update: how can I move from retail into a professional career?

Remember the letter-writer in December who was having trouble moving from retail into a professional career? Here’s the (great) update.

I wrote to you three months ago for advice on trying to move from retail to a more professional job, with only retail and child care experience. I so appreciated your advice, as well as that of all the commenters. I worked on improving my resume and cover letters, as well as tailoring them to specific jobs. I grouped my numerous nanny jobs together under one heading as Child Care Provider, and focused on how I marketed my services to clients and managed scheduling, records, etc. I highlighted my accomplishments at my current department lead position at a major retail chain, which recently included being awarded Employee of the Month and acheiving the number one sales ranking for the entire division (280+ stores) for 2015.

I spent evenings searching online job boards and company websites, and applied to everything I was closely qualified for: retail banking, insurance agencies, call centers, receptionist positions, and even a few teaching jobs (as I do have a degree in education). I received a lot of form rejection emails, but kept at it. I also reached out to friends and former child care clients for networking opportunities, and was referred to several job openings I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Meanwhile, things at my current job have gotten progressively worse (poor direct management, unprofessional behavior, low morale), although the upper managers all love my work.

I eventually began to receive calls from employers and landed two in-person interviews. The first was for a chiropractic office receptionist position that I heard about through a friend, and I didn’t get it, but was told I was one of the top candidates. The second was for a teller position with a local credit union, and I was nervous but had a good rapport with the interviewers and was able to mention that I know someone who works there when there was a natural opening. It helped to prepare as much as possible (thank you for your free interview guide!), and to dress and feel like a professional – I had to interview on my lunch break and didn’t want anyone at my current job to suspect I was interviewing, so I ended up shimmying into pantyhose in a McDonald’s bathroom stall!

Today I was offered and accepted the teller position! The pay is 25% more and the benefits are better than my current job, I won’t have to work every weekend and holiday anymore, and there’s room for advancement down the road. I want to encourage anyone struggling with finding a new job to keep trying, be open to advice and to changing/improving your methods, and read this blog! It has helped me learn a lot about professional norms and expectations. Thanks again!

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. TootsNYC

    happy dance, happy dance, happy dance

    So many good things that I am admiring, and inspired by:

    -you didn’t give up!
    -you really were thoughtful about your skills
    -you saw value in your experiences, and focused on how to bring that out and how to highlight how that would be good for the employer

    So happy for you!

  2. Clever Name

    This is so awesome! Congrats!

    This is a perfect example of how you can craft your resume to show employers how your experience translates into valuable skills those hiring managers want. I think so many job applicants think if they throw up all their jobs in a list of their duties that hiring managers will be able to just *know* how they’ll be great at the position to which they are applying.

  3. F.

    Yes!! This is a great example of how it CAN be done with enough persistence and skill in marketing your knowledge and experience.

  4. Artemesia

    Great post with the kind of details that will help others. Great job taking your transferable skills and showing them off. Congratulations.

  5. CEMgr

    Thank you so much for sharing, OP…I am sure you made everyone’s Friday.

    And Alison, thank you too…..your work on this blog, the realistic and constructive advice and your encouragement and ideas make a real difference in people’s lives. You have everything to be proud of.

  6. Sarah

    I remember your original post and am so happy you stuck with it and landed a position that you are excited about! WAY TO GO!!!

  7. AFT123

    YEA!! Great job on this, you deserve to throw a celebration for yourself! A banking teller job opens a TON of career path doors too – financial positions (banker, mortgage processing or originating, private banker, branch manager, etc don’t generally require specialized education and are generally well paying with favorable hours). Additionally, all financial institutions have the usual corporate positions that are now an open door to you too. What a GREAT Friday update!

    1. Felix

      +1 I have a friend that started out as a teller and moved up the ranks – 10 years later she now works for the government as an analyst! Tons of career paths out of this move. Congrats!!!!

    2. Jadelyn


      I work at a credit union myself, and our Senior VP of Branch Ops started as a part-time teller when she was in high-school and worked her way up through collections, lending, into management and then executive-level! Being in HR, I’ve watched a lot of employees move from the teller line into various parts of back office, call center, or into lending or up into branch management; we’re actually designing formalized career pathways with training and all that to make sure employees know they have options beyond the teller line if they want to branch out. Congratulations and I hope this is able to take you to the places you want to go!

    3. Cordelia Longfellow

      Absolutely. I worked as a teller for four years and loved it. I would have been happy to move up in the bank, but I decided to go to grad school overseas. I still look back on that job with fond memories. I liked the customer services aspects with the pushiness of retail – clients come in for a purpose and I help them with it. Even though even tellers these days often have referral quotas for loans/credit cards/etc., it’s easier to look at a client’s profile and actually suggest services that are of use to them.

      Best of luck in your new job!

  8. Anna No Mouse

    That’s great news, OP!

    And Financial Services remains one of those fields where there is a LOT of promoting from within, and opportunities for training up, so if after you spend some time at your new gig and it seems like something you like, keep your eyes and ears open. There are a fair number of VPs who have stories of starting out as tellers just like you. :)

    1. Elizabeth West

      Agreed. I work in technology services for financial institutions, and there are loads of people both in our client base and working for us with long-time careers in banking. :)

  9. BAS

    Congrats to the OP!

    I also went into a career-type job from retail by similarly tailoring my resume. I ended up as an Admin Asst for a HR/Payroll team and it is great. To anyone else trying to get out of retail, hang in there! It happens!

    1. Jadelyn

      That’s how I ended up in HR – I managed to book a temp job doing data entry for an HR department, that I was able to grow into a full-fledged HRIS Administrator job, and two years later I’m finishing my degree in HRM and looking forward to a long and rewarding HR career!

  10. KT

    YAY! I love updates like this. What a great way to end the week.

    Congratulations and good for you! You should be really proud of yourself for keeping at it and marketing yourself like a pro.

  11. Triangle Pose

    Congrats to you! It sounds like you really put great effort and professionalism into this process and it will serve you well in your new role!

    “It helped to prepare as much as possible (thank you for your free interview guide!), and to dress and feel like a professional ”

    I agree! I am the first generation in my family to work in a professional or office setting and it means so much to have someone (AAM, her book, the commenters here) explain this stuff. I use to think in awe of most white collar or professional workers and it feels so good not to feel like you constantly stand out because your parents didn’t work in an office environment and so you don’t have a good model.

  12. Bowserkitty

    YAAAAAAAY congratulations OP!!!

    so I ended up shimmying into pantyhose in a McDonald’s bathroom stall!

    You deserve an award for this. I can barely accomplish this in a regular-sized bedroom.

  13. Former Retail Manager

    This, and the article about the crazy boss below, have made my day! I’m so happy for you. And I think that being hired at a credit union versus one of the major banks is excellent. Credit unions tend to be more willing to promote into other positions from within as you grow in your career and gain/expand your knowledge and skills! Hopefully, you can treat yourself to something special with your first paycheck from the new job. Congratulations again!

  14. GreenTeaPot


    Your news made my day. Yes, teller jobs can be the start of so many opportunities! I hope you will update us from time to time. You have your own cheering section here!

  15. Rachel

    What a fabulous update! OP, I’m so happy for you I genuinely got a little misty- I hope the new job works out wonderfully for you!

  16. sjw

    Love this post — but the best part to me is that you’re joining the credit union world! You will love it. I work for a credit union league (trade association) and I ADORE our credit unions! Nicest people in the world!

  17. Zelenu

    Excellent news! Made my afternoon. I was in retail before starting in a financial services job 18 years ago (not a teller, but customer services in a loan office). Now I am an AVP at a credit union and it is fantastic.

  18. Rodney

    Congrats! As someone who transitioned out of career retail into an actual professional job, I can already tell you that on Black Friday, when you wake up super early and realize that you can go back to sleep….

    …that’s the best day ever.

  19. Jean

    What a great blend:
    – your own good news
    – the hope you inspire
    – and a clear list of concrete suggestions for anyone else who seeks a better job!
    Congratulations! Thanks to you, once-wobbly job-hunters will straighten up, fly right, and land in a happier workplace and head space.
    Excellent news with which to end the week.

  20. WorkingFromCafeInCA

    Congratulations!! I hope you’ll write again in a few years to tell of us your promotions and further career advancement- you’re just at the beginning, and it sounds like you’ve got the work ethic and the open mind to be an asset to any team. Well done!

  21. Melissa

    Congratulations!!! When the stress of this new job gets to you, remember all the great things you have accomplished!


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