Most people think that their high school or college retail job is just a means to get the bills paid. While there are many things that make a retail job marketable on a resume, one of the biggest things you can gain from those jobs is customer service experience.
Customer service, when done well, is a true art. Getting strangers to talk to you and connecting with people when they walk onto your sales floor is a skill that takes time to refine. This skill not only helps you make sales and improve customer satisfaction, it is transferable to one of the most intimidating, but crucial parts of being a professional-- networking.
Networking is the number one thing that all the mentors and business professionals I have spoken to have claimed to set people apart from one another. Having a face and a pleasant interaction to go with the name on that application goes so much further than a piece of paper.
Customer service teaches you not to be afraid to approach people.
People can be scary, but they are less scary the more you have interacted with strangers. Customer service is a lot of starting conversations with people that don't know you or necessarily want to talk to you. You learn how to get over the fear of rejection and just to go all in and with your best foot forward every time and it will eventually pay off.
Approaching someone at a conference or a networking event can be nervewracking, but if you have worked in customer service all you have to do is apply the same concepts and you will get a bite.
Customer service teaches you how to read people's acceptance of your invitation to have a conversation.
After working on a sales floor for a while, you begin to sense when a customer doesn't want anything to do with you. You will learn very soon how to sense that early and how to leave the conversation in a way that doesn't leave you looking like an awkward fool.
You can do the same when networking. You will be able to sense if they are not open to a conversation yet and will be able to set that conversation up for a quick introduction and then leaving the ball in their court. You have mastered every escape plan in the book that won't leave a sour taste in anyone's mouth, and it applies to all kind of conversations.
Customer service teaches you how to keep people talking.
Once you find someone who will talk, you have built up a whole arsenal of follow up questions. You know how to keep someone talking and that inherently, most people like to talk about themselves.
You can do the same with people you want to network with. People like to talk about themselves and you can gain valuable insight about how they got to the position they are in and what kind of person they are through these conversations. They will leave the conversation feeling on top of the world and hopefully with a positive note on your business card.