JustJob Interviews: Sales Associate

JustJobs interviews professionals working in a variety of fields. The good folks there have given me permission to post some of their interviews here. So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work in a specific field, you might want to check in here frequently. I’ll be posting interviews as I get them.

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This Sales Associate dreams of having her own farm someday. This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect from this position. This is a true career story as told to RetailJobs.org, where you can find other interviews from professionals in the field, from a Department Store Area Supervisor to a Bakery Assistant.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?

I am a sales associate for a Hobby Farm business, selling farming equipment and supplies. As a small child, I had grown up on a working farm but had to relearn some skills and trade knowledge when I returned to the business many years later.

Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?

As a sales associate, I am responsible for providing knowledgable information or directions regarding our products and services. When selling plant starts, for example, explaining the ideal conditions for growing the particular plant they are purchasing is expected and encouraged. Educating our customers is often a primary goal for all of us. Part of my work is handling cash transactions, maintaining the shelves of food products sold, ensuring the shop is clean, and providing good customer service.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?

As a white woman living in a predominantly white community, it has been easy to communicate and work effectively with my co-workers and customers. However, as a woman, it is sometimes difficult to convince male customers that I have the knowledge and experience to provide direction or education regarding our products. In the farming business, experience often counts for a lot more than education and although I have a Bachelor’s Degree from The Evergreen State College, it doesn’t always do me any good in working with our customers.

Do you speak any language other than English? If so, how has it helped you in your job?

I grew up with Hearing-Impaired parents and a Hearing-Impaired older brother so I am fluent in American Sign Language. Being able to assist these customers in our shop and provide them with equal access to our directions or instructions ensures they will have a better experience and helps them feel included in our community.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would rate my job satisfaction at an 8, but this is due mostly to environmental considerations rather than my satisfaction with my workplace. Working on a farm business means a lot of hard work and a lot of it is physical. Lifting bags of feed or fertilizer requires strength and effort and sometimes you end the day with sore muscles.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?

I had to learn the hard way that sometimes customers know more than I do! We get a lot of customers who have many years of experience managing their working farms, so sometimes when I try to explain how to do something I get told the reality of the work. Sometimes my information is incorrect or doesn’t have the same practical application I might think it does. Being open minded and learning how to listen is the best way to gain the knowledge needed to do this job well.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

Having a Bachelor’s Degree, I went through a long process of not knowing what I wanted to do. School does not always provide the same opportunities as hands-on, work experience does and having completed my degree, sometimes I wonder if I would have been better served completing an internship on a farm!

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

I got started because I had some experience with farm work and I needed a job. I don’t know that I would go back and do anything differently because although having a Degree has not directly affected my job, it has made me a more well-rounded person with practical knowledge and skills.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

The strangest thing that has happened to me was when a customer returned a dozen eggs to us. Apparently they went to make eggs one morning and one had a baby chick inside of it! It turned out a dozen eggs had been accidentially collected from the wrong flock by one of our volunteers. It was a good learning opportunity for us!

On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

On days when things are going well, I really enjoy the opportunity to share or listen to stories from the customers. We get all kinds in our shop and it is really interesting to be able to hear about where they come from and their experiences. It is especially satisfying when I can suggest a product or service that makes their lives easier in one way or another.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?

Then again there are those days when nothing goes right and you have to deal with unhappy customers. Our manager handles most of the unhappy customers but we are fortunate because we don’t get very many of them. Farming is an inprecise science sometimes and most of our customers are open minded, flexible people. But it does make me unhappy when we get a customer who didn’t get the service they expected or was unhappy with a product. Sometimes all you can do is try to make it right and offer an apology.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

Fortunately, I consider my job to be pretty easy going and I have been able to maintain a really good balance between my family responsibilities and work.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

Pay for a position like mine is not very high but since it is family owned, there’s a quality of workplace that can’t be beat.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of everything I have learned in the two years I have worked at the shop.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

The most challenging moment I have experienced at my work was when there was a leak in our storage facility and it ruined a large portion of our hay product. We had to deal with a lot of unhappy customers who had placed advance orders and who had to go somewhere else last minute to find replacement hay.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

Most of the skills and education you need for my kind of work is hands-on experience. However, a willingness to work hard, learn, and take responsibility are essential for the this kind of work.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

How’s your back? Not really, but physical fitness does play a role. Because the job can be physically demanding it’s important to consider how it will affect your body and your ability to work over the long term.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

Because it’s a family-run business, they are very lenient when it comes to taking time off. However, the first year I didn’t have any paid vacation. The second year I got five days paid vacation. For such a small business, that’s not bad.

Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

There’s more to farm retail than shoveling manure. There is some scientific, political, and legal stuff to know about the farming business.

Does this job move your heart? If not, what does?

This job is a step toward my passion, which is owning a farm of my own.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

In five years, I hope to own my own Hobby Farm and perhaps have a shop where I can sell my homemade products.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

It doesn’t matter where you come from, who you are, or if you have a degree or no education. It took real life experience to show me where I wanted to in life.

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