would become riotous. Luckily, they didn’t in our mall or in our store. With the added benefit of warmer-than-normal temps and no blizzards, there also were never issues with customers waiting to enter the store being overly rude or unruly.
More importantly, the majority of mall goers adhered to the mask requirement, which was pretty amazing. All in all, people were patient and understanding.
4. It helps to work for a company with a conscience
Lush is a company that cares about its employees. From the online training I received prior to beginning the job to the company’s inclusive philosophy and practices, I truly felt valued every day.
Some ways they went above and beyond include a surprise $300 COVID relief bonus given to all employees prior to Christmas, a customized gift from the store manager, and frequent “kudos” notes from colleagues taped to the inside of my locker with words of encouragement. On a particularly grueling pre-Christmas weekend day, our floor leader polled us about our favorite shower products and then gifted us our top pick at the end of our shift.
5. Hard work feels good
To some, working at a bath and body store might sound like a pretty easy gig. Well, it’s not. Retail is hard, and for all of you who have done it, you know what I’m talking about. The hours are brutal (especially during the holidays) and the added COVID-19 requirements definitely raised the bar. But at the end of each eight-plus hour shift, as I walked to my car, one of just a few left in the lot, I felt good. I also smelled good. My feet were killing me and my hips were aching after standing all day, yes, but I was proud of myself for sticking it out as a 52-year-old surrounded by 20-somethings.
So for those of you who are looking to try something new and maybe a little scary? Go for it. You might just learn some things you didn’t expect.
Belinda Clarke works full time as the director of alumni engagement for the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She is also a freelance writer and regular contributor to 30Seconds.com.
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