Do employers care about previous non-programming work experience (for entry level positions)?

I’m asking because…I actually have rather weak work experience, regardless of its connection to programming.

Recent grad with a useless degree. Currently working as a sales associate for a retail store. I like it because it’s easy and gives me time at home to self-study, but it’s not an impressive background compared to others without a CS degree. Other people coming into the field without a CS degree seem to have really solid work experiences from their previous fields as managers, leaders, and whatnot.

Just kind of worried for the state of my resume in the future. Would it be a red flag to employers to have my previous work experience be so unimpressive?

I guess the only strong point of my resume will be a (hopefully) good portfolio and skills sections…feeling a little mediocre now. I’m hoping a good portfolio and other programming contributions will suffice.

In my opinion, previous job (even it was in unrelated field) demonstrates that you are hireable, have some soft skills to work in a team, care about business and so on.
So you should try to show in your CV how your previous experience can be useful in programming job.
Good luck!