1. Family Business: The Inner Drivers
I've been thinking more lately about how much my family and upbringing have shaped me and how we unconsciously adopt old patterns. It's always worth looking at your family history and the dynamics behind it. My father always encouraged my sister and me to be financially independent. Oddly enough, my parents themselves adopted the traditional provider-caregiver model; My father earned the money, my mother took care of us kids. Wealth was a hot topic for us, I grew up with a capitalistic mindset and values like lots of love but also ambition and discipline. Looking back at my career, I was always an overachiever. I wanted to learn, get ahead, and, yes, maybe even shine. Stagnation and comfort are not for me. Although I have never taken it easy, there was a discussion with my father a few years ago when I took a six-week sabbatical between my last job and my current job at Payback. My father felt that this six-week break would not look good on my resume, but I highly recommend taking time off; it did me good and gave me energy for my new job.
2. Elementary Particles: The Stuff Careers are Made Of
After school, I wanted to work and earn money relatively quickly. That's why going to university wasn't an option for me. Instead, I did an apprenticeship as a publishing house clerk. It was great. We worked in various departments, and in sales I realized very quickly: this is it; this is my thing! Those were still the golden years, but it was already crumbling at the edges. And then came the newspaper crisis in 2002, and 300 pages of job market became 30. Suddenly, people from an auditing firm were sitting in the publishing house all day and looking over my shoulder: How long do I spend on the phone? How many e-mails do I write? How many appointments do I have and with whom? When and for how long? That got the ball rolling for me. Suddenly, I became interested in studying. It became clear to me that if you want to get ahead you need a degree. I studied Media Management in Wiesbaden, and, during that time, I had a very important experience that still impacts me today. Alongside my studies, I worked for a property management company. I worked more than I studied. We managed 6,000 apartments, and I literally did everything: I went to court hearings when rent nomads were evicted, I sifted through junk-filled apartments, took minutes at owners' meetings, typed up the tapes, and took care of the mail. I made myself, at the risk of sounding weird, indispensable. Being that hands-on, doing and moving things forward, is an asset I've been able to draw on throughout my career; Along with the fact that I'm a generalist so I can quickly familiarize myself with new topics. In the positions that followed: sales at a trade newspaper, specialization in FMCG, the shift into the digital industry—all of this came together like a puzzle to form a coherent overall picture, and, as is the case with a puzzle, each piece is crucial in the end. The bottom line? Even if you waver and doubt yourself in between, the different professional stations and turns you take often make sense in the end.
3. Surviving in a Man's Business: Why Women (Still) Have to Stick Together
In my early days in sales, I dealt mainly with men. 80 to 90 percent of the business partners were male. As a young woman, you experienced horror stories (Harvey Weinstein sends his regards…). I wasn't prepared for that at all. I was in my mid-20s and came from a very sheltered home. Yet, I had been warned by an older colleague I met at a big event. “Watch out, you're young and often stay alone in hotels while on business,” she said. She also gave me these tips: “Don't tell anyone your room number and turn off your cell phone once you're in the room." I thought the warnings were over the top, but, sadly, she was to be proven right. All that was 15 years ago now, but things like this are still happening. I think we need to stand by young women, just as that colleague tried to protect me back then. It’s also experiences like this that encouraged me to become an advocate for diversity and inclusion: I am now one of the I&D Ambassadors at Payback.
4. The Most Important Currency in a Job? Recognition and Respect
There is no such thing as a free lunch. That's especially true in a job. I learned probably the most important lessons in my career during my time at a digital platform. For example, no matter how good you are, no matter how hard you try, no matter how great your numbers are, if the system isn't right, you won't be rewarded. Although there was a woman at the top who fought hard for equality and inclusion, and who enforced and lived it in her immediate environment, things were different for us. Germany was far away from the home market of the USA. Here, a "boys club" prevailed. The boys met to smoke, and, in the evenings, they drank beer. Anyone who wasn't there was cut off from the flow of information. The good pay could have been comforting, but what was that worth in the end if you couldn’t manage to get your private affairs in order because you were working day and night? During this time, a call came from a head-hunter for my current job at Payback. It was a perfect fit; With my expertise in digital and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) that I had built up over the years, it was a match made in heaven.
5. The Greatest Freedom: A Plan B
You should always have a plan B—a lesson I learned from my last employer. Here, there were spontaneous waves of resignations—suddenly, beloved colleagues went missing. Being one of the few to stay was not easy, because the leftover work was distributed among the remaining heads. I wanted something to cushion me during this uncertain time and something to look forward to. It was during this time that my plan to travel to Australia and New Zealand was born. I planned the trip quickly, and I set aside some money for the travel fund. Due to the new job at Payback, I only finally got an opportunity to go on the trip at the end of 2019, and, unfortunately, it fell during the time of the forest fires. One night we were woken up in Sydney and had to stand on the street in our pajamas. The wind had blown the smoke all the way into the city. It certainly could have been better timing. My takeaway here was don't put things off. In early 2020, shortly before the pandemic, I returned to Germany. I ticked long-distance travel off for the first time ever, and what I learned was to always have a plan B in life. Also, to understand that it doesn't necessarily have to be a new job or career move—it can just as easily be an experience for yourself!
This article is part of a content collaboration between FemaleOneZero and PAYBACK. The marketing & loyalty platform enables consumers to collect points with hundreds of relevant companies offline, online and on the move – with just a single card or the PAYBACK app.