The last time I posted was a little under two weeks ago and I hate to blame it on life but the time has just disappeared since. I have been in London with my Husband, in Brussels with friends and then at Home with family, then this week I started a new job…
Usually I don’t do uber personal posts because I feel like they may bore people and may come across like my life is more important than anyone else’s (not what I would intend!). So, after a hectic couple of weeks and starting my life again as a working girl I thought why not share some details and the reality of my struggles in the past 5 years. Plus if any of what I say resonates with people in the Fashion industry too then I will at least feel like I have done some good.
Where to start? A brief history I studied Philosophy at University because I adored it at A-Levels, after three years of working hard I managed to land an internship for Next on their buying team – I loved my short but brief time here and left for London to pursue the city life and illusion of ‘living the dream’, this in reality wasn’t ever the case for me. I struggled to get any luck for buying interns and this was with over a hundred applications in 9 months and what I thought was credible ‘experience’. Since this wasn’t working I paid for a further course at London College of Fashion to study Buying & Merchandising hoping this would further my CV and help.
Six months later with yet more applications I only just managed to secure a fixed term contract role, for a company I wasn’t interested in, wasn’t permanent and in the hole that is Watford. Nonetheless I left feeling depressed and hating what had been my first year in London.
It is so important to pick a career path which plays to your strengths or your passions so that you never give up on your dream.
Next up I took an unpaid internship at My-Wardrobe.com, thankfully a company I absolutely adored and nestled in the heart of Camden, for once I felt like I might actually be living the illusive dream i’d heard so much about! The brand was great, the products, luxury fashion and even my team, but sadly with it being so small it was obvious that after two months I still wouldn’t be given the chance of a paid role. Let me tell you this, living in London on an Intern salary of “expenses and wages” which probably equated to £20 a day wasn’t feasible for any longer. So I continued applying for paid jobs and it was 3 months later I landed myself a fully fledged Buying Assistant position at Boden – I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe my luck.
It’s not cool to hire people for a full time role and not pay them, it wasn’t cool five years ago and isn’t now. So fight for your right to be paid even if you are an Intern!
THE START OF MY CAREER
My time at Boden was great, a wonderful company, beautiful products with people who genuinely love and care about the work they do. I even joked that I would be there for the next 10 years, which is all I had ever wanted, to find a company I love within Buying and to work my way up the ladder (reality check)… with a new boss after a year the environment changed, so much so that two of my team left for pastures new and I couldn’t help but wonder if the grass was greener too? I had been at Boden for 18 months and told at reviews I was ready for the next step, the seed was planted and I wanted to rise.
One thing to note, in Buying/Fashion in general, unless anyone leaves you ain’t going up in the world! Up or out is the true reality of it.
So, I speculatively applied for a role a Assistant Buyer role at a large department store (no names mentioned) they talked the talk, walked the walk and sold me in at the interview plus they were in shiny new buildings right in the heart of London so I thought what a fun change this would be (Boden is in North Acton, probably one of the most dreary areas in London so the commute did destroy my soul a little everyday!) Anyway, I sadly didn’t get the Assistant Buyer position as they felt I wasn’t quite there yet, even though I felt in my bones I was and my last two reviews at work had said the same. A week later I got a call to say they had discussed further and loved me so wanted to “create” a role on the team for me, it wasn’t going to be a full Assistant Buyer role but I was assured I was a Senior Buying Assistant, with no AB on the team I therefore would sit in this role essentially and take on these responsibilities as well as managing my own Buying Assistant with the view to review to a full promotion in six months.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If I had my time again I wish I had stayed longer at Boden and rode the crest of the wave.
DOOM & GLOOM
After saying my goodbyes with a bit of a heavy heart to a great company and friends, I started my new job at said department store. This was the WORST day of my life to date I think…for sure in my career. I arrived and firstly the buyer didn’t even greet me in reception but sent an assistant which I thought was odd, I then saw that the team I was sat on seemed ‘crowded’ and bigger than what I had been told. I sat down and thought perhaps I would have a chat with my new manager and discuss the week ahead but this seemed too much hassle for her and I was left to ‘shadow’ the Buying Assistant on the team (cue the fear). By midday after conversations with the BA and being referred to in meetings as the ‘new BA’ I quickly realised that the role I had been told wasn’t there and I’d been sucked in to somewhere who didn’t want me for my progression, but for their head count and because I did have experience on footwear already. I wanted to clarify with my manager if this was the case and after a discussion it came about nonchalantly on her behalf that indeed I was a BA and would have to prove myself to be considered for an AB position and that was just the way the cookie crumbled. I was distraught and left work that day so upset I didn’t physically feel I could make my journey home on the tube, my husband got the brunt end of that down the phone.
If it sounds too good to be true that’s because it probably is. Listen to your gut!
DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS
After a couple of days off to figure out what I wanted to do, albeit days just spent crying into my pillow wondering how this had happened, I just knew I couldn’t go back. I wasn’t prepared to start again after 18 months of working so hard at Boden and I was too proud to go back to Boden and explain what had happened even though I knew they would take me back in a heartbeat. So we upped sticks and left London within two months to go backpacking round South East Asia for 6 months which was a breath of fresh air and the most invaluable experience after everything. I always planned once I returned to continue plugging away with applications to Assistant Buyer roles and was lucky with one, a phone interview and then what was meant to be an interview which never materialised. Turns out even a small break in career to go traveling is frowned upon because apparently ‘life’ isn’t a good enough reason for a gap on your CV *rolls eyes*.
When recruiters and HR say you don’t have enough experience, push back for what this actually means. How are you meant to improve without genuine feedback?
BREAKING THE CYCLE
So again the cycle started, countless applications and no luck even with two years experience in this industry, this continued for three months and there is only so long you can live at home with your family and feel like a worthless bum. I decided the only way to get back to London and secure a job in buying again was to be in the thick of it, and since I knew an internship wage wasn’t liveable I had to get a sales job- The only place I would go and knew I would love was J Crew so I rang the store and was direct with the manager requesting to send my CV. Low and behold I was interviewing ad starting at their new store within a month, so an excited J Crew lover moved back to London with hope again.
I stayed with them for only nine months, it had always been my goal to take a role in a head office again. Mainly because this was my career choice and dream I wasn’t ready to let go of yet, and sadly in retail you have no life. I had very rare weekends off, erratic work hours with some days starting at 5am and finishing at 9pm so my wellbeing took a toll and I missed seeing my husband who was equally as busy in the week. I valued my weekends too much and didn’t want to be passing ships in the night any longer. So along came a Wholesale role (not quite buying) with a Luxury Swim company, unbelievably around the corner from Boden so I had to overlook the area and hope that the job would be good enough I wouldn’t care. However, after three months it was already obvious that the role was overplayed, there was never enough work to occupy me day to day and the directors of the company cared so little about their staff that no-one enjoyed their job– A recipe for disaster.
There is always other options… just maybe not the right choices.
THE HONEYMOON PERIOD
After my Honeymoon last September I came back to a bit of turmoil at work and a complete dynamic change with team members all leaving and a company which had totally lost it’s way and value of its employees. After a year and my peer leaving I thought ok maybe I will stay and be promoted to make the role my own, to excite me again. But, the long and short of it was that the directors didn’t want to give me a pay rise and wanted me to do the role regardless (well, the role of three people) without any confirmation that I would eventually be promoted or given a pay rise to reflect what was being asked of me. So, being the impulsive Aries that I am, I decided to quit my job as I thought I would find something quickly with several years of Buying & Wholesale experience with great companies- How wrong I was!
I heard from a handful of people, of those I interviewed with Whistles three times and was so hopeful and wishing this would be IT, that I would be getting the promotion I deserved in a company I honestly loved. This never happened, it came down to the wire but they felt that someone else had more relevant Womenswear experience, I actually received constructive feedback for once but sadly my bad luck continued! More job applications (countless nights crying/in despair) and after another six months I had had enough of London so we took a plunge and moved to Manchester!
Always stand your ground and fight for your worth. Don’t let people walk all over you and if they do then follow your heart and make a change for the better.
This leads me to where I am today, two months settled in a home we love. Closer to family, friends nearby and finally I feel like I can breathe. Since then I am so glad and wish we had done it sooner, I am happier in a city which is calmer, full of people who are happier and full of creativeness wherever you look. London is intoxicating, exciting and draining all at once. Some people are cut for it, some people land on their feet and some just don’t- If you are the latter don’t feel like you have to wait around to make it work, life is what you make it. I wish I had moved sooner here and not lived in the bubble that is London and realised that there are just as many great companies in Manchester (even other cities) that might just suit you better.
I hadn’t been looking for a job because I wanted to take stock and rethink, I even considered starting my own business (a dream I have had since travelling). I’m not saying I won’t one day but not right now. Too many things need to fall into place before that is a possibility (including grown up responsibilities like house buying: did you know you can’t get a mortgage if you are self employed without two solid years of income proof?). However, the most important reason right now is my own mentality– I’ve put on a brave face to everyone around me for a long time (minus my husband who I tell everything) not even my best friend knows how I have really been feeling, and this has taken its toll to the point where I have no confidence or self belief in myself anymore. Mainly a feeling of embarrassment that at 27 I felt like I had achieved nothing and everyone else around me is achieving all their goals. Failure was a common thought! The me five years ago starting out would even wonder who I am today.
You, Yourself and You again is the most important thing. Make positive changes whether small or big and always remember you have loved ones who care!
THE SECOND (FIRST) DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE
So, after a recruiter contacted me on LinkedIn, dubious I heard her out and she mentioned a role which merged both Wholesale and Buying; she had read my CV with excitement at the companies I had worked for and my experience was great. I know, I also couldn’t believe that she had said this, finally some validation!! A quick phone interview later, then the following day advising me the company loved my CV I was booked in for an interview within the next week. This went well but you can never quite tell so I didn’t get my hopes up, I then heard back a day later I had a second interview which again followed my same thought process as previously. So, to my utter shock I couldn’t believe I had been offered a job two days later!
Here I am half way through my first week, having met everyone and got an idea of the role and what I will be doing, I genuinely feel like I may just be right where I need to be at exactly the right time. Everyone there is lovely, most people have stayed 7+ years, some even 12 which is a huge testament to the owner and the morale there, people love their job and love their manager so a massive Win Win already. On top of this my role is finally reflective of my experience, it is a Junior Account Manager/Buyer position, a role with lots of responsibility and doing all the parts of a buying role I never got a chance to do. I will be costing, negotiating, developing samples, working with amazing customers and suppliers such as Boden (full circle or what?) John Lewis, Cath Kidston, Fat Face and White Stuff, I am on a team which is full of energy and genuinely want to be there.
So I don’t want to speak too soon, but maybe just maybe this might be the one? I really hope so and feel positive about my career for the first time in 4 years so for starters that isn’t bad going, right? One things for sure, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the constant support from the most amazing husband who has always been there to pick up the pieces and fix me back together again; blessed doesn’t even cut it.
I hope you read with some interest and maybe took something useful from this to apply to your life in some way and if not then sorry, I promise to post about my usual stuff from the weekend 🙂