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Thelma Adams

March 10, 2021

So much more than cauliflower gnocchi. TBD whether you'll have to wear that Hawaiian shirt.

There's a reason that when you pass the floral arrangements and enter Trader Joe's the workforce is smiling and responsive. This grocery store, headquartered in Monrovia, California, ranks eighteenth on the Glassdoor Best Places to Work list, with an 84 percent recommended rate among the employees surveyed.

You don't need a degree to get started at the growing chain (it has over 450 stores in the U.S.) that's based its reputation on low-cost and high-quality produce, healthy prepared food, and a friendly shopping environment. But you shouldn't discount its merit as an employer based on academic requirements. The privately held company employs over 38,000 nationwide.

What's the deal with the grocery industry overall?

For a broader perspective, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the grocery industry employs 2,692,460 individuals. The mean hourly wage for these workers is $13.20 and average annual earnings are $27,600. Within management occupations, it employs 43,040 with a mean hourly wage of $38.23 and annual of $79,520. Compensation at Trader Joe's sits well above the industry average; according to the store's website, entry-level "crew members" earn between $10 and $18 per hour (depending on location and experience), with opportunities for raises of seven to ten percent annually.

What are the entry-level jobs at Trader Joe's, and do you need a degree to get them?

Post-secondary degrees are not required for entry-level positions at TJ's.

The basic application form doesn't even ask for anything more than your high school experience. According to their website: "We are looking for hard-working, fun people—people with a passion for food, learning, and creating delight for others. We take our job seriously, wear ourselves lightly, and are always looking to improve our Crew."

There are abundant entry-level jobs on the in-store crew. With a vertical responsibility strategy, these jobs include working as cashier, stocking shelves, sweeping the floors, manning the sample tables and assisting customers – and ensuring the welcoming customer service that is central to the company's brand. Crew members rotate through these tasks to promote flexibility and mitigate tedium. Bonus? 10 percent off your groceries. And, yes, you will have to wear a Hawaiian shirt.

Workers receive medical benefits and pensions after three months on the job; after six, those that demonstrate teamwork and good customer service can be promoted from Crew to Merchant or Mate and on up to the Captain's roost. It's conceivable that a worker who begins spritzing Cheese Whiz on Trader Joe's Golden Round crackers (which look and taste suspiciously like Ritz crackers) can rise to a managerial position through hard work and team spirit. Individual store managers can earn more than $100,000 plus benefits. And think of the money you'll save on wardrobe!

Crew members post on Indeed that "everyone does everything" at TJ's, which cuts down on the repetitiveness of retail work, and that "people do actually enjoy working there. It's a very relaxed environment in most stores." Many agree that it's "a great company with good benefits," although some warn that it's "physically hard work" and that some "incur injuries due to the repetitive nature of the job" and the fact that "we regularly lift anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds of grocery items, cases of product, and storage equipment for backstock."

What jobs are there above entry level?

Moving up the ladder, Crew members can find internal promotion to Merchant (basically an upgraded Crew member) or Mate (assistant manager), which can lead to Captain (and, yes, it's all so nautical), who serves as store manager. Each rise builds on the original skill-set while bumping up the responsibility within the stores. One of the strong positives of the grocery chain is the clear route to promotion within the company, although on the management level they also hire externally. Those holding the position of Captain tend to have an undergraduate college degree but it's not a hard and fast requirement.

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Mates posting on Indeed praise the "excellent retail experience" and appreciate that "there is a big emphasis on hands-on training that is ongoing for all employees." Thanks to the task rotation system, "every hour of the day is different, from cash register, stocking, and cleaning to returning carts." One reports that "for crew members the pay is competitive, but once you are promoted to Mate/Manager, the pay and overall package is even better."

If I already work at Trader Joe's, will they help me get a degree?

No. That's not a program that they have.

Is Trader Joe's for You?

Are you a start at the bottom and work your way up to the top kind of person? Do you like working with the public selling a popular and economically reasonable product? Do you like food and growth meshed to stability? Are you a team player? Then Trader Joe's should be on your list of potential employers.

While advanced degrees aren't required for this growing corporation, it's possible that a student could use a job at Trader Joe's while attending grad school as a way to earn top retail dollar and investigate if there is a future at the company for you given their strong inclination to hire and promote from within.

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