By Mel Sim

More money doesn’t always mean more job satisfaction.

Somewhere in between my role as an editor and a freelancer, I was offered a job as a brand director for a new fashion line. I was already planning to leave my job at the magazine I was working for and when this opportunity came along, I felt like the stars were aligned for me to explore something new for my career.

The other truth? It paid twice more than my previous job. That’s the real reason why I decided to go for it. Sure, it sounded like a great way to try my hand at something different and it came at the right time (to be honest, I didn’t have anything lined up after quitting). Plus, I love fashion and I love starting something new, which was essentially what I would be doing as the brand director for said company. Spend time at the office scouring fashion and beauty sites to see what’s trending? Visit shopping malls for retail ideas? Travel to different countries to source for products? Sign me up!

The first week went fine, as most first week at any work would – there was orientation to be a part of, colleagues to meet (mine was a really small team, only four of us), the office to get used to, a new work routine to fit into my day. What should have been a warning sign then was the fact that we were based in a small factory (the company was running some other businesses and this fashion line was a new subsidiary) and we all had desks on the upper floor that was previously the storeroom (read: DUSTY!). Also another warning sign: I hardly saw my bosses and no one really sat me down to tell me what my KPIs were so in essence, I was pretty clueless and didn’t know what was to expect of me except for what I thought I should be doing.

One month in, I knew I had made a mistake. Meetings were so ad hoc and didn’t really have any solid agenda to them. Granted it was a new company and everyone was still feeling their way around but when one of my bosses pulled me to the side to say I wasn’t living up to her expectations as a brand director, I should have seen that as a get-out-of-here right now sign. What exactly did she want me to do when she didn’t tell me what I was really supposed to be doing? See my dilemma?

Still, I decided to suck it up and do my best. Mainly because the money was good, and I was due to travel to Shanghai with my boss in a month’s time to source for material. I thought that maybe this would be a great chance to really talk to her about what’s expected of me and learn from her.

But the trip happened and ended, and still I didn’t learn anything except where to shop for textiles in Shanghai and what good food to eat there! Was I disappointed? Yes, I expected more. Was I determined? Still yes – I thought if nobody was going to teach me, I was going to learn it all by myself. For the next month or so, I came up with a few new ideas and work initiatives to help us work better together. I even volunteered to work out of the retail shop (we had a small outlet in a shopping mall) so I could get down to the gist of what sells, what doesn’t.

What ended up instead was me just being a sales staff instead of the brand director I was supposed to be! I was given new work hours that were the shop’s opening and closing hours; I was expected to serve customers (not a problem with me as this gave me the opportunity to find out more), and I was also expected to hand out flyers to shoppers in the mall to come check us out (which I made and printed myself at my own expense). Ok…

The final blow came when my boss told me after my probation (which was six months by the way – another red flag) that I had another three months to prove myself or I would be let go. I decided then that the job wasn’t right for me and quit. Maybe it really was me – I didn’t have the chops to start something ground up. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t get any guidance at all from anyone. Maybe it was a combination of both things.

What I did learn from the experience is that more money doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness at work. Sure it felt great to see the money come into my bank account every month end but when there wasn’t any job satisfaction and the constant feeling of not being good enough, no amount of money will make you happy.

My advice? Look beyond the ringgit. Find a job that will help you be a better person and motivate you to improve yourself. Surround yourself by people who can teach you, especially when it is a new role you’re hired for. Know that when companies pay you more, they expect you to give more. If it is something out of your league or if you don’t know head to tail of what you’re supposed to, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Finally, do work that inspires you and helps you learn more. The money that comes with it is a bonus as job satisfaction outweighs job renumeration.

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Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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