Table of contents

How to Get Out of Retail Without a Degree
Career Change

How to Get Out of Retail Without a Degree

The fast-paced life of retail isn’t for everyone — and even if it was at one point in your life, it’s okay to change your mind. Fortunately, if you can deal with annoying customers and stressful seasonal sales, you can handle anything — here’s how to launch a career change.

Nelson Marteleira
September 10, 2022

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Ready for the next step?

If you want to get out of retail but don’t have a degree, reading through many of the internet’s suggestions for a career change may be disheartening. It can seem like you need an advanced degree in finance or STEM if you ever hope to earn above the average wage, leaving you doomed to stay on the shop floor forever. But don’t fall into this pessimism — opportunities are out there if you know where to find them.

We’ll run through some of the best careers to pivot into from a background in retail, along with some tips for how you can harness your existing skills to achieve success.

Our #1 Recommended Career: Become a Citizen Developer

Tech savvy woman building software using a laptop. On the wodden desk also a notebook, glasses, cellphone and some decor
Become a citizen developer!

You’re probably already aware of how much retail has become digitized over recent years, not least the trend toward ecommerce. You might even be worried that you’ll lose your job to automation and AI — after all, we’ve already seen robots replace the likes of warehouse operatives and cashiers.

As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them — so why not become the one creating the programs changing your industry? As you’re probably already aware, the tech sector is booming — in the US, it has a 1.8% unemployment compared to the national average of 3.6%, and hundreds of thousands of new jobs are posted on jobs sites each month

What you may not realize is that the world of tech isn’t as elitist as many people assume. In fact, thanks to the sheer demand for workers and the willingness of many companies in the space to “shake things up” and wave goodbye to traditional standards, it can actually be one of the more accessible industries. You often don’t need a degree if you can prove that you have the skills needed for a job, and those skills don’t always involve coding. 

The role of the “citizen developer” is emerging, and it’s a promising career path for anyone prepared to try something different.

What do citizen developers do?

Yes! You can build programs and applications without code

Essentially, a citizen developer builds programs and applications without knowing coding languages. How? In the same way as someone who isn’t an expert in creating digital designs from scratch using programs like Illustrator can still produce great work using a tool like Canva (or even Paint) if they have a good eye for what they’re doing and an intuitive understanding of the process.

Equally, if you understand the logic behind programming and what it’s aiming to achieve, you should be able to write a program without knowing how to code. You’ll still need to put some time and hard work into learning citizen development, but it’s more within reach than traditional development (without serious study). 

Average citizen developer salary


Can retail workers really become citizen developers?

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It's intuitive! You already have tech bases

The clue is in the name here — citizen development was introduced to allow standard “citizens” to become developers.

Besides, even if you don’t think your career is very high-tech, chances are that you already need to use software to track inventory, orders, or similar as part of retail. This means you’ll have some level of intuitive understanding of what a program is supposed to do, giving you a base to work from that people from completely non-digital areas may lack. Don’t undersell yourself!

Plus, retail is at the center of many businesses — you’re interacting with both customers and the supply chain and handling products firsthand. As a result, you’ll have picked up some solid business logic along the way and should have a balanced view of how a company operates. Again, this is something you can use when building apps and programs for organizations, who are likely to deal with similar challenges.

How to kickstart your career as a citizen developer

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Put that plan in motion! Start with nocode courses

If you’re starting to believe that you’re up to the challenge of no-code, that’s half the battle done already. Now, you just have to put a plan in motion — because in most cases, you’re not going to get hired straight out of the door with no experience, no matter how much potential you may have.

However, that doesn’t have to mean taking out a six-month unpaid internship or forking out for an entire university degree. There are plenty of short courses that can get you up to speed in no time.

One is the No Code Institute’s No-Code Foundations Program. In just seven weeks, you’ll learn how to create the main types of no-code applications (such as databases, websites, and apps) through video lessons, receive personal support from mentors, and access resources to help you prepare for making applications as a full-time career.

Nocode Institute Foundations Program banner: Re-invent your career in 7 weeks with nocode.
Nocode Institute Foundations Program

It also helps to have a plan about which area you want to specialize in, though you can always decide this later on once you have a better grip of what the different aspects of citizen development look like. Many people think coding is just web or app development, but it can also mean creating tools and automations for internal business systems that are used by workers like you. If you’re unsure about what you want to focus on now, you might be able to decide after learning more about no-code.

Other Recommend Careers

If the thought of a glimmering tech career just isn’t doing it for you, that’s okay. Everyone is different, and you may not like the idea of sitting in front of a screen all day or would prefer a job that uses other skills. Here are our top alternative suggestions.

1. Bank branch manager

Still want to work with a team but fancy moving away from retail? You may be interested in pursuing a career as a bank branch manager, which involves managing the bank’s internal team as well as providing customer service and even helping coordinate sales and marketing activities. It’s often varied and can pay well.

2. Insurance agent

The financial industry is known for being lucrative, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that another role from this world has made it onto our list. Insurance agents advise customers on financial products and insurance, so you’ll be doing a mixture of sales work and providing financial advice. You’ll need a license to be able to sell insurance, but a degree isn’t required.

3. Business development 

If you want to keep your core skillset but don’t quite fancy sales, consider business development instead. Although similar to sales, business development focuses more on helping a company to grow and making strategic decisions about partnerships. Could it be your next challenge?

4. Event manager

Many people like the idea of planning exciting and glamorous events, from festivals to corporate conferences. This makes it a competitive area — but there are no specific requirements, so if you’re a self-starter and prepared to start your way up, it can be a fulfilling career. Plus, the demand for in-person events is greater after the pandemic.

5. Digital marketer

If you like the idea of working in the tech industry but you don’t see yourself becoming a developer of any form, why not consider marketing instead? Since most of us interact with marketing in some way as consumers, it may be more intuitive than development — and as it’s a growing area, there are lots of free courses online to learn the ropes.

How to Plan Your Career Change from Retail

Now you’re hopefully feeling inspired about all the opportunities out there, it’s time to fill you in on some practical steps you can take to get your career change moving.

Core skill topics: experience, training, competence, learning, knowledge, advanced training, growth, ability
Combine your skills towards your goals

Take advantage of your core skills

You’re moving to a brand new career, but that doesn’t mean everything you learned in your retail job will go to waste. When you make your first applications, highlight your transferable skills and how they’ll help you succeed in your new career.

1. Communication 

Whether you’re dealing with a difficult customer or an employee struggling to learn the ropes, communication is at the heart of a retail manager’s role. It might not seem like a crucial part of being a developer, but you’ll need to communicate with clients or your team to understand the purpose of what you’re creating.

2. Using initiative 

There’s no handbook for being a perfect retail manager — and if there is, it’s probably missing thousands of possible scenarios. You have to think of innovative solutions constantly and learn to trust your own judgment. 

3. Handling pressure

In retail, you never know what could happen next. A fight could break out on the shop floor, you could receive the wrong delivery, or the electricity could go out. In all these situations, you have to solve a problem without letting the pressure get to you. That will stand you in good stead in almost all jobs.

4.Attention to detail

Does the inventory log quite line up with the stock you have with you? Is one of the products on the shop floor showing damage? Is there an extra zero on the records for the day? You need a keen eye for detail in retail, so be sure to highlight it.

5.Commercial awareness

Working in retail might not be the most glamorous or high-prestige role, but it gives you a great insight into the inner workings of a business. You can instantly see what helps a product succeed or fail and how policies implemented by management affect a business. Even if you take that for granted, it’s valuable stuff.

Look for opportunities in your current workplace

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Show excitement and belief in your values! You never know who's paying attention

You might assume that making a career change means you need to get a new employer, but this isn’t always the case. Since the tech industry is growing so fast, chances are that your organization isn’t exempt from the general trends. It may even be hiring developers, marketers, or other digitally-focused employees right now. Why shouldn’t you be one of them?

There’s no harm in asking — but whoever you approach, make sure you go to them armed with the value you can provide and not the attitude that they’re the one doing you a favor.

Make your job search your full-time job

If you’re not able to land a new role with your current organization, that’s okay — but it probably means you’ll need to put some serious work into your job search. It’s harder to find a job when you don’t have experience, as every graduate or school leaver will know. You’ll be returning to that world to some extent, even if you do have experience now.

So, instead of giving yourself a reason to give up prematurely, treat your search like a full-time job by sticking to a schedule each day to make applications or study. Why not schedule different blocks of time for bookmarking potential posts, writing cover letters, and studying? Or use the Pomodoro method to make it easier to focus during each block?

Ready to Upskill?

Once the planning phase it’s done, it’s time to start turning your ambitions into reality. Since it’s a given you won’t have experience when making a career change, upskilling is a must — here’s how to do it.

Set your goals

Smart goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timed
Ready... set... GOALS!

SMART goals have become close to lore in the productivity world, and it’s for a good reason. Many people end up feeling disheartened in their job search and think that, because they haven’t achieved the results they wanted, they just weren’t good enough. In reality, the problem can often be traced back to their approach.

SMART goals encourage you to set a specific goal that is also measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This forces you to figure out the outcome you want and ensure you’re doing activities that will help you get there. “Getting a job” isn’t a great SMART goal; instead, think of what you can do that’s within your control to help you find work. For instance, it might be to complete a course within the next month or make at least two applications daily. 

If a month passes and you’ve stuck to your goal but haven’t received many invitations to interview, it may be time to switch things up.

Become an industry expert

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Find relevant content to keep updated and in the loop

Learn about the sector you’re going into and the challenges that businesses in that area face. Can you find relevant industry publications, blogs, news outlets, podcasts, or even YouTube channels to keep you in the loop? Choose your preferred medium and make it part of your daily routine to keep yourself updated. After all, getting a job isn’t just about your skills — it’s about understanding the context.

This type of info is great to bring up in interviews and shows how passionate you are about the career you hope to move into, which may give the interviewer more hope considering you’re a career switch.

Look for relevant courses

We’ve mentioned the importance of education and training a few times already, and that’s because they really are non-negotiable. The good news is that there are opportunities out there, even if you don’t have the time or budget to study a course full-time or get an official license.

No matter what you want to go into, the internet is full of free resources and videos. Some sites to check out are Coursera and EdX, and there are others catered to specific careers and skills. For instance, Google Digital Garage is ideal for digital marketing.

Get networking

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Network, a powerful tool

Most people dread the prospect of networking. But the unfortunate truth is that it really does help you with landing a position. On the bright side, it doesn’t have to be scary or difficult — think about it simply as meeting new people to learn more about the industry you want to go into.

These days, networking doesn’t even have to take place in person. If you don’t already have LinkedIn, consider creating a profile and adding the people in your network already (e.g., people you know). Then, you can join groups related to your desired career, which is a great way to meet people organically by participating in discussions. Maybe it could lead to an interview?

Or, if you’re feeling brave, make a post outlining your intentions to transition into a certain career. Someone you know may be willing to help, or even a connection of one of your connections.

Is Tech Calling? No-Code Institute Can Help

We’ve mentioned the importance of upskilling and continuing your education more than once already, and that’s because it really is a crucial step in landing the career of your dreams.

No Code Institute offers accessible courses that are perfectly suited to those moving away from non-digital careers like retail. The programs talk you through every step involved in no-coding with a mixture of interactive activities, assignments you’ll receive feedback on, and even direct communication with experts. By the end, you’ll be ready to jump straight into a job in the area.

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Nocode Foundations Program

Make that Career Change Happen

A career change is always going to be scary, but if you know deep down it’s the right move for you, sooner is better than later. Taking baby steps today will help you secure the future you want and need for yourself. Make it happen!

If you think the no-code world would suit you, why not find out for yourself? Apply for the next program, or stay updated for the next one through the newsletter.

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Nelson Marteleira

Nelson is the co-founder NoCode Institute. He is an experienced NoCode specialist and developer with a solid portfolio. Nelson helps bring ideas to reality.

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