Off/Aisle: Everything is discounted and all sales are final

Here is a fairly accurate news article on what these Off/Aisle (O/A) stores are about.  Having worked my first shift only eight hours ago, I can say that the concept is very interesting, and having been through orientation, I like what they’ve done with the brand.  This stores operation targets people like me who don’t mind purchasing things that aren’t brand new, but are in sellable condition.  Are you a college student on a budget?  For both men and women, I saw clothing in this store that I see on people who would have paid nearly triple in regular retail.

I write this article because in my opinion, the journey to get the job was worthy of a story, considering it started with me mistaking a job fair email with a recruiting email.

January 21, 2016 – I received two emails, both from the Job Center of Wisconsin, where I’ve had an active profile since before I relocated here in July.  One email was about a job fair in Racine, and the other was from Kathleen, a recruiter with Kohl’s.  The email stated that Kohl’s was opening a new store that would function like an outlet store.  There were two locations that were opening:  Wauwatosa and Waukesha.  They needed part-time sales associates for both locations.  Even though I was working the overnight shift in the Student Union, being a student, I like to keep my options open.

When I clicked on the links to apply for the job, it wanted me to apply through Brass Ring.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an online application system that some companies have outsourced their application and hiring system through.  Prior to accepting the overnight position, applying for work involves making accounts on at least one of these application systems.  When I tried to login through Brass Ring, the password I’d stored in Safari wouldn’t work.  I tried resetting this password a minimum of six times.

January 27, 2016 – After doing some following up, I find out after some back-and-forth with her over my difficulty of logging in through Brass Ring that she was able to put my job request through using information on LinkedIn.  I eventually received an email request to schedule an interview.  Since the store hadn’t officially opened, it seemed like they were just hiring en-mass, and they were recruiting in groups; turns out, these were all one-on-one interviews.  Nevertheless, I accepted an interview for later that week.

January 31, 2016 – The night of the interview.  Using Google Maps, I plotted directions based on the address given me by Kenexa – the interview scheduling system used by Kohl’s.  The destination literally took me to someone’s house.  At this point, I was fifteen minutes late to this interview.  After driving around for at least twenty minutes, and plotting the same directions in Apple Maps, I ended up leaving.  Being conscientious, I sent Kathleen a follow-up email explaining the difficulty – turns out that I wasn’t the first person to run into this problem.  She was very accommodating and attempted twice to reschedule with me, but in each instance, I was due to be in class.  Since the interviewing window was finite, I effectively lost my chance to be hired insofar as pre-store opening.

I was down, but I wasn’t out.

March 28, 2016 – Connecting with Kathleen through LinkedIn proved invaluable to me being hired.  She made a post about Kohl’s hiring for retail associates for the same two stores, but now active.  I quickly commented that I was interested in again applying for a position.  Within a few hours, I received an email from Kenexa to schedule an appointment for an interview that would take place a few days later.

March 30, 2016 – In what had to be the shortest retail interview I’ve experienced in all my years (approximately nine minutes), I learned about the O/A brand, about Kohl’s as a company, and about what they were looking for.  It didn’t take long for my interviewer to ascertain that the likelihood of me being hired was near 95%.  He even said outright that the hiring was pretty much contingent on my availability and on my background checks coming back clean.  His exact departing words to me, “As soon as you clear that door, I’m going to send an email to HR letting them know that I believe you should be brought on and to start the paperwork.”  You can’t get much more prescient than that.

April 1, 2016 – I receive an email from Kohl’s indicating that there was paperwork they hadn’t received from me.  Reciprocally, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from them about the job.  That same afternoon, I had logged into my UWM email from a campus computer to work on a paper for one of my classes when I discovered that there was six unread emails in the “Clutter” section of my Inbox.  I had to do some Googling, but I learned about what this option was.  Microsoft had moved the offer letter and pre-employment paperwork into the Clutter bin tagging it as low priority; all of it had come in around the time frame my interviewer mentioned.  Being a day later, I quickly clicked on the link to accept the offer and to fill in enough information for them to conduct a background check.  I followed up with Kathleen again to keep her abreast; she confirmed what the next series of emails stated that it could take a few days for my checks to come back normal.

April 7, 2016 – I finally received the email stating that I had been “welcomed to the Kohl’s family.”  I just had to schedule my orientation date.  I suppose one could argue that at this point I had been hired by Kohl’s, but I generally don’t like to consider it official until I have an actual schedule in their system.  When I interviewed, I asked for the flexibility to give UWM two weeks notice as a professional courtesy.  With my overnight schedule, my orientation date options were fairly limited, but one opening was the following day, in the afternoon, coming after a day that I would have worked.  I shrugged as I made the appointment, hoping that I would be able to catch enough of a nap prior to it so that I could at least seem together.

April 8, 2016 – Orientation Day.  I arrived at the store having achieved about three hours of sleep coming off an overnight shift.  I received a copy of the associate handbook, the general manager gave us an overview of what was in the book, and covered the important things.  This wasn’t my first retail job, so most of it was fairly self-explanatory.  I did find it interesting that associates at this store are paid weekly.  In most retail stores, orientation is also where you fill out all the requisite government forms, tax documents, direct deposit, any disclosures, and affirming relevant company policies.  This was one of those days where having a home of record different than your residential address was made more interesting.  As I filled out these sections, I also realized that there would be some information that would change in the coming months.  I also filled out a new availability form and agreed to start on April 25.  There are some people that would have opted to begin working for them immediately and dealt with two jobs for two weeks.  If I hadn’t been working overnights and I had some reasonable assurance that the two wouldn’t overlap, I would have considered it.  I also made it a point to thank Kathleen by email and by recommendation on LinkedIn for helping me get the job.  This serves as two-fold:  Acknowledging her assistance publicly, but also hopefully down the road once I’ve proven myself with the company, and I graduate UWM, she might be the key to me achieving full-time employment.

April 25, 2016 – First shift with O/A store.  Wasn’t too bad – shift was 1600-2130.  My day consisted mostly of keeping the men’s clothing department tidy and ensuring the fitting rooms were picked up and kept clutter-free.  I was also given a brief tour of the store and informed as to how they organized and displayed clothing.  It turns out that even for the “outlet” configuration of the store, there was still a method to how they organized and maintained it.  There were a few occasions where there was clothing to be returned to the sales floor and I ended up bringing it over to that department and did some on the job training.  Sometimes, I would hand it to whoever worked the area to make it more efficient, but in an effort to get to know the store, I did some of it myself.

Ultimately, my goal with this job is to get my foot in the door in hopes that when I graduate UWM, there might be some full-time positions open within the company.  While my goal is also to work in the political world, the career field can fluctuate.  If I were to work full-time for Kohl’s (whether O/A or otherwise), it would be a stable form of income while I pursue my political career goals – mostly in analyzing policy work and working with conservative groups to promote those types of policies.

About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.

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