Climbing the Retail Ladder but Stuck on a Rung?

Posted by

You’ve been working part time and during summers for a retailer as a sales associate. It’s been mostly grunt work with a smattering of some real work off and on. You didn’t mind so much because it was a paycheck and college costs kept climbing. But now that you’ve got your degree, you’re asking yourself what many before you have asked: Do I stay and try to get promoted to store manager or some management post at the corporate office? Or bail and look for the next rung up the ladder somewhere else? Some suggestions to help you decide:

Many Retailers Still Promote From Within

If you’re thinking of climbing the corporate ladder in retail, a college degree isn’t a guarantee of success. Most retailers continue to promote from within. Moving up the rung from associate to manager and beyond is still a matter of performance. Technology may have changed retailing, but the metrics for promotion haven’t. You still have to pitch in and do the grunt work, the over time work, and show some initiative in solving problems. Key attributes retailers look for in their promotable candidates include a knack for customer service, natural sales ability and a “fire in the belly” to succeed. In promoting from within, most retailers take baby steps. They’ll move you up to shift manager, then to assistant manager or maybe store-manager after you’ve successfully completed their training program. The Home Depot, offers a variety of training courses, leadership programs, mentoring programs, and promotion opportunities for associates at all levels of the company.

Specific Coursework Can Help

If you’re already doing a bang up job as an associate and looking to get promoted, you can tip the odds in your favor by taking courses in retail management, financial management, and merchandising. It’s also a good idea to bring yourself up to speed on the latest technology today’s top-level retailers are using.  For example, cloud computing lets retailers ramp up with key applications faster and cheaper than installing them in existing systems. It gives them access to the latest versions of the application, and allows solutions to be customized easier and faster. As an example, Discount Car and Truck Rentals will train its new hires in a broad spectrum of topics—from finance to human resources—to equip them to work in their various departments.

Give Yourself a Year

If you’ve been working for a retailer for a year, acquiring the skills and knowledge you need to do the job, and you still haven’t been promoted, you need to re-assess yourself and the company to find out what’s wrong. Most retailers say that after a year, you should pretty much know what you need to know to move up to the next rung—especially if you have a degree, have taken the extra coursework and have gone through their management training program. In Why Haven't I Been Promoted? Because You Interview for Your Next Job Everyday, Tim Fancher suggests you do an inventory of your fundamental assets—like ethics, attitude, confidence, personality and values—and work to improve them.

If your climb on the retail ladder is going nowhere, it’s time to re-assess yourself and your strategy, and to take positive steps to improve your odds of promotion. 


Image courtesy of Ambro/



Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch