Embarrassed of Your Retail Job at DRW? You Should Not Be and Definitely Don't Leave it Off Your Resume!

Dear Stephen:

I started my career in sales at Design Within Reach and was eventually promoted to the position of “Proprietor”--DWR speak for Store Manager. I was there a couple of years before the Herman Miller buyout, but best as I can tell many of the very same executives are still in charge and the work environment is similar. I loved my job and the company. I learned so much and loved working around iconic brands. More than anything, my time there gave me insight into what would sell in the future and prepared me for dealing with a smart, high-end retail client base, top manufactures, and customers with good taste. I swear I would be working there today if there was room for career growth that did not involve weekend and retail hours. I am now the president of a high end residential company.

My question isn’t really about me, though. I have a friend who started at DWR with me. This guy puts his entire fab life on Facebook and LinkedIn, but nowhere is there anything about his time at DWR. I love him to death and I guess I am curious about why someone who is clearly comfortable sharing a lot of his life would go out of his way to exclude DWR from his feeds. It seems like he is embarrassed to mention that he began his career at DWR and, for the life of me, I don’t understand why. After I noticed his omission, I began to realize that it was a bit of a pattern. I have another friend who was a contract outside sales rep for DWR when I was there. She recently left the job, but when I looked her up on LinkedIn, she lists her last employer as Herman Miller with their logo and doesn’t mention the DWR division at all. What gives? DWR, and their retail division in particular, was a great learning ground and still is. Are people ashamed of having worked in retail or starting at this multibrand hybrid dealer? What am I missing? None of this makes sense to me!


Proud of My Roots


Dear Proud of My Roots,

I could not agree with you more. My researchers tell us some of the best sales candidates we recruit come from luxury or high-end retailers, including DWR. Although their experience is primarily in inside sales, the learning curve when transitioning to outside sales is pretty forgiving. Not enough contract manufacturers recognize this, however. Selling furniture is not rocket science, especially when the furniture is an iconic brand that everyone knows and wants. It’s a question of learning to plan outside sales calls and learning how to develop relationships. 

But to answer your question more directly: why are people loathe to mention retail experience on LinkedIn? Your guess is as good as mine. But I can tell you that a resume is a semi-legal document and should accurately reflect a person’s employment history. Given how important LinkedIn is, and given how many more people will see one’s LinkedIn profile than will see one’s resume, that profile better be accurate. Whether or not a hiring manager would reject a candidate outright for the DWR/Herman Miller acrobatics, I can’t say, but it would sure give me pause in recommending a client interview a candidate. In the same way that someone might be embarrassed to put a state school on their resume, others might be ashamed to say they worked in retail once upon a time. You really never know what reason someone has for obfuscating their career history. Maybe they didn’t like their boss, or their former company, and they might not want to give them the credit for their current success. Some people who have worked in retail and moved on to the greener pastures of management or outside sales might be embarrassed by the their humble beginnings.

In any case, this is a bad strategy. I can tell you as a recruiter (Design Within Reach isn’t one of our clients, but we have recruited plenty of people from there) that people from DWR have above-average sales talent and market quite well. In fact, if you want good salespeople and want to save the headhunter’s fee, go to your local DWR and collect business cards. It’s an open secret within recruiting circles that the DWR sales staff is excellent and easy to poach. I don’t know of anyone in the industry who would scoff at an outside sales rep who began their career at DWR. As with most things about which people are self-conscious, this neurosis is baseless and creates more headaches than it avoids.

The truth is, I have no idea why people choose to remove past retail jobs from their resumes, but you’re correct in noticing that it happens all the time. We may even know some of the same people who will just pretend that any past retail jobs were bad dreams of more difficult times. But no matter how you slice it, it’s naïve for any salesperson to downplay any type of sales experience on a resume, even if you had to work weekends. Hey, we all had to start our careers somewhere.


Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of The Viscusi Group, a global executive search practice located in New York City. Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins Best-Seller book "Bulletproof Your Job". You can visit his website at www.viscusigroup.com. If you enjoyed this article please like, comment and share.