If you’re tech-savvy, a conversationalist, and a people person, a position in tech retail could be a great fit for you
First published in jobpostings magazine
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You scroll through your contacts list with a swipe of your the finger on the touch screen of your latest smartphone. The playlist on your MP3 player blasts music to your ears via a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You love your gadgets. You know them inside out. So why not turn that knowledge into a job with a technology retailer?
Openings in tech retail—sales associates, customer service representatives, and product specialists—are out there, and more are likely on the way. Microsoft plans to open its first Canadian retail outlet in Toronto’s Yorkdale mall this fall, while Samsung opened its first North American store in Burnaby last July.
The global tech retail industry grew steadily over the last five years and is expected to grow through to 2017. Rising consumer incomes, new retail outlets, and changing lifestyles are driving the rising demand in tech retail, according to a report on the technology retail industry by market research firm Lucintel.
“The ideal candidate for our retail locations would have previous retail or customer service experience,” says Melissa McCague, recruitment coordinator at The Source. “We look for people who are professional and confident enough to approach customers and engage them in the sales conversation.”
McCague adds that a strong understanding of current and developing technology is a major plus. That knowledge of technology helped Ricardo Vazquez land a job as a product specialist at the Apple store while he was in his third year at University of Toronto Mississauga, where he specialized in visual culture and communication.
“I had a little retail experience and I didn’t take any specific courses for the position, but I had enough passion for the products,” says Vazquez. “Apple was looking for someone with excellent communication skills and a personality that was worth remembering.”
Beyond personality and communication skills, it helps if you’re knowledgeable not only of tech products, but peripheral information like service plans. Richard Lemieux is the owner of the Calgary outlet of Cell Phone Repair, a store specializing in repairing cell phones, tablets, GPS units, and other devices.
“We deal with people who have phones on different plans,” says Lemieux, “so we have to know about contracts, renewal dates, and replacement plans, to help customers decide whether it’s best to repair a phone or hold out until a contract is up for renewal.”
Tech retail jobs come with their own set of challenges, like unfriendly or impatient customers, and sometimes simply too many customers.
“During product launches, the store had a surreal number of customers, and we had to provide individual attention to every customer,” says Vazquez. While providing one-on-one support was part of the territory, Vazquez notes that teamwork within the store was a normal part of the workday, with staff specializing in different areas coming together to help customers work out their quandaries.
Being able to solve problems and work in an ever-changing environment that promotes continuous learning are some of the rewards that come from a position in tech retail.
Say you’re on the sales floor, showing a customer how to tweet from a new tablet. Is that as far as a tech retail job can go? Certainly not, according to McCague. “We have many great stories of associates that come from the store level and grow with the company to senior positions within merchandising, marketing, and e-commerce. We provide training courses for all associates to ensure they are current on products, company policies, procedures, and relevant legislation,” she says.