Monday, May 20, 2019

Retail Sales to IT Support

 So, maybe you are currently working in retail and wondering how I got out of sales into computer support. I worked most of my life in retail, specifically in cell phone sales, and sold lots of plans, features, and accessories with phone. I hinestly never thought I would get into the IT support industry. Around 2001 I was working in a printing factory and had the opportunity to make some good money since I was on medical leave and my hourly rate was barely minimum wage. Honestly, I don't know how I survived on six dollars per hour, a car payment of almost three hundred dollars a month, and splitting the rent with my younger brother.

One time at the factory I got injured on the job just after three years.  Nothing surprising I guess with the kind of job it was and while I was on medical leave, I was only getting an income of sixty percent of my salary. During that time, my brother helped me get a part-time sales job with an authorized retail cell phone provider. I decided to do it because I saw how much money he was taking home each month in commission. Back then it was great income, and he was also getting a decent hourly rate. So that's why I left the factory for a cleaner job and better pay.

After working in the cell phone authorized retail, I got the opportunity to work with a larger company-owned cell phone store in 2003. I worked there until 2011 where I left to work for a large computer retailer. I was excited to join this large computer company but knew deep inside I was still in retail sales and customer service. At least the large computer retailer was not a high-pressure sales environment.

Overall, I did like cell phone sales and its culture, although they micromanaged every sales metric. I enjoyed the customer interactions and how the company provided great support and training but, in the end, I was still doing retail.  The hours were not horrible but the change of shifts from mornings to mid shifts to evenings was not helping.  I missed a lot of quality time with family and friends on the weekends and holidays. Especially on Black Friday weekend and most of December.  Oh, and we cannot forget January for the after-holiday returns and traffic. I liked it because I made good money, the benefits were good and got to meet a lot of nice people.  Oh yeah and they gave us a free phone and plan but, in the end, it was retail.  After so many years I felt like I mastered that skill, but I needed a new challenge and career.  I did not want to fall into a job by accident. I wanted to make my career path.
Currently, I work as a Computer Support Technician. In total, I have about six years of experience. I love what I do and see myself here for a long time.  I have a career that can provide me with the challenges and freedom I have always wanted while being able to create a wide career path for my future.  You might ask, “how did I get a job that I love and how did I get out of the deep trench of sales and customer service that was written all over my resume?”. Honestly, it was not easy, but I made some career changes that helped me to get this job and you too can do the same. 

After I left the big retail computer company, I went back to cell phone sales but only this time I was the manager of the store.  Once I got there, I quickly knew why I left the industry in the first place. I was bored of the job and the process of it. The inventory control, the sales, the coaching of sales employees, and more. I took the job because I was engaged to get married, and I wanted better pay and a “better” schedule.  Plus, the store was close to home so that was a no-brainer. I knew I had to leave because I worked in that industry for so long before. So, I decided to make the call to my manager to tell him that I was leaving. I told him that the job was not a good fit for me. He was surprised and offered to give me more money to stay but I declined the offer. I would have been miserable if I did stay but thankfully I did not and left two weeks after.

Then I accepted a job working at a for-profit university. One thing that I would encourage you to do is to try something new and although I was not sure of this job, I knew I wanted out of retail. I never thought I would work in a university and although I didn't work there that long I quickly learned that the position was more like telemarketing and not admissions counseling. We had to call a minimum of one hundred phone calls per day, track them in the database, and email the potential student as well.  The whole process was interesting, but I knew that was not for me in the long term. So, they let me, and other employees go due to budget cuts and performance.

It was hard to find for me to find a job as a technician or in computer support because many jobs required either experience, certifications, and or a combination of both education and experience.  You could imagine how I felt not having a job and worse was that I was to get married in five months.
Luckily, I did, again in cell phone sales but it was only part-time. Unfortunately, this cell phone company only hired part-time sales employees at first but thankfully they offered full-time benefits. I did this till I got married but for a while, it was hard to find another full-time job that was not retail.  Many interviewers asked why I left the large computer retailer and why I left my previous job.  It was hard for me to express myself during those phone interviews because I felt like I made a mistake.  I felt like I should not have taken the manager position, but I knew I had to get through this season.  There were times where I could not sleep at night where I would stay up looking for jobs online because I was too tired for them on my phone in bed. I would be at my computer submitting my job application at one, two, or three in the morning and hoping I would at least get an interview.   

One interview I would never forget was with a large cable company to be an installation technician. I had an interview with two supervisors. After the standard questions were done one supervisor was honest and said, "Jonathan, your resume seems very nice and you have a lot of great experience, but your resume just has customer service experience.". I quickly froze and felt like my work experience was not enough. I thought of his comment and said inside how can customer service experience not be transitioned into another job?  So, I responded quickly by providing him my strengths and how that would benefit the company and his team. I told him how I would easily transition my experiences into the job as a cable technician. He came back and said, "I am sorry, but you have no technician experience at all, and we are looking for someone that has that.". So, I thanked him and his boss for his time and we departed our ways.  I knew I did not have a chance for that job.  I was so confused after that interview but hopefully. 

While I was working part-time, I stayed in touch with one of my previous coworkers from the retail computer store.  He told me that he got a full-time job with the company he was working for and finally got out of retail.  He then tells me that he put in a word for me for the desktop support technician temp job that he did. He said told me, that they needed someone for three months for an upgrade project and he thought that I would do great. First, I was excited and happy but also super nervous. I haven't worked on a computer in years, let alone a Windows computer. All I have been using in the past seven years were Apple Macintosh computers and even then, nothing on this level. Of course, I said yes, and he provided me with the temp agency and the recruiter to talk to.

 When I got to the location to interview with the recruiter it did not last long. Again, another interviewer told me that my resume did not present any technical support. It was hard for me to hear that again, but I received what he said and went back home to create a new resume. 
When I told my previous co-worker, what happened he told me to find some job postings online and see what kind of experience and words they use to describe the responsibilities. So, I did just that and when I finished, he told me that he would find me another interview again, with the same agency.

After I applied what I learned from the previous interviews I was successfully able to get an interview with the hiring manager. I was super nervous to know that I would have my first official desktop support job interview.  Although I did not have any recent experience with Windows computers, I was comfortable with Apple computers and mobile devices which helped in my favor because the two others I worked with were afraid to touch any Apple computer.  Thankfully my coworker was able to provide me with some tips and suggestions to prepare for the interview. 
First, he said brush up on your knowledge with Window 7 since the project was to get Windows XP computers upgraded to Windows 7 because they were being phased out. Also, learn more on how to troubleshoot both Windows and Macintosh computers. Last he said just search online for some videos on how to migrate information from Windows XP to Windows 7.  Although I started to work on this, I felt so unprepared and felt like I didn’t deserve this job and interview.  This was a big challenge for me, and I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone. Honestly, my motivation to learn and follow through on this was my way to get out of retail. At my part-time sales job, I felt like I was working in the wrong place although I really enjoyed the company culture and the people there. In the end, I knew this new opportunity was a way out of retail and to build up my resume.  Even if it was only for three months, I had to take the chance. So, I prepared for the interview with online learning and books and had the interview a few days later.

Overall, I thought the interview went very well and as soon as I got into the car, I received a call saying that I was offered the position.  I was so happy and nervous at the same time. I accepted it but was more nervous because they wanted me to start the week before my wedding!  I had to let the recruiter know that I was getting married at the end of the month and that I would accept the position if the hiring manager was okay for me to take some time off for my honeymoon. Thankfully he said yes, and I only worked for a week to then get married, go on my honeymoon, and return to start as a Desktop Support Technician. 

So that is how I officially got out of retail. After that the rest is history but with this opportunity, I built up my resume, kept up with my online learning, reading books, and most of all gained computer support experience. During my time as a contractor, I finished my three months contract and thankfully they renewed my contract for another three months.  Those last days were hard too because they never would tell me if I was to get my contract renewed. During that time, I went back again to apply to what I knew best.  Retail cell phone sales. Thankfully that did not happen when they told me that they renewed my contract for other projects on my last day as a contractor. Then contract renewal over renewal and ten months in I applied for a help desk job outside the company for a bank and got the job. Right then is when I knew I officially left retail for good. I felt a heavy retail sales weight off my shoulders.

I was so happy to get a "full-time" job and not be in the temp role. I could not wait because I knew my wife and I wanted to grow our family. We did not have any kids then, but we knew eventually we would. Plus, for me to have a stable full-time job was what I needed. I loved the new job and was happy to learn the help desk role. I was nervous, but I knew I had something else that others didn’t in this industry which was customer service, communication skills, and better work ethic.  I may have not been the most technically savvy, but I feel as though I provide the best experiences and support to the people and departments I cover.  

 So here I am now with the company that allowed me to work as a contractor. As of today, I have been out of retail for five years and counting.  No more retail, no more sales, no more special phone launches, and especially no blacker Friday and holiday schedules. I do give credit to my retail sales experience and training and can proudly say that I provide better support and build better relationships with my clients. Now on to a new chapter and career that I love my job and you can too.