- Belinda Clarke is a freelance writer and alumni engagement director at Northwestern University.
- She recently took on a second part-time job as a clerk in a Lush store in Skokie, Illinois.
- Though re-entering retail was intimidating, Clarke said she enjoyed interacting with people again and feeling valued for her hard work.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
In mid-November, I signed up as a Holiday Associate for Lush Cosmetics at the Westfield Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Illinois, near my home.
While my main driver for a second job was the additional income, after almost a year at home I really wanted to be with people again. This may sound to some as the pandemic is still raging, but I was very comfortable with the company’s COVID security protocol which included a required stop at the hand washing station and masks at any time. (If you’re wondering yes, you can still smell the bath bombs through your mask).
I worked at Lush until my vacation semester ended on January 10th. Here are the lessons I learned from taking on the job.
1. You are never too old to be scared on your first day
I was very nervous on my first day at work. I hadn’t started a new job in 20 years. But within half an hour of putting on the LUSH apron and walking onto the sales floor, I was already working on the cash register, a testament to good technology and cool managers who took the time to guide me through things.
As I worked through my first day, I was impressed with how well the team was organized and put together. Even better, I was encouraged to take the time when the store was slow (which wasn’t often) reading product descriptions, asking questions, and even making samples to try at home so I could get to know the products. I never felt like a burden to my co-workers who kindly helped me learn the ropes.
2. The quality output takes additional time
I am a task master and I do things quickly. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it leads to sloppy work. For example, if you want to make a good impression, you probably don’t want me to wrap your gifts. When it came to cutting and packaging the bulk soap, I was a little concerned.
It turned out that even I could wrap a bar of soap to the required standards by doing things carefully and taking a little more time! Not only that, I found it extremely therapeutic to take the extra time to slow down my roll and cut and wrap the soap tight and neat.
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3. The team effort goes far
Vacation shopping can be stressful enough, but when you introduce a global pandemic and maximum store capacity you will think things get inflammatory. Fortunately not in our mall or in our store. Also, with the added benefit of warmer than normal temperatures and no blizzards, there were never any issues with customers waiting to enter the store, being overly rude or unruly.
More importantly, the majority of mall goers complied with the mask requirements, which was pretty amazing. All in all, the people were patient and understanding.
4. It helps to work with a conscience for a company
Lush is a company that cares about its employees. From the online training I received prior to starting the job, to the company’s integrative philosophy and practice, I felt really valued every day.
Some options they surpassed were a surprising $ 300 COVID facilitation bonus granted to all employees before Christmas, a custom gift from the manager, and frequent “kudos” from colleagues taped on the inside of my locker with encouraging words. On a particularly stressful weekend day before Christmas, our floor manager asked us about our favorite shower products and gave us our first choice at the end of our shift.
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5. Hard work feels good
To some, working in a bath and body shop sounds like a pretty easy gig. Well it is not. Retailing is difficult, and for anyone who has done it, you know what I’m talking about. The hours are brutal (especially during the holidays) and the additional COVID-19 requirements have definitely raised the bar. But at the end of every eight-hour shift, I felt fine walking to my car, one of the few left in the parking lot. I smelled good too. My feet killed me and my hips ached after standing all day, yes, but I was proud of myself that I got through it as a 52 year old surrounded by 20 year olds.
So for those of you who want to try something new and maybe something scary? Do it. You might just learn a few things that you didn’t expect.
Belinda Clarke is a full-time director of alumni engagement at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is also a freelance writer and contributor to 30Seconds.com.