By Vicki, from Women Who Money
It’s interesting to look back at all the part-time jobs I’ve had through the years and think about what I learned from them. I’ve been a newspaper carrier, babysitter, lifeguard, swim instructor, waitress, bartender, coach, and sports official. And I also sold bracelets, necklaces, rings, and fancy watches at a high-end jewelry store.
One of my friends at college persuaded me to apply to the jewelry store so we could work together and earn some extra (drinking) money. While it wasn’t a job I thought I’d enjoy, she assured me the other employees were great to work with, and it was an easy job.
She was right. But so was I.
It was an easy job, and my co-workers were nice. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of my other part-time and seasonal employment. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that it’s “work” – but there are some jobs just more fun than others.
Since it was a very different job than I had in my teen years, I had several takeaways.
Here are five things I learned about myself and working retail at a high-end jewelry store.
1. I’m a lousy salesperson.
What I quickly learned is that I’m good at service – but not at sales. When someone came in needing a new watch battery or to have their rings cleaned, I was happy to help.
But when someone wanted to see a tennis bracelet, a Rolex or sat at the diamond counter to look at engagement rings, I was quick to pass them (and my commission) on to someone else – usually one of the male store managers.
As a frugal college student from a blue-collar, working-class family, not only did I doubt my ability to sell expensive jewelry (which was silly), I didn’t like to call and follow-up with customers. I also couldn’t bring myself to say the right things to close a big sale.
2. If you like to shop but need to save money, don’t work at a mall.
I don’t really enjoy shopping at all, so this wasn’t a problem for me. But I had coworkers who spent more money shopping than they made some days.
In addition to shopping on their workdays, many of these coworkers went to the food court to buy lunch or dinner during their shift. A number of them also complained that they didn’t have any money. But they never seemed to make the connection between their behavior and the (lack of) money in their bank account.
3. I need jobs that kept me busy.
I was hired at the jewelry store in October so that I could train and be ready for the holiday season rush. While some stores are incredibly busy all throughout the holiday shopping season, high-end jewelry stores are never that busy.
After the holidays, we could go an hour or two between “real” customers – most were simply “window” shopping.
I remember walking around the store, watching the clock, and cleaning the counters over and over – waiting to “work”. Boredom was never a problem when I was bartending, teaching kids to swim, or officiating sports.
Maybe that’s why I enjoyed teaching so much too. There’s never a dull moment!
4. Fancy parties don’t make up for low wages.
As a part-time employee, I was earning just over minimum wage – or about $3.50 an hour back then. We also made commissions on what we sold. But remember, I was pretty bad at sales – so my commissions were usually quite low.
One of the perks for all employees was a very fancy holiday party at a country club that hosts professional golf tournaments. It wasn’t a “black tie” event, but I didn’t own any dresses appropriate for a cocktail party, dinner, and an evening of dancing.
While the party was nice, it actually cost me money to attend. As a college student, a cash bonus would have been a lot more helpful than going to a lavish party with co-workers I saw a few hours a week.
5. Every job has “costs” you need to consider.
Just like I had to buy a fancy dress to attend the holiday party, there were other costs I should have considered – especially because it was a part-time job.
We were often scheduled for 3-4-hour shifts at the jewelry store. It seemed great on slow days because I didn’t have to watch the clock as long. But I also had to drive about 20 minutes each way and pay for gas from campus to the mall. During the holidays, the commute took longer because of traffic too!
I also had to wear nicer clothes than necessary for lifeguarding, babysitting, or coaching. Luckily, I was building a wardrobe of nicer clothes for teaching. Otherwise, it would have been just another expense to just work at this job.
If I had to do it again, it would have been cheaper, easier, and probably more enjoyable to work somewhere on campus a few hours each week.
Final Thoughts On Working In a Jewelry Store
I did make some money and work with great people at the jewelry store. But it probably wasn’t the smartest move on my part. I should have looked for a part-time job in better alignment with my skills and interests, and a job that didn’t cost me as much time or money just to do it.
Although I could receive a discount on merchandise, there was nothing in the store other than a few bracelet charms for less than $100. As I said, this was a high-end store – so I really couldn’t afford to benefit from that perk either!
“Luxury” items didn’t excite me then and I still have no interest in them now (especially after learning how much of markup things like jewelry have!). I’d rather spend money going to a concert, buying local products to help small businesses, or on travel to new places.
But if jewelry (or other expensive items) makes you happy, consider working part-time in the business and take advantage of the perks!