December 5, 2013

american girl seeking work

It's been a long time since I last posted, sorry about that! I started a new job in October at the European lingerie chain called Hunkemöller and it has kept me busy. Originally started in Amsterdam, it is now in multiple countries across Europe, and even a few large cities in the Middle East. This store can be directly compared to Victoria's Secret in the States because, well… they copy everything that VS does! Right down to the font, the store layout, the greeting (Herzlich Wilkommen bei Hunkemöller - Welcome to Hunkemöller) and even the Secret Reward cards, Hunkemöller has taken their marketing concepts and run with them. I wondered when I first moved to Germany why VS hadn't taken off yet in Europe, since it's popular in the US, but now I understand!

Anyway, that's at least a bit of an overview and I can honestly say that I adore working here! My previous job was at Woolworth and I worked there for about six months. Although it helped improve my German, the customers tended to be scary or unfriendly and my boss wasn't the greatest either. However, the biggest problem was I didn't believe in what we were selling. It was hard to convince a nice old lady to buy the shower radio for her husband when I knew for a fact that five people had already returned it that week due to total defect. My boss just kept saying "put it back on the shelf, someone else will buy it." That felt completely dishonest and sleazy, and I think the combination of all of the above made me finally decide to quit.

It was daunting to be back on the job hunt, especially since Woolworth had been my "big break." I was afraid that there wouldn't be anything better out there, and although I have a college degree my German was still so atrocious that I felt my chances were slim. After a hopeful interview at an e-commerce company I waited for almost a month and then found out they weren't interested. Luckily, during that time I applied at a few places in our mall, including the brand new lingerie store that hadn't opened yet. The funny thing is that I was more excited about working at a store like Victoria's Secret, even though the e-commerce job would have paid much better. I did hours of research on Hunkemöller: Its origins, sale policies, products and values (which are: passionate, in-touch, sexy, fun and inspiring). I applied twice, once online and once in person, which turned out to be smart since the online application was rejected! One day while shopping at the mall I decided to check on the status of my resume (lots of courage needed for someone with atrocious German!). My current boss had just gotten back from vacation, which is why I hadn't heard anything, and after giving me a once-over she invited me into the back for a totally impromptu interview. On her desk were about 50 other applications, and after a few minutes of conversation I strolled out with a new job. I know God planned this for me, because if I hadn't gone in to check I doubt I would have ever received a call - I was competing with at least 40 other German speakers, many of which probably had more retail experience.

Since then I've made huge strides in my language skills, even more so than at Woolworth. I only work a few times a week, but during those times I am in constant conversation with either the customers or my colleagues. I also feel much more confident with people in general, and that nervous feeling in my stomach before I know I have to speak German is slowly fading away. The best part though is that I feel our products are worth hyping up. When the same old lady from before comes in and buys two bras, I can feel happy that she's leaving with some good quality pieces that actually fit her. (That's the other thing - I'm a boss at sizing women for the right bra!) It also feels great to be able to look nice for a reason. At Woolworth I had to wear the same ugly, gray t-shirt every day, and no one cared if I put on makeup or not. At Hunkemöller it makes a huge difference since people are more likely to buy products from a well put-together sales girl than from someone who looks sloppy. That in itself has boosted my mood tremendously and helped stave off the depressed "back to the grind" attitude that can affect everyone! Sure, there are downsides: Sometimes the pressure to up-sell makes me frustrated, especially since I know how annoying that can be when I'm the customer. My new boss can be prickly, and she seems to be constantly worrying about money, but overall I really like everyone I work with.

So for now this American girl can stop the job hunt, and I'm sure that I'll have to dedicate a future post to the funny stories that happen when you work at a lingerie store!