5 Tips for Landing a Job in Retail When You Have No Previous Experience

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Photo Credit: RichardWesner


A recent post titled “Retail Industry — Insiders Tell All!” got a lot of military veterans excited about opportunities in the retail sector, and now this post will help you break into the retail field with no experience!

With the retail industry generating 20 percent of the 240,000 new U.S. jobs in February 2016, it is a great niche to target for your post-military career. It is also a smart sector to seek a part-time position in while you use the GI Bill funds to further your education.

Daunted by the job ads that always seem to list prior retail experience as “required” or “highly desirable?” Don’t be. Check out these 5 easy tips to launch your career in retail.

Identify and Emphasize Your Relevant Skills
As you learned in your Transition GPS class, your resume should focus on the skills and accomplishments that your next employer is looking for. While retail supervisors may not be interested in your proficiency with the 81mm mortar, they will certainly perk up their ears and listen when you describe your expertise in inventory of high-value items, leading cross-functional teams and managing records.

Think about the skills that are critical in any retail chain – administration, customer service, teamwork, logistics, inventory, stocking and bookkeeping. Remember that not every retail position is on the sales floor (only about 40 percent) and start identifying the retail-related skills that you have used in your military job and collateral duties. Then find some great examples of your accomplishments in these areas and you will look like a great fit for any retail job.

Showcase Your Personality and Work Ethic
Aside from your tangible skills, the overwhelming personal qualities that most retail managers look for are personality and work ethic. This is where you should stand out from your competition.

You have never been able to pick the people you worked with, your job has often been 24/7, many of your tasks have been repetitive but required great attention to detail, you have worked long hours and never been paid overtime, and you have thrived in some of the most inhospitable workplaces there are. Who wouldn’t want to hire you in retail!

Your personality is also vital. Studies demonstrate that the most qualified candidate is rarely hired. Why? Experts call it “The Likeability Factor” and this can work in your favor if you have no experience in the industry. Focus on demonstrating your desire to learn, your ability to fit into any team, and just … well … be likeable. Would you want to buy your next television from a boring salesman, or the one that had a bit of personality?

Start Your Job Search Close to Home
Still daunted by the idea of moving into a new industry? Remember that there are many retail opportunities on military bases. The military Exchanges have a constant supply of retail vacancies and give preference to veterans during the hiring process. What better way to move into the field and stay within your comfort zone than by taking a retail position for an employer that serves the military community?

Don’t Just Think Brick and Mortar
Remember that much of the growth in the retail sector is in the online arena. Think about it. Were you lined up outside a store last Black Friday or sitting behind a computer shopping?

Amazon, the online juggernaut of retail sales, is a major supporter of veteran employment. Their Military Talent Partnership recognizes the value of military expertise in facilities management, problem-solving, operations and supply chain logistics. They regularly attend military job fairs and hired more than 2,600 veterans last year.

Sign Up for a Veteran Hiring Program in Retail
Last but not least, a little research can introduce you to many companies offering programs that transition veterans straight into retail careers at entry, middle management and executive levels. Examples of retail careers for military veterans include:


The leading grocery chain runs a general military recruiting program for personnel working in the retail store environment and junior military officer and non-commissioned officer programs that provide on-the-job training, job shadowing and classroom seminars that qualify graduates for store manager, assistant manager, supply chain, distribution and corporate headquarters roles.

Military Exchanges

The Exchange offers retail and advanced retail management training to its new veteran hires, ensuring they gain a thorough grounding in retail processes and retail management techniques. Upon completion, management candidates can be assigned directly to a managerial role at any worldwide location.


One of the nation’s leading providers of wireless solutions is a big fan of hiring veterans into the retail side of the business. They hold military transition workshops near their headquarters in Fort Leavenworth, and recently introduced a veteran-focused Employee Resource Group that provides professional development and mentoring for new veteran employees.


With the goal of hiring 200,000 veterans by 2020, Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment strives to hire veterans to positions in every capacity from sales assistants to corporate leadership. Their website showcases individual veterans who have successfully made the change to retail and allows you to enter your military background and receive suggestions of jobs that will make a great fit.

Need any more convincing?

Having no experience in retail should not be a showstopper for you as a veteran. You have the skills that leading retail companies are looking for, the work ethic they need, and most importantly – the industry has a growing number of jobs that they desperately need to fill.

jobs that pay 100k


READ NEXT: Retail Careers For Veterans


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