Always looking for different viewpoints from individuals to share with run specialty retailers faced with the ongoing challenge of finding and keeping good employees, Running Insight asked recent college graduate (BA Journalism, University of Alabama, 2021) Isabel Scipio for her thoughts on what young women are looking for as they enter a competitive and unique business environment in 2022. Here she provides her thoughts on what retailers should be looking to provide young employees and what her generation can offer.

The imagery for graduation looks similar for most college students — a turned tassel, a wave to a beaming support system in the seats of the auditorium and a brisk walk across the stage. By the time their diploma is in their hands, two words are cluttering the graduates’ minds: “What now?” 

Most have little time to enjoy their degree before the real world, mentors or older family members are pushing them to put it to use. The post-grad job search is a source of headache among many twenty-somethings trying to find their place in a world that is seemingly oversaturated with better versions of them already — better resumes, better connections, better chances. 

So, where do they go from here? 

A Turn to Local Retailers

More times than not, the small business or retailer in their hometown is their next stop. When they arrive they usually are met with conditions reminiscent of adolescence — strict hours, minimum wage and no clear sign of a career path or chance for growth within the company. 

Hiring managers possess the ability to give the candidate an opportunity, or leave them jobless. However, college graduates carry tools that warrant far more than being a face behind a cash register, an eye on the sales floor or someone to unlock a dressing room.

Helping to Close the Digital Divide 

More than ever, young adults are the carriers of endless information. Between accessibility through social media and the knowledge acquired as a result of four-plus years spent at school, college graduates are brimming with insight that retail business owners operating in the bubble of a small town simply don’t have access to. These recent graduates are eager and willing to share that expertise and can be an invaluable resource to independent store owners whose strengths are in purchasing, merchandising and selling ­— not blogging or TikTok.

Take, for example, online platforms such as Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter that are curated experiences to each user’s respective interests, a constant influx of information and in turn, a map towards what the world is talking about. Trends from fashion styling to athletic training to productivity hacks are accessible by way of a few minutes of scrolling on any platform. 

While members of older generations – yes, that means many in the run specialty retail world – roll their eyes at the modern fixation on technology, the truth is that the world is evolving from one minute to the next and twenty-somethings are seeing it all. 

Beyond an online presence, the time graduates spent in college was dedicated to equipping themselves with the skills to contribute to society, both in and outside the confines of their respective fields. These individuals have the knowledge and education to make a change and are actively in search of the opportunity to put them to use. 

Changing Workplace Models

With each generation, traditional workplace models are shifting and as a result of COVID working remotely is more prevalent than ever before. It is this environment in which recent younger workers can excel.

Samantha Retana, a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Georgia, lists accessibility in her requirements for her post-grad job search. She believes that because many college graduates are moving away from the corporate workspace, it’s imperative that a job allows her the opportunity to work from home when possible. 

Along with flexible hours and benefits, Retana emphasizes the fact that she not only hopes for a livable wage, but one that is equal to her male counterparts. 

“As cliché as it sounds, women are still fighting the patriarchy when it comes to pay,” she says. “When I find a job in my male-dominated field, it will most likely be a man who has the ability to choose between giving me the job or not.

“There’s a lot of big companies that I’d like to work for, but I’d rather go to a smaller name that values me, allows me to work my way up within the company and pays me accordingly,” she adds. 

It’s no surprise that along with changes in work scenery, twenty-somethings no longer wish to accept the bare minimum. Benefits, flexibility, opportunity for upward mobility and compensation for their time are high on the totem pole, according to Aya Lechin, a graphic designer and college graduate, who says that the environment in her workspace makes a huge difference in her productivity. 

“I feel like a positive environment and knowing that my work is being valued helps me to create at a much higher quality,” she says. 

A True Partnership

The relationship between store owners and college graduates can, and should, be mutually beneficial. Recent graduates come armed with enthusiasm, insight and the potential to elevate any job they tackle, if provided with the space to do so. 

At the same time, small business owners such as run retailers possess the life experience and the foundation on which these individuals can build a career. 

While local businesses may have smaller names, there is an immense advantage and potential to flourish from the inside out. By fostering relationships, rewarding college graduates for their knowledge and time and choosing to curate an enriching workspace, independent run retailers can make way for massive growth and, in turn, will have employees who are dedicated not only to doing their job well, but playing a key role in the success of the business.