Since 2018, I’ve helped hundreds of Retail Managers escape retail and secure roles in other industries that give them more work-life balance and job satisfaction. The great news is, that all of this can be done without taking a pay cut too. I’ve helped people with salaries ranging from £25k to £125k. It is possible for anyone… even if you’ve only ever worked in Retail. I’m going to show you in this article the exact process I used to land interviews and offers in these other industries and how hundreds of others have now done the same.
It sounds like a dream though, right?
I know how it feels being where you are right now. The chance of securing a job with all the above can seem a distant reality. Sometimes you probably think it is just that, a dream.
You, like many others, have all been there. The feeling of defeat and deflation.
- Applying for job after job and rarely hearing anything back (if hearing back ever).
- Finding a great job online, only for it to ask for experience and qualifications you don’t have.
- Or unable to find any jobs that come close to the salary you are on right now.
Maybe retail is all you can do? perhaps you should just settle?
After all the salary is good and the job is “okay”.
Well, let me tell you this.
That little voice in your head that tells you that maybe there is more out there than retail
You’ll never be able to silence it, in fact, it only grows stronger over the years.
It will eventually turn into regret, especially when you can do something about it today.
I normally see Retail Managers take that inner voice seriously when their career starts to take a toll on their well-being and mental health.
Don’t wait that long, please.
The only reason you’ve been unsuccessful in your career change to date is because of your strategy not because of you.
Let me tell you this…
The traditional job search methods do not work.
Now, when you first started in Retail, you probably used the traditional methods.
- Created a CV/Resume.
- Hit the job search websites.
- Or (very traditional) handed your application into the store.
- And it worked, right? so why doesn’t it now?
There are two reasons, firstly times have changed. Even in the last 5 years or so, I’ve seen a significant shift away from the so-called traditional methods. The digital age has brought a competitive market where anyone can find vacancies and apply and a touch of a button. This has changed employers’ perceptions and strategies when it comes to hiring. Do you really think the best quality candidates are going to show up on job search websites using “one click-apply”? and do you think you’re going to command the same salary you’re on in retail based on a slightly tailored CV/resume and faceless, unknown application?
Of course not.
And secondly, you’ve established your career and you are now changing careers (not just starting out from scratch or making a lateral move in the same industry).
It’s a completely different scenario and you need a different strategy as a result.
You’ve likely looked online, but the advice isn’t clear, right?
So, if applying for jobs using job search websites isn’t the right strategy…
How do you get your foot in the door?
Referrals are the most effective way to get hired if you want to change careers.
How do I know this? Well, let me tell you this I found out the hard way.
I’d spent months trying those “traditional methods” and I was getting nowhere.
I was about to give up as many others do after failing with the traditional methods.
So, I decided to study people that had escaped retail, and do you know what I found?
95% of the people I studied had secured their new role in another industry because of a referral.
Once I started digging, I discovered that it’s the PREFERRED method employers like to use when hiring new people.
I was a little sceptical at first, like you probably are right now.
I’d tell myself things such as;
- “That’s great, but I don’t know anyone in other industries”
- “Why would anyone refer me?”
- “Where would I find these people?”
How To Get A Job Interview When You Don’t Know A Single Person At The Company
Step 1: Know what you want
To begin with, you need to have a good idea of the specific role that you’re looking for, down to the industry and job title. If you have no idea what you want to do, you need to “soul search before you job search”. This stage can take months and don’t skip it. Only people that know what they want will stand out from the crowd. How can you tailor your approach to stand out from 100 other candidates if you are just a generalist?
If you’re stuck with this step, check out this post on generating career ideas.
Step 2: Speak to people one step ahead of you
There are billions of people on this planet and there is someone that has done EXACTLY what it is you want to achieve. Why are you trying to figure it out for yourself when someone can show you how they did it?
“There are over 7 billion people on this planet. There is someone that’s achieved what you want to achieve.”
This step is about finding people that have jumped into the company or industry you want to change careers into.
The best place to find these people is on LinkedIn. All you need to do is use the search bar and type in the job title you want.
Let’s say you want to be a practice manager in healthcare because it is Monday to Friday, 9-5.
Put in the search bar “practice manager healthcare” and filter by people and then click all filters and filter past experiences to some similar retailers in your country.
I’ve used my past company, Sainsbury’s in this example but you can choose multiple retailers.
This search alone generated 77 people that now work as practice managers in healthcare that used to work at Sainsbury’s.
77 people I could speak to that can advise me on how they did it, and maybe even refer me into the role.
Step 3: What do you say to them?
Message them on LinkedIn and explain why you are reaching out to them (they’ve done what you want to do/changed careers from retail to your desired job/industry).
This isn’t about asking “have you got any jobs?” as this quickly switches people off.
This is about building rapport and starting to build a relationship with someone.
And the best way to do this is by asking people about themselves. People love talking about themselves, but the great thing is the stuff they are going to tell you is going to be career change GOLD. They are going to talk about how they made their respective career change.
Here’s an example of what you could say to them.
Subject: Quick Question
Dear [first name],
My name is Tom, and I’m a Store Manager at Sainsbury’s. I’m reaching out because you’ve made the exact type of career change I’m contemplating. Your experience making the jump from Sainsbury’s to Practice Manager in Alliance Healthcare really stood out.
I’d love to learn more about your journey and the challenges you faced. I know you’re busy and time is valuable but if you have a few minutes to chat, I’d be really grateful.
Now just to prepare you… it’s likely that only about 2/10 people will reply to your messages.
Most people take this very personally, but you shouldn’t. It’s likely they are either busy, not active on LinkedIn or just forget to reply to you in the first place. This isn’t because they hate you for reaching out or think you are a weirdo. LinkedIn is a platform for networking, it is expected people are going to network!
You should aim to reach out to people that have a shared experience with you e.g worked in retail, went to the same school, or did the same type of role in retail. Firstly, because they can clearly see why you are reaching out to them, it’s less random as a result. Secondly, you can make your message to them more personal because you can reference the shared experience. Finally, having worked in retail, they still feel like you’re one of them. When you share an experience with someone you will get a higher response rate.
To increase your response chances from 2/10 to closer to 4/10, then you should always follow up. If someone doesn’t reply to you within 3 working days, then follow up with them. Follow up a maximum of 3 times before you give up.
When I first tried networking, I reached out to about 50 people, and I think I had about 2 people get back to me.
I then followed up with the other 48 people and had 15 people get back to me.
Following up works.
Step 4: Why would they help me?
Have you ever been stopped in the street by a stranger and asked for directions?
I know I have loads of times in my life.
Now here’s the question, would you help this person or just ignore them or refuse to help them?
Of course, unless you’re the grinch it’s likely you would at least point them in the right direction.
And that’s exactly what networking is and it’s exactly why people will help you.
You are just asking for directions, but instead of travel directions, you’re asking questions to help determine the direction of your career.
Step 5: How does this lead to a referral?
Just having conversations with people in the industry, even if they are not the recruiting managers for the role you want (and might just be doing it themselves) can sometimes lead to a referral. They might know of a vacancy that’s available right now and suggest you apply.
But what if that doesn’t happen?
Go out there and make the referral happen for yourself.
I want you to do two things with the people you’ve been networking with…
Action 1 – Locate the influencers: Ask for a contact “who is the hiring manager for the job you want? who are the key decision makers you should talk to?” This is key to ensuring you’re talking to the right people and giving you an idea of the organisation’s structure. If you can get a direct email, then this will be better than reaching out to them on LinkedIn.
Action 2- Find out their problems: Ask them “What is the biggest challenge your team/company is facing right now?” This is key so when you reach out to the hiring manager you can support your application with some solutions to the challenges they face.
Step 6: Your Desired Job Influencers
Right, so you’re armed with whom you need to contact (influencers) and have a good idea of their and their company’s challenges.
Every job in this world exists to solve a problem, and you’ve found out the potential problems the influencer faces by talking to people within the company.
Now it’s time to show that influencer why you are the solution to their problems.
You may have already done this, but you need to research the hell out of the company and the influencer. Check them out on LinkedIn, research the company by reading their website and check out any content they are posting at the moment.
Step 7: The Retail Value Proposition (RVP)
You now need to start crafting your Retail Value Proposition (RVP). When I first used this approach to escape retail for myself it was very basic. It was just a basic presentation about me and how I could help the organisation with its challenges.
Austin Belcak at Cultivated Culture has taken this approach to another level, and it is something I’ve adopted with my clients to great success. Austin calls in a Value Validation Project. For those of us in Retail though, we’re going to call it the Retail Value Proposition.
Just like the basic presentation I used. Your RVP is a document that shows…
You’ve done your research on the company.
- The problem their company faces.
- Solutions or ideas to solve that problem (based on your experience).
- Why you are the best person to execute these ideas?
- If you’re handy with PowerPoint, then you can mock this up yourself on 3 slides.
I’d also highly recommend using Canva as an alternative if you don’t have PowerPoint.
And if you’re not a creative type, just write up your content and hire someone on Upwork that can turn it into an amazing piece of work.
I want you to send your Retail Value Proposition (RVP) to your influencer either via email (preferred method) or if you were unable to obtain their email, then via LinkedIn.
I’m sorry for reaching out to you totally out of the blue, but I’m really interested in working at [company] as a [vacancy].
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the positive impact this position might have on some of the challenges you might be facing right now. In fact, I created a short framework that shows how I could potentially be the person to solve those challenges. Please find attached.
If you have some time, I would love to chat about it in more detail.
Please let me know if you have any questions, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Now you need to be patient and wait for their response.
And if the advertised deadline for the vacancy is approaching fast and you’ve yet to get a response, then do make sure you follow up.
You can also use this approach, even if the company doesn’t have any live vacancies too. Just say you are interested in working for the company instead of naming a specific vacancy and mention the challenges that the company may face instead of the role specifically.
You might be thinking… this is a lot of work but does this work?
This approach is effective for several reasons.
Firstly, we already know that the traditional job search methods don’t work and if they did you would have already escaped retail, right?
How much time have you put into crafting and applying for jobs and having no success? It took me a month to apply for 100 jobs. Whereas this approach is about having productive conversations. Conversations that are giving you deep invaluable insight into the jobs and industry you want.
Secondly, this approach allows you to share your transferable skills and retail value in a meaningful way, instead of trying to second guess what should go in your CV/resume and cover letter. You get to share your message in your own words.
Finally, no one else is doing this. You want to stand out from 100 applicants, some with more experience for the job than you. You need to find an advantage, and this is that advantage.
Step 8: What other benefits do you get from talking with people in the industry?
Speaking with people in the industry/job you desire can not only lead to a potential referral, but you also gain valuable insight such as…
- What should appear on your CV/Resume? This can ensure it gets past the ATS so your CV/resume gets read by a real person.
- When similar vacancies come up in the future.
- How the company prefers to hire new candidates. For example, some companies only use recruitment agencies.
- You find out the key decision makers instead of wasting time with people that have no impact on the job you want.
- What it’s actually like working at the company and doing the job you want (so you know 100% if it really is the job you think it is)
- Knowledge around what needs to appear on your application, CV/resume, industry buzzwords and maybe even insight into the interview process.
- You have someone inside that can vouch for you (after all they have worked in Retail themselves so you’re one of them! We’re all cut from the same cloth us retail managers).