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Transitioning from Retail to a Career in Web Design and Development

  /  Transitioning from Retail to a Career in Web Design and Development
box store

Odds are you will have between 10 – 15 different jobs and will change whole industries.

Today I read about another major retailer going out of business, shutting down stores and laying off employees. My heart goes out to the employees who have spent years working for companies that shut down on just a moment’s notice.

At one time, working in retail was a reliable means to provide for a family. I briefly worked in retail and enjoyed working with co-workers to meet customer needs.

With traditional retail stores closing at alarming rates, people are realizing that working in retail is no longer a safe bet. A worker in previous generations might have stayed with one employer for his or her entire career.

But with today’s changing economy, most people now will have between ten and fifteen different jobs throughout their lifetimes. Today’s retail ex-pats (I wonder if I can coin that phrase?) should realize they have valuable skills that can be transferred to other industries.

closed door

Retail is not the safe bet it was just a few years ago.

I want you consider a career path that offers a median salary of $73K and up to $150K per year. Web design and development is a fast-growing STEM industry that offers flexible and fun careers to those who don’t want to report to an office every day.

Believe it or not, retail skills can transfer well to web design and development. Many people have already made the switch from retail to STEM careers, and with new technical skills, you can too. Read on for more.

What Do Web Designers and Developers Do?

Web Designer

Web Developers help businesses bring their product stories to life on the web.

Broadly speaking, web designers and developers work with clients to market products and services online.

Designers utilize text, images and video to create websites and reach intended audiences. Developers write the code that provides the technical foundation of these websites.

Most web designers and developers keep a foot in both the design and coding worlds. The beauty of this career is that you can weave elegant design with rock-solid code to create a compelling website for your client and site visitors.

By merging visual and technical solutions, web designers and developers help their clients succeed and meet business goals.

How Does Retail Experience Relate to a Career in Web Design and Development?


Retail can be frustrating and repetitive at times. Web Development is challenging, exciting and always offering something new.

First, I want to acknowledge that the idea of leaving retail and the comradery of the breakroom can be a bit scary. If you have been in a job for a long time, there is a comfort level that comes with knowing how each day will play out.

However, retail can also be incredibly frustrating and exhausting. If you are seeking to move on from retail, a career in a STEM field can be a great option. Allow me to explain why web design and development should be at the top of your list.

experience meter

Bring your retail skills and experience with you to a new and exciting career.

Retail ex-pats (I am still trying to coin a phrase here) have excellent skills like working under pressure, talking through problems, taking on new responsibilities, managing time, taking initiative, and serving each and every customer with empathy and respect.

Retail helps you learn how to focus on what you can control and not worry so much about the “overly concerned customer in aisle 3” (sorry…I am having a retail flash back…breathe…ok, ready to continue).

In retail, you help people figure out what service or product is right for them. Guess what? Much of that is at the core of what a web designer does, except instead of standing in a store, designers and developers figure out what their clients want.

Web designers and developers take client ideas, products, and services, and help sell them to targeted audiences.

Benefits of a Career in Web Design and Development

laptop table

Flexible – Work Anywhere

According to research, 30 percent of the U.S. working population currently freelances in some capacity, and that will grow to 51 percent by 2020. Surveys of freelancers show that they are happier and earn more than in previous office jobs. This isn’t a surprise: when the most recent recession hit, companies began to seek way to cut costs.

They began to hire contractors who could work from home, saving on rent, insurance, and utility costs, and allowing freelancers more flexibility over when and where they could work. Web design and development is one of the growing STEM careers that offers unparalleled flexibility and opportunities to work on impactful projects.

How Can I Get Started?

Career sign

If you are new, then don’t worry – choose an online course rich with video, projects and an industry certification.

One of the wonderful things about the coding industry is that you don’t need a four-year degree (or even a two-year degree) to become a trained professional. To get started, you will need to gain technical skills, whether it be through online resources, books, or more organized courses.

The easiest way to learn web design and development is to use media-rich courses that utilize projects and tutorial videos to engage you. I am partial to online courses that allow you to play around and “sandbox” your practice work, as I believe this is a great way for learning at your own speed.

For tools, all you need is a browser, text editor. You want to avoid courses that teach specific applications like Adobe Dreamweaver and WordPress. Both of these are great tools, but In my experience, companies want people who don’t rely on a specific tool.  Learn the basics first.


Choose a course that will help you create your portfolio and brand yourself as a web developer.

In the course style I am suggesting, as you learn, you will build real projects and create a digital  portfolio site that will showcase your skills story to potential employers. This is important to demonstrate your technical aptitude and ability to successfully develop and guide a project from beginning to end.

You can also gain in-demand industry certifications to prove to companies you have a comprehensive skill set and are ready to produce for them on day one. Side note: as someone who has worked in retail, you know when something is real or not.

All I can say is avoid industry certifications from testing companies. It’s wise to seek a less biased source, like professional associations, as they are more interested in measuring technical aptitude and proficiency. Companies will place a higher value on more meaningful certifications.

This all may sound a bit scary, but that is why you take a course and not go at this all alone.


Don’t overlook the importance of gaining your first industry credentials.

To be completely transparent, I am not a professional career coach or workforce counselor. However, I am an employer who has worked with people who came to me after working in retail and combined their retail skills with new web development skills.

I have seen retail ex-pats successfully transition to the world of web design and development. Recently, we had 26 people working on a project and most of the members of the web team had spent time in retail and restaurants before switching to web development.

I have also had the pleasure of witnessing adults retraining from the inside in my duties as an adjunct instructor for adult education web design and mobile app design and development courses.

online laptop

Online courses allow you to learn anytime and anywhere. Choose a course that will let you learn at your own speed.

A great course to jump start your education and training is the online web design course found on WorldEducation.net. The site can also point you to local colleges and workforce centers that offer the same course for credit.

This engaging course features over 200 engaging videos that will tutor you step by step, perfect for visual learners. I have taught this particular course and have seen students have amazing success.

You can check it out on the World Education site. For students who would also like to learn about mobile app design and development, World Education offers that as well.

Both of these courses include an industry exam voucher, and the two industry certifications stack together into the upper level certification in high demand among employers. Note that there are similar courses out there – these are just examples to show you that a new career path in web design and development is attainable for those who wish to pursue it.

A Career in Web Design and Development is Possible  

laptop beach

I believe all of us who work in Web Development are blessed with the opportunity to work from most anywhere.

Be proud of what you have done and learned in retail: through valuable experience, you have gained many valuable skills. You learned how to take responsibility, solve problems, understand and meet customer needs, and more.

Take it from a business owner and entrepreneur who has spent time in both the retail and coding worlds: you can take this experience and build on it to enter the exciting and rapidly expanding world of web design and development.

Good Luck and Have Fun – Steve


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