Lessons I Learned From My Sears Internship

I spent the summer of my college junior year doing an internship for Sears Holdings Corporation as a college field intern for my local Sears store; it was located at the Clackamas Town Center Mall. The internship consisted of shadowing current assistant store managers with the hope that I will join their ranks when I graduated from college. My duties included approving price changes, handling customer issues, overseeing employee evaluations, support the assistant store managers, operations manager, and store manager, and anything else that the company needed. It was my first internship and it was a great experience that I will never forget because not only did I learn how to treat and handle customers, the internship provided me with the knowledge of what it’s like to work in an office environment. I learned what’s it like to work with coworkers who have different views; I also met good and bad coworkers and learned many things about the working world and life from them. There were a few exchanges that I had during the internship which stuck in my mind and made me think about how I should go about my career and life in general.

I had worked at Sears before but only as a seasonal sales associate during high school and my main job duties were just handling customer inquiries, working the cash register, and restocking merchandise. Therefore I remembered a little bit of how the register worked but I was still a novice at it so when I was asked to help with some “cash wraps” (the hub where the cash registers are located) because there was a long line of customers. I felt a little overwhelmed because I didn’t know how to look up prices if it didn’t show up or how to handle returns properly. So a customer line was starting to form behind my register so I asked a older fellow associate if she could help me and she responded “You’re young, you can figure it out yourself.” And I was shocked at her response because I thought she would help me. I later told a coworker about the incident and she told me that the person I asked for help doesn’t really like new employees and that was probably the reason for her rudeness. I was also wearing a blue lanyard which meant I’m a sales associate when managers wear red lanyards but I wasn’t given a red one because they had ran out. So a few days passed and that same sales associate came over to me and said she was sorry and that she didn’t know I was a manager. I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly but then she followed up with some more apologies and asked if I needed help with anything… It definitely sheds a new light on how I viewed employees and how they treat each other and their supervisors. I was still very young at that time and I was surprised when she treated me completely different when she found out that I was a manager and not a regular sales associate. This taught me to treat all your employees the same no matter their position because you never know what they will achieve later in life or maybe that they already have that position but you just don’t know it.

One day I was eating lunch when a fellow coworker sits next to me and we start chatting it up. He sold shoes in the footwear department and has been working with Sears for several years now. He talked about his future plans and how he wanted to study architecture and also landscaping so that he could design every aspect of the building. I questioned him if that was a good idea since it might be easier to subcontract out one or the other and just focus on one field. His response was that he already had his mind set and believes this will help him become a better designer by learning every aspect. He then proceeded to ask me what kind of car I drive and I told him an old Toyota Camry. He said “Why is that I am only a few years older than you yet I drive a BMW and you don’t?” I was like WTF? Where did that come from but my response was “I don’t know man, I guess you got more style than me.” Lame response I know but I wasn’t going to say anything else because 1. I was a manager and 2. I really didn’t give a shit. At that point in my life, I had gained enough confidence in myself to know that I don’t need material possessions to validate anything in my life. I also knew I had a bright future ahead of me and if I wanted a BMW in the future, I don’t think I would have any problem affording one. As I look back on that conversation now, I have much more knowledge and I know the true cost of luxury cars. There are many people who buy them but they can’t actually “afford” them without sacrificing some part of their financial freedom. I’ve also read “The Millionaires Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko and learned the fact that the majority of millionaires spend around $32,000 for their cars because they don’t make good investment sense. I remembered my parent’s asking me what my dream car would be and I said a Honda S2000 and they asked me why I didn’t pick some grander car like a Ferrari. I responded that I really don’t need an expensive car to show people that I’m rich. All I want is the ability to be confident in myself so that I don’t need to rely on other people’s perception of me.

I really enjoyed my internship at Sears and especially the other managers I shadowed. The operations manager was my favorite and we got along very well; I would love to work with him in the future because we would joke around and gel very nicely. He also took me under his wing and showed me the ropes which I really appreciated. That was my first experience being a manager and it showed me what kind of people skills you needed to be a great one. It also required a lot of emotional intelligence and the ability to separate emotions from business. I hope that someday I can become a manager where others will respect me and be able to tell me what the candidly think so that we can make the business grow together.

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