I can't even begin to count the number of times I've been asked a question like this over the last several months - and the answer isn't easy. The fact is, there are thousands of different jobs and industries out there, so to give you a list of, say, 20 would be doing you a disservice. There are many, many different things you could be doing - in retail and out.
I recently had a client go into funeral services, for example. It was a dream come true for him, but chances are if I wrote this post a few months back, I wouldn't have thought to include funeral services. So please understand, this post isn't meant as an exhaustive list. Instead, my goal is to help you determine the best options for yourself.
Let's use a real world example. Say you're a specialty store manager in women's apparel - you manage a 3,000 square foot store with $2.5M in sales, and you lead a team of 15. Let's take a look at your options, starting with the types of positions that would be easiest for you to get.
Similar women's wear stores
By far the easiest type of job for anyone, in any field, to get is a job that is most similar to what they've already done. So if your most recent job was as a store manager in women's wear, the easiest job for you to get is another position as a store manager in a similar size/volume women's wear store. It may not be a cakewalk in a highly competitive job market like this, but it will be the easiest type of job for you to get.
Other fashion categories
Another option would be other retail management positions within fashion. Perhaps you could transition to men's wear, children's wear, fashion accessories, footwear, off-price fashions, or factory stores. Or perhaps you could remain within full-price women's wear but move to a larger, higher-volume store.
Other merchandise categories
Although many recruiters prefer candidates who have experience with similar product categories, perhaps you could target positions in bed/bath/linens, cosmetics/beauty, electronics, wireless, furniture, home improvement, sporting goods, or other hardlines categories. Perhaps even consider different types of stores such as department stores, warehouse clubs, or thrift stores. The key is to show on your resume how successful you've been in softlines, so that recruiters will view the transition risk as low.
Other retail formats
Vastly different retail management positions may be an option. These are far removed from women's wear but many still fall under the "retail" umbrella. This could include things like convenience stores, fuel stations, travel centers, dental offices, auto dealerships, automotive services, coffee shops, grocery stores, fast food chains, full service restaurants, and much more. Again, demonstrating your success on your resume is critically important.
Perhaps you want to move up? Getting promoted within your own company is usually easier than getting a higher-level position with a new company, but it is possible. Just keep in mind that you'll often need to move to a lower-volume company if you want to jump to a higher level, since sales volume accountability is very important to recruiters. So, if your highest-volume experience is managing a single-unit store with $2.5M in sales, and you want to apply for multi-unit roles, you may want to focus on companies where the average sales volume is quite a bit less. Check this out to see if you're ready for the next level.
Other job functions in retail
As you know, store operations isn't the only position in retail. Although you may need advanced education or training for a position in a corporate office (not always, but sometimes), you could move into a position in recruiting, training & development, human resources, allocation & replenishment, inventory planning, buying, supply chain, loss prevention, marketing, finance, franchise development, or something else. Check out this post for more information.
Retail service providers
Another option is companies that are on the periphery of retail. For example, there are service providers who provide merchandising and inventory management services to big-box retailers. There are companies that manage call centers for retailers. There are companies that specialize in the installation and management of pop-up shops. There are companies that conduct inventory counts for retailers. There are companies that specialize in building and opening new stores. Also, don't forget about shopping center management companies. I'm sure there are many more examples.
Outside of retail
Of course there are many people who want out of retail altogether. In my experience, the most common positions that retail managers transfer to in other industries are those related to sales management, operations management, inventory management, or, really, any type of team management. Going back to my client who went into funeral services, I'm sure there is a sales aspect to that type of position, and I'm sure he was able to leverage his previous experience in retail sales management to convince them that his skills were transferable. Operations management or inventory management positions can be found in many different industries including manufacturing, production, etc. And of course there are supervisory/leadership positions in every single field. As I said, to try and list all the different options outside of retail would be impossible.
Interested in another real life example? Check out My journey out of retail...and back again for details on my own career path.
Retail managers, as you know, are highly skilled in many different areas, whether it's sales, service, operations, inventory, merchandising, team building, training, coaching, and so much more. As such, the opportunities really are endless.
Find your passion and go for it!
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