How Coco Chanel landed me my dream job
This is a story about how always being yourself gets you to where you want to go, never be afraid to be yourself.
I have always loved Coco Chanel and her inimitable style; whilst school friends chased the latest trends, I was lusting over classic Chanel two-pieces and pearls. Over the years I’ve adapted different styles of dressing (read: lazy undergrad hoodies) but I’ve always gone back to the classic Chanel-esque style, and rush to Zara every season to see what tweed pieces I can get my hands on (just me?). The woman herself, Coco Chanel, has always been such an inspiration for me; the way she revolutionised the way women dress, the way she stuck to her guns when people laughed at her for wearing trousers and no corset, the way she would do exactly what she wanted, when she wanted, formidable.
Many people would say that there is no place for fashion in science. Many would also say that there is no place for showing your true colours in a job interview situation. I believe that both statements are wrong: in fact, I believe that I have my love of Coco Chanel to thank for landing my dream job (in part, at least). Here’s how…
My interview for my job involved an assessment centre, and if you’ve ever watched The Apprentice then you’ve kind of got the vibe of what the day entailed. Groups of strangers were thrown together into tasks and challenges, aiming to separate out the leaders from the dead-weights and where everyone was out to out-shine everybody else to secure themselves a job offer. After a disastrous first task, where the whole group was overshadowed by one ‘Lad’ and his ‘banter’ (you know the type, he did NOT get the job) I knew I had to up my game in the second task in order to get myself noticed.
For the task we were given a list of 100 names of historic and modern famous people who had all accomplished something in their lives, from Beethoven to Usain Bolt, Gandhi to Isaac Newton, and were told to pick 10 names. Coco Chanel was on the list and I couldn’t resist picking her for my top ten, even though I wondered whether she was the best choice in this interview situation. Next we had to explain our top ten to the rest of the group and try to win them over to name 10 fictional roads after your list. Then together we had to debate amongst ourselves and decide what to name the roads based on their contributions to society.
Having had a terrible first task, I decided to take the lead on this task and mediate the conversations, writing down people’s choices and making sure everybody got their say, whilst also getting my own voice heard. I was in a group of mostly guys and thought I would get shot down for my controversial choice of Coco Chanel, but by speaking passionately about my hero, against all odds, I managed to win over my whole group and Coco Chanel made our shortlist. At the end of the task my group selected me to present our shortlist to the other team and to the onlooking assessors. I spoke from the heart, in particular when it came to Coco Chanel, expecting more than ever to be laughed at. In fact, the room did give a little giggle when I said that we had chosen a fashion designer over the likes of Mother Theresa, but by the end of my speech on women’s liberation from the restriction of the corset which was holding them back in society by one lone couturier I’d won over the room and we even won the task. Turns out the Global HR Director was also a Chanel woman, you just never know 😉
The next day, I was offered the job. I was over the moon! As so many people in that room had identical qualifications to me, showing passion and confidence for my favourite subject made me stand out and was seen as a positive, even though that subject was something as frivolous and ‘unscientific’ as fashion. And now I can rock up to work in head-to-toe Chanel tweed (like this gorgeous Zara coat!) and nobody bats an eyelid because they all knew what they were getting themselves in for! So don’t ever try to be something that you think somebody else wants you to be! Being false gets you nowhere, don’t be afraid to show your true self in any situation, even during the job hunt!
Pearl jumper: H&M