On Sunday, there was lots of celebrating. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, but Darren and I don’t go a day without sharing some awkward exchange of our love, so Valentine’s is just an excuse to go all out with our affections (please note that our idea of affection is not like most and cootsie-coo names won’t cut it, in this house, you’re having a good day when you’re called dog-breath). Another celebration was that I have been working for the same gaming and events company for 3 years. – THREE whole years!
Growing up, there was an order of events and expectations that I never fulfilled. It went something along the lines of, go to school, get an education, matriculate, go to university, get a good job and then meet someone, get married and have kids. After matric, I realized that going to university was a nearly impossible dream, one that my parents could not afford. Darren and I had just moved into a 1 bedroom flatlet and although finances were tight, we were coping. I fell back into my depression as I wasted my days, cleaning the house, vacuuming up dog hair, washing the dogs, preparing dinner just to repeat it, the next day. Teachers forced this idea into my head that without a qualification behind my name, I was destined to fail.
I read the phrase ‘Virtual Assistant’ in the pages of a glossy magazine and after chatting to Darren about what the role entails, I started researching and applying for jobs. On the 12th of February, I had my first interview, got the job and began on the 14th – which also happened to be mine and Darren’s very first Valentines Day together.
In the beginning, my role was very limited. I was pretty much the assistant to the assistant (who happened to be horrible at his job.) It wasn’t about the money, it was just about stimulating my brain with something. Taking calls meant that I got to interact with people outside our little 1 bedroom flat. Three years later and there’s no more assistant – just me and the owner. He handles anything that requires his physical attention, but I handle customers; calls, emails and ridiculous requests. I take bookings, plan parties, schedule drivers, handle payments, invoice new businesses, manage social media, send out newsletters, create new promotions, – you name it, and I do it. I love my job, I am passionate about sales and digital marketing, but most of all, I am proud of the brand that I represent and the position that I hold.
It wasn’t always like this, though, I have had some really embarrassing things happened to me, things that my mom still teases me about. I once worked at a tattoo parlour who would only pay me R30 for a Saturday shift, where I cleaned windows and tried convincing 12-year-old boys that they were too young to smoke hubbly. The only other lady there didn’t know that I was new and wasn’t at all interested in teaching me to use their till. Two customer’s later and I had somehow screwed up their shitty system, and had it believing there was R6000 in sales. My career as a Spur waitress was short lived too, especially as I kept slipping down their wheelchair ramp, with trays full of bubblegum milkshake and beer. Nope, I wasn’t any good at either of those jobs but what I did learn from the experience was that I loved sales and customer services.
My mom has worked for as long as I can remember, sometimes even juggling two jobs (while being a recently divorced 20-year-old with a 2-year-old daughter) just trying to make ends meat. She is outspoken, confident and you can bet your bottom dollar that by the end of the business day, the reports will be on the table, the staff will be paid and you’ll even have a coffee, waiting for you at your desk. Everything that she does, she is the master of, pulling it off with pure perfection albeit a few swear words later with a quick cigarette break here and there, but she does it – she gets the job done. To give you an idea, my mom has been a bartender, a personal assistant, secretary, payroll clerk, hygiene sales representative, business owner of a kid’s salon, head of hygiene, party coordinator, human resource manager and for a few short weeks, she even sold sex toys. I believe that I get my approach, dedication and drive to succeed from my mom.
One of the biggest lessons that I have learnt in the working world is, “fake it until you make it!”
My first “real” interview was at a small clothing boutique who was looking for a girl to stand in the shop, helping customers, cleaning the store and managing sales as they came in. The job didn’t pay well and didn’t even cover my petrol, but it was a job – my first “real” job. On the way to my interview, my mom was talking me through my usual anxieties, when she said something like, “if you’re not sure, say that you can do it and then figure it out later – Google is your best friend. And if you really don’t know how to do something, then say that you’re eager to learn – but always be proactive.”
I got the job.
When I started at the gaming and events company, I had no real experience. My skill set was limited to what I learnt from the 12 years at school and very soon, I learnt that Pythagoras theorem doesn’t equal sales. Google has become my best friend and whenever my boss spoke of something new and exciting to do with our company’s marketing angle, I stepped up and said I would make it work. Sure, there are times that even he picks up on my hesitation, but with a little faith, lots of Google and being proactive, I have created countless systems to make our company run smoothly. What it comes down to is that I never want to be in the position where I feel that I can easily be replaced so if there is something that I can help with, I will take it on as my own, striving for perfection. Sometimes it means that there aren’t enough hours in my workday, but I am in the position where I can say, “Hey, I think today I am going to work an extra hour or two.”
There goes the saying that, “if you’re the most successful person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I don’t know why this quote has always been something that sticks out to me, but it is and it’s one of the main reasons that I have persevered for the last three years. My boss is one of the smartest people that I know. In the time that I have been here, I have learnt so much about managing a business, sales, marketing, handling competitors, managing staff that are CRAZY, and just general business ethics. It’s something that I know could not have been taught in university, this experience is worth a lot more than that.
That being said, one day my boss called me and during one of our hour long conversations about nothing and everything, he mentioned that we’re going to start our second company that fabricates gaming trailers. I didn’t say it then, but I’ll admit that I thought he was crazy. Truth be told, with trailers all over the world, the second company is a huge success. But in the beginning, I relearnt the lesson of faking it, until you make it, all over again. Lee just has this approach that he believes so much in his own business and philosophy that you start believing in it too.
The other day, I tweeted about this lesson and the response was that you need the confidence to do it. Honestly, fake that too. I know from personal experience that if you keep telling yourself that you’re happy, that you’re confident and that you CAN do it – not only will the people around you believe it but so will you.
So here’s to 3 years – I don’t know what the next year may bring but I will say that I am grateful for the opportunity. I am grateful for having a boss that is open-minded, that encourages me to pursue dreams bigger than myself, who will always take a minute to consult on my own crazy ideas, look at my blog’s media kit or just general chit-chat about the many mysteries of life. Last month, I interviewed people for a new position and when I described the working environment, I said that our company is like a family, that my boss is very approachable and probably knows more about my family than one person should.