Sunday, 1 July 2018

Let's Talk About... Work!




I think we all know I love a story time by now! This month’s instalment of the “Let’s Talk About…” series comes in strong with the topic of work. I’ll be talking about the companies I’ve worked for, how I got the jobs I’ve worked in and as always, what advice I can give to anyone who may be in a similar position. I asked on Instagram whether you would be interested in reading this and everybody but my troll of a sister said yes. So thank you for your votes, everything you need to know about my working life is down below.


My first ever job was working a 4 hour shift every Sunday in Paperchase, when I was 17. Before this, I'd been getting £40 a week from my mum to spend however I chose. As I'm sure you can imagine, most of this was spent on clothes. It was a great arrangement for me because I didn’t have to do anything in order to get paid. My mum had just set up this weekly allowance because she thought it was fitting. But I remember coming home one day, asking my mum for my money and her telling me that she wasn't going to give it to me anymore. If you know me, I'm sure you can imagine the look of surprise that slapped itself across my face. I was gobsmacked. 

I asked her if she was joking and she confirmed that she wasn't. When I realised that this is what my life had become, I forced myself to go and do something about it. That same day, I ravaged my room for copies of my CV and went to hand it in to every store I could find along High Street Kensington and Kings Road. I waited. Got a rejection from Accessorize, but not too long afterwards, I received a phone call from Paperchase. That phone call turned in to an interview and then a job offer. Problem solved. I was going to have some money to go shopping again.

Now although this was a quick fix, it only happened that way because I made sure it did. This is one of those lessons I learned very quickly. If you want something, you have to go and get it. It would have been easy to sit around complaining, beg my mum to keep giving me money, offer to do some chores at home or something. But I took matters in to my own home and I made sure that I made changes. I think that’s really important.

I loved my job at Paperchase. My team were very friendly and supportive. I was the youngest there and I was lucky enough to feel like everybody there really took care of me. I also had a very cute assistant manager who I was very lucky to have worked multiple shifts alone with. Lucky, lucky me. Going to work suddenly became very exciting. And no, I was not crushing on some fifty year old dad. My assistant manager was 22, at the prime of his youth. Because of this, it was very sad leaving Paperchase. I didn’t want to leave my manager or my best friend on the shop floor, who really made my days there so much more fun and supported me throughout my journey there! But, I had to go to university. Start a new chapter of my life and all that.  

I didn't work at all during my first year of university and I really struggled. So much so that when my housemate suggested we go and get overdrafts together, I agreed. I mean everyone had one and everyone was talking about how much money they were getting to play around with. £1000? £2000? £2500? 

I think that getting an overdraft was the best mistake I ever made. If I hadn't run in to the problems I did with mine, then I don't think I would have realised just how important it is to save money. If you don't have any savings then I would start to think seriously now about what you can set aside each month. Give yourself a headstart while you have as little expenses as possible. 

So what happened to make me think this way? Well when I got mine, I set my overdraft up at £500 thinking that I would only use it for emergencies. Only, I didn't. I bought a pair of jeans, then I was buying lunches with my friends, drinks on a night out, cab fares, McDonald's at 2am in the morning, train tickets to see my boyfriend. It all started to add up.

One day I recieved a letter from the bank saying that they were charging me for having spent into my unplanned overdraft. A student overdraft is interest free (which means you don't pay an additional fee to spend that money) up to the agreed limit. If you spend over the agreed limit (unplanned) then you get charged. Obviously I freaked out because I was minus £500 plus and not only could I not pay that back but I also didn't have any money to live off!

I called my mum straight away. I wasn’t even embarrassed I was just scared. I explained the situation and she was really understanding. She transferred me the money straight away to pay it back and even told me that if this happened again she would be more than willing to help me pay it all back. But I knew that I couldn't carry on spending money I didn't have. It’s not healthy. It also doesn’t make any sense. What did make sense, was to find another job.

Having the experience I gained at Paperchase made it a hell of a lot easier for me to get other retail jobs in the future. If you've ever been young and applying for jobs, you'll know that retail managers are the worst. They will reject you repeatedly, acting like you need a degree to walk around a shop floor arranging clothes into size order, manning fitting rooms, scanning and folding clothes and dusting off a few shelves. You don't. You just need to be friendly and communicate well so I really wish they would stop being so selective. In any case, how many retail stores do you walk in to where the customer service is absolutely shocking. You don’t get greeted, acknowledged, you don’t get a smile. The service is robotic at best and rude at it’s worst. So can we please stop acting like the retail process needs to be selective?

I’ve spoken about my experience at Debenhams before so I’ll gloss over it now. It was bad. I didn’t like it. I got paid £5.10 an hour. Let’s not say any more about it.

I moved on to my third job at Sunglass Hut during my final year at university and the role was very different. In retrospect, Sunglass Hut is actually a really great company to work for. It was one of the most stressful but most rewarding jobs I ever had. I had commission incentives, brand incentives, the opportunity to win free pairs of sunglasses. It was very target based. All of our figures would be recorded and analysed and we would have reviews regularly. When a customer walked through those doors, you had to close a sale with them. A multi-sale was even better. A luxury sale even better than that. And a multi, luxury sale was the ultimate goal. If your KPIs (key performance indicators) were good, you saw the rewards. I walked away with a free pair of Chanel sunglasses and had I stayed for a year or more, I know that I would have seen even more benefits.

With sales roles, you can definitely see how your efforts pay off. If I went in one shift not really caring, feeling quite tired and de-motivated, I wouldn’t sell anything. If I was engaging, used my product knowledge to help customers and suggest different styles and price points, I would definitely make the sale. In a way, I kind of miss having a job like that. I knew that the work I was doing was contributing to the overall success of the company and my own success too.

Of course, for a retail job like this, the interview process was slightly more complex. I went through two interviews in different stores and a 30 minute trial on the shop floor to get this job. In the initial interview, I was asked a few questions (just the normal ones) and then I was taken on to the shop floor to work a 30 minute shift. God knows how I did it, but I managed to sell a pair of Prada sunglasses during my trial! The manager was very impressed and invited me for a second interview at one of the bigger, outlet stores. The manager there liked me too and then I got the job.

Something else to really think about here - interviews are so important. I'm quite a chatty person so I weirdly enjoy interviews. I try to turn them into a conversation. The interviewer is there to see if you’re right for the position they have on offer, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the opportunity to see if they are right for you too. So ask the interviewer questions too! Something I always ask is what the working environment is like. I really don't want to work somewhere quiet and boring and it's good to show the interviewer that you're not just there to impress them but that you want them to impress you too right? You want to walk away from that interview thinking that you really want to work there. So ask the questions that are going to help you reach that decision.

That’s pretty much how I realised I wanted to work in the job I’m in now. My company has a very young intake. We play current music in the office. Everyone is very friendly and chatty. I work with the best, funniest team I have ever worked with in my life and that’s because they specifically recruit like-minded people. My company works hard to ensure the environment is one to envy and it genuinely is. I can’t imagine working in a corporate environment as fun as the one I’m in now.

Compare my role now to when I was on work experience at The Observer for example. Both are huge offices with loads of people. The Observer had a middle-aged, white feel to it. In fact, I saw one other person of colour working in the office too. Everyone was a parent. Everyone was quite well off. It was a really great experience but it doesn’t compare to the fun I have now.

The interview process for the job I work in now was again, very extensive. I had to submit my CV, record a video interview, go in for a group interview, then a 1-1 interview then finally a 2-1 interview. Video interviews are awkward, I think we all know that. You usually get the chance to record your answer again if you mess up, but I tend not to. I just find that I come across more naturally when I don’t prepare my answers or re-do them.  

The group interview I had to do was in a room full of people. You basically just had to make your way around the room and talk to as many people as possible. It can be really intimidating. There were a lot of people in that room and you had to strike up a good balance between listening and being heard. It’s quite different to group interviews where you’re all sat around a table. This one was more relaxed and casual but you still had to take it quite seriously. I remember that at the end of my interview, there was one man in the room I hadn't got the chance to speak to yet. So I quickly went up to him and made sure I had a chat. I knew that that was my chance to leave a lasting impression, so I did what I had to do. 

I’ve been working in a corporate environment for over a year now and it definitely takes some adjusting to. When you’ve come from university, where you pretty much decide your own schedule based on how tired you are or from retail, where you work short shifts every now and again, then you’ll definitely feel a little bit off balance. Personally, one of my favourite things about my job is the dress code. I really like smart dressing so it’s great to have the opportunity to do so on a regular basis. Smart pencil dresses, summer dresses, blouses, heels. You need a variety! One of my favourite places to shop for work clothes is Mango - they just never fault me.

Actually doing your job sounds like a weird one but it’s true. In retail, you can stand around and chat for your whole shift and no one really cares. Maybe arrange a few items here and there, serve some customers. But in a corporate environment, everybody is watching and tracking what you do. You have to make sure you’re doing your job. There are regular performance reviews and there is a clear hierarchy - which you need to be constantly aware of. I work in an environment directly alongside my directors. My CEO is not tucked away in an office at the end of a hall, he sits on an open plan floor with us - as do the rest of our directors. You’ve got to be professional at all times.

Speaking of professionalism.... I work in a head office. There are loads of young, attractive employees in the company that I liaise with on a day to day basis. Some of them will keep it friendly, others will try their luck. All I can say on this is that, tempting as it might be, I would always try not to get involved with someone at work. I have a little flirt here and there (who doesn't?) but I know that I would be very cautious to let it amount to anything more. It's not ideal to come into work one morning and bump into the person you got with the night before. Or to run into your ex-boyfriend while making coffee in the kitchen. No thanks hun. I don’t want to run in to any of my ex-boyfriends anywhere, ok?

If you want to hear more about how it felt adjusting to my current role, then I suggest you read this blog post. Not much has changed since then!

I think I have summed everything up now, so there is only one last point to touch on. I'm sure all of you reading this know that I'm not currently in a job that parallels with my dream career or any of my interests. I want to be a writer, I don't get to write anything in my job currently and that really sucks. I don’t get to be creative at all. 

But in all honesty, my job is not difficult. I live at home and have no expenses. So really it's pretty ideal for someone who doesn't know what they want to do yet. Only, I do.

What I will say on that is this. You should never be complacent. Some people have told me that they think it's impossible to find a job you truly enjoy. I disagree. When you have a passion and you put everything into pursuing that passion, then work isn't work any more, it's just you getting to do what you love and get paid for it. Although I haven't yet been able to reach this milestone, it's still something I very firmly believe in. It's still something I am constantly working towards. I've never given up writing and if you have a dream that you're not yet living, you shouldn't give up on it either. The final point I want to leave this post on is this. Do what you have to do for as long as you have to do it, then one day, you’ll be able to start doing what you want.



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