Ron Thurston built his retail career over more than 25 years from part-time sales associate to leading retail teams for some of America’s most prominent brands like Apple, Tory Burch, Saint Laurent, and INTERMIX. By owning the fact that his career was an accident, Ron creates space to empower other retail professionals to envision a long, successful future for themselves in one of the largest industries in the world.
The retail industry employs over 40 million people in the U.S. each year. It’s the furthest thing from a dead-end job, yet retail is sorely lacking in professional development resources and in a time where many candidates are looking for career pivots or new opportunities in Ron’s book, Retail Pride, The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Retail Career, he shares actionable takeaways and uplifting messages we all need to keep positive and on the right track in efforts to reach all of our career goals. It is relatable information that can be shared throughout any industry.
In the #MethodMasters blog today, Ron shares his thoughts on all things hiring, pivoting and how to stand out in the interview process, coming from a Senior Executive who undoubtedly has interviewed thousands of candidates during his career.
With your new book Retail Pride, The Guide to Celebrating Your Accidental Career, what do you hope someone takes away from all of the fantastic insights you share?
“I want it to be clear to the millions of people who work in retail that regardless of the role you have today or dream of having tomorrow, there has never been a more critical time to work in retail, to love what you do, and be better at it than you ever have before.”
“And when I say there has never been a more critical time, I mean that our ability to build the future of retail, test new ideas, create positive momentum, and re-engage the customers are all on the table in 2021.”
As an industry executive, I know you have hired A LOT of people. What do you believe a candidate needs to nail in an interview to make a lasting impression with a hiring manager?
“Grit, hard work, hustle, pride, empathy, curiosity, and focus. Whatever you choose to call it, the magic ingredient for retail career success and satisfaction is self-determination.”
“Don’t wait for a hiring manager to explain all of the ins and outs of the company. Have the self-determination to do the hard it takes to make an impact on your first day. Every hiring manager wants to hear that.”
In your opinion, what are three things someone looking for a new job or career pivot can do to get noticed in a robust candidate pool when applying to a job?
“In my book, I describe the three pillars of success in retail that I believe need to be clearly communicated in a job interview, no matter the role. The conversations about these three pillars are endless but make no mistake; they will get you noticed.”
“First, empathy. This is your ability to have honest conversations about how you have demonstrated the skills to connect with anyone you meet. As a leader, as a sales associate or a multi-store leader, it always starts with empathy.”
Second, your curiosity. This about not being afraid of the unknown, including a new product category that you have not sold before, and how you continue to develop your knowledge base through exceptional curiosity.”
“And last, your ability to focus. This is about how you create space and time to focus, how you schedule un-productive time to make your work time more productive, and how you have lead teams to success by keeping them focused on goals.”
When you are interviewing someone, what always stands out the most to you as you are getting to know a candidate?
“The one thing that always stands out is a candidate’s ability to share their story without a reference to your resume. I often start with “tell me your story without speaking about work”. It’s surprisingly hard for most people!”
For someone looking to pivot into a different category of retail (i.e., Fashion to Beauty, etc.), how can someone make this change to be considered at this time not having specific category experience?
“There is a special light that shines brighter in retail people. We have a natural sense of positivity, a constant drive to improve, deliver the best results, hustle, and connect. And none of this is category-specific. I have personally sold baby clothes, computers, furniture, chinos, and luxury handbags, and more. And the skills I developed over decades doing this are the same three pillars I referenced, and great leadership is the same regardless of what you sell. Don’t let the lack of experience diminish your confidence in learning a new category.”
At this moment, we all need some Ron Wisdom. What is the best thing someone reading this today can action in their day to day to stay positive with all that is going on in retail?
“Think about how strong you are, how much you love what you do, how hard you have worked to succeed in your accidental career, and how proud you are of the teams you have led.”
“And when you fully commit and decide that you’re proud of what you do, it stops being an accidental career.”
How do you stay motivated to keep things going even through the most challenging times?
“In a self-taught industry like retail, we all have the opportunity every day to shape future leaders by creating positive and inspired team members who can go on to highly successful retail careers. Nothing inspires pride like thinking about all of the people I have positively impacted and supported their growth. That keeps me going every day! ”
“Ron Thurston loves retail. And he’s proud of it. Ron has led the retail teams for some of America’s most prominent brands, inspired thousands of store employees, and traveled relentlessly across the country to sit and listen to what they have to say.
From a part-time sales associate to a vice president of stores, Ron has put in the hard work that a retail career requires and wrote this book to share what he learned along the way.
Ron is a fourth-generation Californian, but he and his husband now live in Manhattan.”
About Retail Pride:
When will you get a real career? When will you stop working nights and weekends? When do you plan to use your college degree? If you work in retail, these are questions you often hear.
Does this make you feel like the career you love was all just an accident? You’re not alone. The retail industry employs millions, yet most people don’t end up there by design.
Ron Thurston wrote Retail Pride as an indispensable guide for every retail employee, manager, and multi-store leader looking to accelerate their potential and grow their career. It’s filled with straightforward, practical tips for developing your talents, connecting with customers, and building your leadership skills.
Based on more than twenty-five years of Ron’s retail leadership experience, you’ll discover a sense of belonging in the words of someone who has been a champion for the industry and shares your journey.