Working in a bike shop is hands-down one of the most engaging, fun, and challenging jobs in the cycling industry. Whether you’re a student looking for flexible work or a seasoned mechanic seeking steady employment, finding your place in a local bike shop means gaining highly-applicable skills, and a tight-knit community of hard-working (and often pretty funny) friends. After 10 years of working seasonally at a successful family-owned bike shop in Chicago, here are some solid guidelines for landing your job with the team.
1. Know the shop culture. Spend some time in the shop, getting to know the store’s community and general vibe– if you’re a competitive, gram-counting road cyclist, spending a summer working in a relaxed, commuter-oriented shop might be a frustrating experience for everyone involved. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the shop over the course of the season, be sure this is a culture you’re excited about!
2. Show-up in person. Nothing says “I’m ready to work here” like walking through the front door with a resume ready, making eye contact, and saying you’d like to apply for a position at the shop. It might sound nerdy, but It’s how I landed my first shop job, and how nearly everyone I know in the bike industry has found an opening. You’ll be working face to face with customers in the shop– especially in sales. This is a simple way of showing that you’re approachable, and ready to engage in the shop environment.
3. Know your stuff! While this is an absolute given for mechanics, knowing correct terminology and the basic differences between gruppos, frame materials, and brake types will set anyone apart in an interview. While you probably won’t be expected to know the whole inventory inside and out from day one, showing that you can talk bikes comfortably brings a shop’s manager that much closer to picturing you working with their customers.
4. Show you’re ready to learn. This part can get trickier the more experienced you are. Even if you’re a walking encyclopedia of bike knowledge, every shop has its own unique systems and ways of getting things done. Be sure the shop knows that you’re ready to take direction openly and ask questions when you need to. Taking the time to learn the way things are done around the shop will also let you make helpful insights down the road– and store owners will remember these.
5. Follow-up! If you’re riding through the neighborhood, stop-in with your bike a week or so after applying, just to stay on the shop’s radar. If that’s not possible, a phone call to let the hiring manager know you’re still interested can go a long way towards keeping your resume at the top of the pile. During the early Spring season, bike shops are getting a lot of applications– checking-in will remind them you’re excited about the job, and not too proud to say so!
Evan Holmes is a musician, writer, and everyday cyclist from Chicago, Illinois. He’s worked seasonally at Chicago’s vibrant Village Cycle Center for the last ten years, and is a co-founder of Pedal, a web design and content hub for artists and small businesses.
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