For some people they may know from a very young age what it is that makes them tick and know exactly what they want to do with their lives, but sometimes one simply stumbles into what they are destined to become, and just like that your life can change. I found the latter to be true in Xolile Nzama‘s journey to finding her passion and feel its an inspiring story, most can learn from, especially those still figuring out what they want to do with their lives.
Q: What did you study?
I studied B.Sc. Plant pathology in varsity. I studied that for 4 years, then in my 5th year I dropped out. I was frustrated because I was always working in a lab. I’m a person that enjoys chatting to people so it was horrible for me, I didn’t enjoy it.
Q: Was this what you always imagined or wanted to do?
No, I didn’t think I’d be working in the fashion industry at all.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
So after I dropped out of varsity I decided that I’m going to find a part time job, while I decide what I’m going to study and do with my life. At the time, I knew nothing of Zara and I sent my CV to a few retailers and they all told me about this new store that was opening soon. I’ve always loved dressing up and watching FTV and looking good and being stylish was just who I was, though I never thought I could make a career out of it.
Anyway, after 10 or so people telling me about this Zara I decided to send my CV to them, asking for part-time work, as this was going to be a short-term thing for me, while I found my way; cause that’s how I viewed that line of work, I thought it’s something you do when you don’t know what to do, like a transitional thing and I think a lot of people still have this misconception.
So, I got the job at Zara and it kicked off with orientation the weekend before we started working and at this orientation day we met all the international people that had been working for the company for more than 15 years. There was a presentation to show us what the company was about and I remember messaging a friend of mine and telling her how I thought I was at the right place at the right time… I was blown away! I never thought working in retail would give someone so much satisfaction.
I started off as a sales assistant and after just 3months went on to training to become a Visual Merchandiser. After two years they created a position in South Africa for me as Visual Assistant Manager and shortly after that I became Visual Manager. I have since moved on from that company, that’s how I got to doing what I do.
Q: What does your job entail?
In general, visual merchandisers take care of what the store looks like. You dress the mannequins and merchandise the clothes appropriately. Do competitor reports, train and educate staff on the latest trends and interact with customers, that’s how you will know if certain trends work in your store or city.
My work entails working with people a lot, and working with people isn’t always easy, sometimes you can get someone that will take their bad mood out on you, but smiling usually helps; when you smile they loosen up and eventually smile back.
Q: Your favorite thing about your job?
New product and traveling. I love fashion and I love learning about new trends. So placing new items on the shop floor is my favorite. Working with the new product and merchandising the items on the shop floor excites me. I’ve travelled a lot as a visual merchandiser, both nationally and internationally. You get to work with different people, from different backgrounds, it’s amazing!
Q: Any wise words for anyone looking to get into what you’re doing?
Most of the time you need to start from the bottom and work your way up. Starting as a sales assistant in a clothing store is actually a very important step, because you get a clearer understanding of your customers; you will have more insight on what the customers like and dislike. As you grow & get promoted it makes your job as a Visual Merchandiser easier.
Work hard! Visual merchandising is not easy, you work long hours and you work on weekends. Check out fashion blogs, know what the trends are, work on your craft.
And most importantly you need to enjoy it otherwise it’s not going to be worth it!
Follow her on instagram – @xolinzama_