At least once a year during the holiday season I find myself driving by a crowded mall parking lot and reminiscing about the Christmas breaks I spent working the college girl’s dream job—as a cashier at Bath and Body Works. I wore a black apron, sold shower gel and candles, chatted with tons of ladies about their Christmas shopping, and kept the shelves in my zone looking tantalizing. One of my besties, Shannon, also worked at the store, so our already enjoyable shifts were absolutely a blast when we were on the clock together, particularly when we both worked the cash register and were able to provide commentary on each others’ amusing exchanges with customers.
I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve had to one degree or another, and I’m thankful for this, knowing that some people truly hate their jobs. I’m also a firm believer that regardless of how much you like or dislike your current employment, it has something to teach you, skills that you can carry with you throughout life. Bath and Body Works taught me how to sell to a customer based on her needs, while educating her about new products and great deals in a non-pushy way. This foundational skill provided a great jumping-off point for my later job as a university recruiter, which required a similar balance of salesmanship and customer service.
I can also think of some abilities I acquired via this seasonal employ that aren’t exactly resume material but will nevertheless continue to be helpful to me. I call abilities like this skillz.
Skillz are abilities that may not provide clout in the business world but prove extremely useful in the real world.
Urban Dictionary and I have different ideas about skillz, as you might imagine, but I like its insight that “skillz may or may not pay the billz.”
Let me share some skillz I acquired at Bath and Body Works to illustrate this concept:
- Ability to climb a ladder with a heavy box—In week one of my job at BBW, you might have heard me say, “Yes, ma’am, I’ll be glad to go check the back room to see if we have any more Japanese Cherry Blossom Foaming Hand Soap. Just keep in mind that they come in boxes of 50 and are located on a shelf 20 feet in the air, necessitating that I put my life on the line on a wobbly ladder for the sake of your clean, fragrant hands.” By week six my heavy-laden ladder ascensions were practically acrobatic, not to mention that for once in my life I had biceps.
- Gift of spotting a “lost soul”—Nope, not that kind of lost soul—I’m talking about a specific type of man here. If you’re a woman, you’ve seen this guy out shopping at one time or another, and if you’re a man, you just might have been this guy at one time or another… He walks into BBW confidently, looking pleased with himself that she wanted him to shop here for her Christmas present, and here he is. Seconds later his expression changes as he realizes the battle is not yet won; he’s in the right place and yet has no earthly idea where to go from here, what to do next. Walls of Wallflowers are closing in on him. This is where I come in—the friendly Sales Associate here to save the day! I find out what I can about his lady and make suggestions for gifts, tempering the forcefulness of my “suggesting” to match his level of desperation and mandating that he make the final selection so that he feels at least a little ownership of the whole process. “Babe, I knew you’d love Black Raspberry Vanilla because you like to eat raspberries, and I like vanilla.”
- Knowledge of the connection between fragrance and memory—Recently I used some lotion that had been in the back of my cabinet for an embarassingly long time, and instantly I felt like I was surfing! Why? I hadn’t encountered that scent since a vacation my parents and I took to San Diego several years ago, during which I took a surfing lesson. Fragrance has a powerful connection to memory to the point that exposure to a specific fragrance paired with a certain person, place, or experience can create a strong association which affects the subconscious.
- Capability to steer any sort of unwieldy vehicle—Shannon and I were frequently given the joint task of taking out the trash and recycling. This involved a giant stack of deconstructed cardboard boxes perched precariously on a cart missing a wheel and frequently some added adventure due to snow, ice, or ridiculously strong wind. Shannon would use her torso and arms to hold the pile steady while I drove the three-wheeled cart to the bins; when something inevitably flew off of our mountain, I threw myself onto the pile while Shannon chased after the rogue trash. Our little system became a well-oiled machine, and we could complete the whole process in a matter of minutes, though not without squealing due to the cold. I know the folks over at Foot Locker appreciated our nightly routine.
- Aptitude for communicating kindly to cranky people—Forever-long Black Friday lines cause customers to show their true colors. When someone who’d been waiting a long time reached my register, I’d been trained to say to them, “Thanks for your patience.” To those who’d been sighing, rolling their eyes, huffing, and puffing I enjoyed adding a bit of extra sweetness to this script because only I knew that I was being sarcastic—they’d never guess from my tone—and thus I had a bit of cathartic release from my annoyance with their impatience. On occasion my kind greeting would cause them to look a bit guilty, and I just smiled.
Though these skillz are admittedly random, I have used them time and again. My steering skillz alone have helped me out with driving a boat, a grain truck with a mind of its own, and my old Taurus when it lost its power steering in the middle of the night in Arkansas. In my current and future jobs, I’m watering the grass on my own side of the fence by mining them for both skills and skillz, and I hope you’ll do the same. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
What skillz have you acquired through a current or past job? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.