More questions at the start of a new year

A couple of months back, my cleaner asked me ‘what I wanted to be when I ‘grow up’’. My son then told her proudly that I work in Marketing and I just smiled at her, shrugged and dismissed her comment.

Her question seems to haunt me though. From time to time it’ll pop up in my head or come up in a questionnaire and I keep thinking about it.

I am 32 years old, started working when I was 20 and have a degree. I have a job that I like, sometimes more sometimes less. I admit the hours are not ideal and I want to do something about that. But how come it still doesn’t feel right?

And the burning question is – will it ever feel right? Maybe I am destined to keep looking? And what exactly am I looking for? I keep thinking about what would make me happy. What I enjoy. A couple of years ago, I met a coach with whom I tried to get to the bases of that question. What do I want, what is the best job for me and what will make me happy. And to this day, I haven’t found the answer.

A good friend of mine has recently suggested that I might have to find the happiness I am looking for outside my job. I thought about the scenario of winning money and being able to do whatever I want to do. And even then I can’t come up with the perfect job.

Am I asking for too much?

Someone very close to me told me ‘it’s just a job – you are there to work – you don’t need to be happy’. But I wonder if that’s correct. I spend more time at work than with my family and at home. Shouldn’t I love it? And how can I find it? Any suggestions are very welcome!

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The new job

It’s been ages since my last post, but there is a very valid reason for my lack of writing. I don’t have time. None. None at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I seriously enjoy my new job. I finally get to use my brain and I enjoy being in charge of things. But working full-time and being a mother of two very demanding children is hard work.

I am lucky hubby does so much. After I leave for work at 7am, he gets the kids ready for kindergarten and takes them there. I work from 7.30 to 4.30 and then go directly to pick up the kids. Then it’s my turn to take care of them, spend some quality time with them and get them ready for bed. We all have to adjust to the new schedule and the kids do that by acting up. But hey – it can only get better, right – right?

Let me tell you more about my job. I work for a big DIY chain, and am the marketing producer for Austria. I am responsible for everything that is printed: a bi-weekly flyer with special offers (between 8 and 40 pages), a couple of specialty folders, advertisements, posters and so on. I have to oversee the graphic designers, check spelling and other mistakes and make sure the schedule is being kept.

The people I work with are very nice, but I am the only full-time working Mum. Therefore I lead a different life and the challenges I face are not easy to understand for others.

I met some nice mums from other departments though and in general enjoy going to work and doing what I do. I hope to be able to work less hours in the future.

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What goes around, comes around.

It’s been a month since my last update and a lot has happened since then. The following is obviously only a short summary:

Two to three times a week the store manager and her assistant call me into the office to tell me, that I do a shitty job and that even the things I was supposed to do good, I can’t do right. More than once they put me down in front of my team and – I guess with that – planted a seed of doubt in their minds too.

I hate myself for it, but I can’t hold back tears during these meetings, which they have obviously jumped on as being my point of weakness.

Since coming back from my holidays, it has turned even worse. Every evening, I have to write a report on what I did the whole day and the tone of voice the store manager uses with me is not even remotely respectable or nice. The great thing is that she even does so in front of my team and then blames me for spreading bad vibes throughout the team and telling them that she is mean to me.

I am not sure what happened while I was on holidays but since then the atmosphere in the team has changed. One member, who I got along with best before my holidays, turned against me on day two , started a big fight and complained about me. I asked the store manager for advice and she suggested we have a meeting with the whole team, where they can all tell me what they don’t like about me/my work. I politely declined this option…

We did have a talk with the one team member, the manager and her assistant though.

During this two hour meeting the following things happened: she put me down in front of him, I cried, and said we shouldn’t discuss my faults in front of him, he said he lost all respect for me already anyways, her telling me: don’t take it personal – its nothing against you as a mummy or a person, me crying more, he left the room, she filled out a form with my shortcomings,…When I said to her, there must be something I do right, she said: ‘name one thing.’ – I couldn’t cause I doubted myself so much already.

So when I was offered another job after the weekend, I took the liberty to hand in my notice which was met with a: ‘I am sorry we couldn’t work it out differently but I think it’s for the best.’ Since then she gives me lots of smiles and lots of ‘whatever you want, yeah that’s fine’…

Only after having talked about it with friends and having done some research I found out that I have been a victim of bullying. I doubted myself, my work abilities and the way she explained all my shortcomings to me, I believed her. I don’t sleep well, I feel sick as soon as I get into work, I have ulcer issues, headaches and hate entering the shop.

I really think leaving is the best I can do and hope that in the end the way she treats people will come back to her too.


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Que sera, sera

Life is tough. It’s been some time and work became slightly better, although we still didn’t get paid for the nightshifts (I heard today that we actually won’t get paid for them at all…).

After my last update, I was quite frustrated and sent out two job applications for other jobs. Two days later, the store manager of the second store (which was opened last week) asked me to become the Visual Manager in the second store. She said that the position would be divided between two people, with each one being responsible for two floors. I accepted and felt quite positive about this new development.

A couple of days later both other companies contacted me. I went to an interview with one of them – just to have a look and I liked it better than expected. They offered me a forecaster job – boring numbers – but office hours, better salary and a nice team. I was torn. As it was the end of the month, I needed to make a decision. Being the loyal person that I am, I didn’t want to drop out of the team a couple of days before the store opening and decided to stay with the company. I also cancelled the interview with the second company cause I didn’t want any more options. Mistake.

Now we’re on week 2 and I am looking for jobs again. Obviously the opening week has been stressful, with me working 70 hours a week, leaving the house when everyone was still asleep, coming back to a dark house and getting gastritis on day 5. I know that this will get better once the first rush is over, but the general problem won’t change: I did not get the job I was promised. I am not a manager – just a lead, which means that I basically do the same as before, but also have to answer all questions, stay longer, make schedules, jump in when needed and am the one to be blamed for everything at all times. When you have to do all that organizational stuff, you don’t have time to also merchandise your own section. Today I got told off for not having had the time to merch a whole section, but at the same time, there were only two people in my team instead of eight and I was constantly asked to do urgent projects in between.

The other job has obviously been given to someone else, but I have applied for two more and also contacted the company who offered me an interview to ask if they were still interested.

I know I said I’d give it a try but I know that my job won’t change and that it isn’t the job I wanted. I also don’t think I should do a job that makes me cry before leaving in the morning and makes me ill. I hate working in a store – I seriously do 🙂 Although I do enjoy buying the clothes…But hey, something else will turn up soon. I just hang in there and wait it out. What’s meant to be will happen.

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Two sides to a coin

It’s been five weeks, and more than one of you guys has asked me about my work. So far I was too exhausted to tell you about it. And quite frankly I was frustrated too. The first couple of weeks have been hard, to say the least.

Starting a store from scratch is super exciting and I am very happy to be part of this project, but it is also very hard work. First we had to unpack all the clothes and distribute them in the designated areas. Then everything was put on hangers or folded. A team from the US was here to support and train us.

But once the store opened, everything went crazy. The store is way more successful than anticipated – which is great, but it also meant that there was no time for training. All we did was fill the empty racks or returned the clothes from the changing rooms to where they belonged. As I was hired as a merchandiser, I was frustrated not to be able to do my job. Me, and all the other Merchandisers. Two people quit, two reduced their hours and the others still aren’t sure. We all do overtime, and I guess it’s worse for the sales associates who are only hired for 20-25 hours a week, but have been working 60 like the rest of us.

I kept thinking that all would get better with time. But let me tell you, it ain’t easy. It doesn’t help having people disapprove of me working full-time. I know everyone means well, but when you are already frustrated at work and feel guilty when your kids play up and ask you to come home on the phone, having to defend yourself why you work that many hours in a ‘shitty’ job doesn’t help. In week 3 we were supposed to have training and everyone had arrived early, but once there we learned that again there was no time for training. I talked to the top guy, and told him how we all felt and that we needed the training. After that I broke down and cried five times that day. But my words seemed to have hit home, cause later that day we had our first – short but intensive – training session. It is things like that that keep me going. I seriously enjoy merchandising an area, pick clothes that go with each other and present them nicely. Having said that, most of the time, we do other things.

Let me tell you some basics of a visual merchandisers job. The visual merchandiser is responsible for presenting the goods. He chooses which clothes hang in the wall or on a bar. This job can best be done when the store is closed. Therefore most merchandisers work early morning shifts – ie 7am-4pm and no Saturdays. This is also what all of the hired merchandisers expected. We were told that in the beginning we had to do Saturdays and late shifts too, which is fine, but this kind of schedule doesn’t seem to end. You can image the tension and frustration that has built up over time.

Last week we had 4 nightshifts as the store concepts were changed and all the product was moved around the store. Again we were teamed up with merchandisers from the US to get our final training. Starting from next week on, we’ll be on our own and the store will finally be ours.

After a couple of nightshifts, people get more tired and tension grows. It didn’t help that the American merchandiser and I didn’t get along, so in night 4, I had another break down.

You might ask yourself why I do it. And be assured, I sometimes ask myself the same questions. But there are reasons behind it.

First of all, I was looking for a job for a year – and therefore beggars can’t be choosers. Of course I could have done less hours, but most of you know my background and therefore know that I want more. I want to grow and the company offers great opportunities. Obviously you won’t grow when you only work 20 hours per week, at least not quickly. And in addition to all the shitty things that have happened, there are also a lot of good things that happened over time.

The general manager asked me to do an interview with O3, the national radio, as spokesperson of the company. I talked about the summer trend shorts and the wide selection we offer at our store. Being one of 100 employees, I must have done something good to be chosen to do that interview. I also was asked to train new employees on the concepts and already talked to the general manager about possibilities to grow. Also I love the merchandise rules and being able to make an area mine and beautiful.

We also finally have a cleaner at home – yeah! Ironically I spent one Saturday morning dusting off shelves in the store, which was strangely comforting as I was invisible to customers.

I am also looking forward to receiving a salary – which will hopefully be on my account this week. I also feel that I spent my time with the kids more wisely and am slightly more patient with them. I am lucky as they both enjoy staying in the afternoon care and that my hubby is self employed and does so much with the kids and the household. You see – there’s always two side to a coin.



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Part of the workforce

I started off my new job with the introduction day for all new employees. As the store is yet to be opened, everyone is a new employee. During the 1 day event we had different workshops, one about customer service, one about teambuilding, one about the visual merchandising strategy of the company and one about theft prevention. All in all quite interesting and entertaining. The last part of the day was a presentation by a guy of the fire department. I wonder if it was a coincidence that the guy who presented to us – 120 women and 10 gay guys – is on the 2011 firemen calendar J

Today I started my first shift at the shop from 5.30 am till 1pm. We mainly carried boxes from the truck inside the store and divided them up to the selected areas. Everything is still quite chaotic and different people give different orders. There is the Austrian management team and next to them there is the ‘opening team’ from the US, a group of people who travel to all the stores before opening and make sure everything works out.

I am part of the visual merchandise team, which consists of approx. 10 people. I say approx cause there is still some hiring going on and some people working as sales associates also said they wanted to work as a VM. We had a meeting with the US team and where then divided up into different areas of responsibility. One girl is responsible for the shop windows and is now teamed up with a guy from the US, who teaches her the directives, one girl is responsible for dressing the mannequins – you’d be surprised, it seems to be quite difficult and hard work. Our manager then went through the rest of us and asked each one of us where we wanted to work or told us what she thought. I wonder how I should have reacted, when she looked me up and down and said: I’ll put you in PLUS sizes. Hello??? Excuse me!!!! I know I gained some weight since moving back here, but I am not HUGE! Well I guess in xs and s language, I am huge. I learned that in our company all clothes are available in S, M and L and everything above that – starting at XL or size 40 is in Plus sizes…not sure how the Austrian ladies will react to having to shop in that area.

All in all it was really interesting and I am looking forward to learning more about the concepts and what can be done with them. As everything is still a bit messy, our work schedules were changed again and I am working full days for the next couple of days. Having said that, I am off to bed now, it is 8pm after all!

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The rules of attraction

After having lived abroad for 8 years, I recently moved back to my home city, Vienna. Well, I guess – recently – is a word up to interpretation. We moved back nearly a year ago. We, that is me, hubby and two sweet, cute, gorgeous monsters, who go by the names of little stinker and baby stinker. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to death and would never want to be without them again, but I desperately need a job! I am just not your average housewife, stay-at-home-mum or hostess. I just function better in a work environment. I need that to keep me sane. Having said that, I spent the last year having coffees with friends, while my kids are in kindergarten – o yes, and obviously looking for a job.

As mentioned before I spent 8 of the last 9 years abroad, and think I built up quite a good resume during that time. I worked for a couple of high-end fashion companies in jobs as buying and product development. I speak five languages – okay I am only fluent in three, but I also learned the other two and used to be really good in them…Before that I worked in Marketing and I have a degree in International Business. Having learned all that about me, can you understand why I was sure to get a job within a couple of weeks of arriving back ‘home’? I even pushed the director of the kindergarten to take in my kids earlier, so I could start working.

In the meantime, we are 11 months, 50 applications, 10 job interviews and 2 job offers further. So what has happened over the last year?

I was turned down with various explanations – or excuses. I was asked, how I think I can manage a job while having two kids, and when I answered that I had everything sorted, was told, I was too creative; I was told three times, that it was not due to my experience but must have been because of personal sympathy’s – or the lack of it – jeez must I be a horrible person. I was told, I had too much experience for an assistant role and not enough experience for a managers role. Once I was offered less salary than a cleaner and once the manager could not remember having had an interview with me at all!

My state of mind changed from being very frustrated to being hopeful, that all would work out in the end.

Having said all that, I am lucky, as my husband earns enough for us not to have to be too worried.

So finally, after 10 months of trial and error, I went to a recruitment day for a big American fashion chain, that only recently moved to Europe and now opens its first two stores here. I was originally looking for an office job, but as everything is organized in the US, I went away from the recruitment day, having been offered a job as a visual merchandiser. I was quite baffled, as I had only been there for two hours and had not expected to walk out of the event with a definite decision.

Over the last four weeks I have tried to gather more information about the job, the terms, the contract and the whole set-up, but as everything is still being built up, it is all slightly chaotic. So far I only know my salary – which is bad for me, but I guess okay for the industry. I know that I start working after Easter, but don’t know anything about my hours, shifts or holidays. I will work full-time, but when or how is still a riddle. My mood switches from being uber-excited to being slightly panicky about whether this is the right thing for me. As I come from an office environment, this is all new to me. How will working in a store, without a computer, or a desk, or responsibility work out for me?

If you’ve read ‘The Secret’, you might have noticed the title of this blog entry being ‘The rules of attraction’. Stating the obvious, now that I have a job, the other ones are coming my way too.

I have been asked to do some social media projects for an agency I know, which is super interesting as well to me. And I also have another open application for an office job in marketing…

I will keep you posted on how I get on.

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