College Grads: What’s Your Perception of a Retail Career?

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If you’re like many college grads, you think working in retail is something you did during the summer and not exactly a top career choice.


In a recent article in Retail’s BIG Blog, Ellen Davis, Executive Director of the NRF Foundation points out that today’s grads have a misconception about working in retail. She cites NRF president and CEO, Matthew Shay, who expressed the need to turn young peoples’ thinking around when it comes to retail careers. “If we don’t start to dispel these types of myths, then we won’t be able to compete for the high-quality talent that we need,” said Shay.


So what do today’s young grads expect out of a career? An NRF Foundation survey of 700 young adults from across the country provides a clue. More than 20 percent want to work for a company that shares their values, that gives back to the community and is environmentally pro-active. Today’s job seekers are also more impatient than their parents when it comes to moving up the ladder and achieving work/life balance. They expect their bosses to listen and implement their suggestions. In short, they want to be deciders, managers and influencers, without waiting ten years. 


While some employers may regard these “wants” as fantasyland, the NRF claims retail careers can offer young grads these types of working environments. The problem as NRF sees it is one of communication. “Retail offers what young adults value in a career—yet too few are buying into the opportunities that exist; we want retail to be the first place young adults shop for a career,” said Shay. The NRF hopes to change the perception of retail careers away from folding shirts and nametags to empowered employees connected directly to management. To achieve this, NRF has kicked its “This is Retail” campaign into high gear. It will be spearheaded by grassroots, social media and other communications efforts to educate job seekers that retail is a viable, socially conscious “move up” career.


This is Retail will include:

  • A Retail Road Show and events calendar with thought-leadership from industry insiders on how changing the perception of retail is key to growth
  • New, original research that explores trends within community-building, retail innovation and what young people are looking for in careers
  • Unique social media crowd-sourcing initiatives, with heavy emphasis on gathering creative content and stories
  • New grassroots initiatives to enhance policy-makers’ understanding of the industry, including retail roundtables in targeted congressional districts
  • National advertising in multiple media including print, digital and radio.

Think retail is a dead end? Check out the “This is Retail” campaign and see if a career in retail just might dovetail with your goals.


Image courtesy of graur codrin/


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