I belong to a Facebook group that is focused on the county where I grew up. Having left that area (for the second and last time) almost twenty years ago, I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on the current lack of job opportunities there. I don’t want to jump in on what is essentially a local debate about the pros and cons of building a new Walmart Supercenter in the largest city and closing the existing smaller store.
I confess that I worked part time at a Walmart store in that county for several years in the 1990s.
I was employed there while I (finally) finished the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Working as a Walmart fabrics and crafts associate wasn’t my idea of a dream job, but employment opportunities were slim in the college town where I attended classes.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of online complaints about Walmart. Two of the major complaints that got my attention were 1) Walmart jobs pay so little that employees often must apply for public assistance in order to support themselves and their families, and 2) Walmart jobs are “soul killing.”
I agree that low paying, associate level big-box store jobs generally are not great jobs for the long run. However, I think those jobs can be good temporary jobs for students or retirement jobs for people who want or need to keep working after retiring. And retail jobs worked for me as “interim jobs” three times while I looked for a better job.
Apparently, I was one of the more fortunate Walmart associates. Unlike some employees, I didn’t need any sort of public assistance while working there. Nope, not even food stamps. I had the resources to pay for my education, personal expenses, and share of the household expenses without help from anyone else.
I didn’t find the job to be soul killing, probably because I knew I wouldn’t be working at Walmart for almost forever. At that time, my hobby was making handcrafted beaded jewelry, so I was working in the department that was the best fit for me. I also had a rudimentary knowledge of sewing, thanks to a few years in 4-H and six months of home economics in the ninth grade. Although I sometimes had to deal with annoying customers, most of the time I enjoyed helping people with their craft or sewing projects.
I did find the job boring at times, usually on a Monday evening when business was slow. During those times, I tried to sneak over to the bargain fabric tables and reorganize the way too high displays of what seemed like a half-zillion bolts of material. That chore was a never-ending battle and a losing one, especially on the busy weekends. That’s when customers managed to destroy the displays within 15minutes after I had reorganized them.
Coworkers sometimes asked if I intended to apply for a full-time job at Walmart after graduating from college. I was tempted to laugh and say, “Are you crazy, why would I want to do that?” But I was brought up to be nice, so I explained that I was working toward a degree in English with concentrations in writing and literature, and I hoped to find a job where I could use my writing and editing skills.
Trouble was, I knew that job probably didn’t exist in the area where I currently lived.
And I was right. In order to find any job that was even remotely connected to my major, I had to move. I moved back to the Southwest, to a larger city where I had an employment history and where I knew I could find better opportunities.
After working as a document analyst/quality checker at the place I call The Zoo, I was hired as a staff assistant at a nonprofit organization. I was promoted to an editing position fifteen months later. I worked at that organization for almost eight years before I decided to retire from full-time brick and mortar employment.
In hindsight, working at Walmart wasn’t my best job, but it wasn’t my worst job, either.
Would I ever want to work at Walmart again? Honestly? No, but I was grateful to have that job when I needed it. And I met some very nice people there, both customers and co-workers.