All About You

"What I've learned from working in a grocery store this year"

I've been working at a small grocery store near my house for about four months now, and it has truly been one of the most valuable experiences of my life. In addition to financial independence, I wanted a job this fall for a sense of structure during this year that I'm not at school. To say I've learned some life lessons this fall is an understatement, and I'm excited to share some of them:

How a business actually operates

This one seems pretty obvious, but this is literally the first thing this job taught me. Learning where everything comes from and how it is organized, working a cash register, reporting to managers—it was all brand new to me. It's taken some time to get comfortable with everything, but I just feel like I know so much more about the world now.

A sense of responsibility—how to be on time and how to follow through on my commitments

This is a lesson that will for sure apply to everything I ever do in life. I learned how to be on the time the hard way—I was late almost every day in the beginning. Now, I'm more realistic about how long things will actually take, and I always leave a cushion. I'm better at recognizing which tasks I really need to complete before I leave, and which I can bump to later. I'm still late sometimes, but I'm much better! Following through on my commitments has never been hard for me, but I'm more aware of how my actions affect others. People have expectations for me, and I need to honor them.

How to interact with people from various demographics

I'm a natural introvert, and my social anxiety can be pretty high at times, so working in a customer service job has required a lot of adjustment. When I'm around people I'm not familiar with, I typically keep to myself, but in this job, I'm expected to approach people and engage first. I'm often asked questions I don't have the answer to. I've dealt with some difficult, irritable, and distressing individuals. And no matter what I'm faced with, I'm expected to keep a patient smile on my face. I really am getting better at socializing, though. I've learned to read people's cues. I'm more sure of myself and less anxious. I've come to realize that when people are rude, insensitive or angry, it is a reflection of what's going on in their own lives and has very little to do with me. Most people honestly aren't paying much attention to me at all—they're consumed with themselves and what they need to take care of. I'm also learning a lot from my coworkers, who, unlike my classmates from school, are extremely diverse in age, background, and purpose. It's been a nerve-wracking but fascinating experience trying to find my place among so many groups of people that I'm not used to, and I'm still learning.

How to communicate effectively

Quiet has always been my default. The socially anxious introvert in me likes to observe the world around me and let others do all the talking and make the decisions. But I can't really do that in this job. Everything I do affects someone else in one way or another. I have to set my own schedule, report to managers, collaborate on tasks and ask for help. And all of that requires talking! I've never been good at advocating for myself, but this job has definitely helped me make progress.

How to work really hard at something...

The first few weeks that I worked, I would literally come home from my eight-hour shift and just sit for hours. My body wasn't used to being on my feet all day, walking back and forth and lifting heavy boxes and climbing on ladders and reaching behind shelves. I've adjusted to the fast pace of the store, and I've also learned to appreciate the sense of fulfillment that I get at the end of each day. 

...but also that it’s important to take time off

I've learned that I'm not Superwoman, and I can't work myself to my max and never take a moment to breathe. Luckily, I have a lot of flexibility to take time off, and I've taken a few days to just rest and do things for myself. On those days off, I always appreciate everything so much more—spending time with my family, reading a book, getting outside, listening to music. Slowly but surely, I'm changing my mindset. I'm slowing down more, and acknowledging that taking time off is not unproductive, weak or lazy—it's absolutely essential to staying healthy and keeping myself from feeling overwhelmed and incredibly anxious.

How to forgive myself for mistakes

I can be perfectionistic to a toxic extent at times, and I tend to be super hard on myself anytime I make even the smallest of errors. This job has forced me to own my mistakes and move on! So far, I've been late, directed people to the wrong part of the store, rung items up wrong at the register, and dropped plenty of things—including a huge glass pitcher of apple juice that smashed all over the floor. These mistakes don't make me a bad employee—they make me human. The pace of the store is so fast that I don't even have time to wallow or feel angry with myself—I have to own it, clean it up, and keep moving. I'm not used to being okay with messing up, and this is definitely one of the most important lessons I've learned so far.

What new experiences have you had this year and what have you learned from them? Let us know @girlslifemag!


by Maya Valmon | 11/27/2020