So a lot has been happening!
02/04/17Warning - personal blog post coming up! Time to spill the beans!
I left my Studio Manager job at the company which shall remain nameless so I don't get in any bother, but if you know me you'll know where I worked. I wanted to do a blog post to explain why I made this decision and what it means for me now. Most people get this off their chest in a "glassdoor" review but despite the experiences listed below, I am not bitter and do not wish any ill-will but feel like it is important for me to put my truth across.
I did not just quit - I made sure I had a new job to go too which included a pay-rise. I have a bit of a commute which does suck up my payrise but I really do not mind, and also there are plenty of opportunities to increase my wages. I went through fits and starts of getting annoyed with my old job and looking for other jobs but despite the constant threat of redundancy, I was not committed to making the leap.
Just before Christmas my Assistant Manager was promoted to a manager at a different studio and there was a bit of a "misunderstanding" which involved me believing she was going to be on a higher wage than me - something that obviously infuriated me as I had trained her up - don't worry we are all good and cool now! This though, at the time, was the final nail in the coffin that saw me spending 2 full days back to back from 8am one day to 10pm the next, applying for jobs. Photography jobs are scarce up in the North East so I went for management roles.
I had a few interviews that to be fair weren't really me, I wasn't successful in them which suited me fine. I had kind of calmed down and then one last interview was offered to me. I nearly cancelled it as I was feeling so downtrodden and "stuck" but in the end I thought well I've got nothing to lose. Well, I got that job. I am now an Assistant Manager at a large pharmaceuticals store (again which shall remain nameless but if you know me you will know where I work!).
I am so happy to report how different my life is now. I cannot blame anyone in particular or even put my finger on anything specific, but being out of that environment and in my new role has made me realise just how "depressed" I was. I am not claiming I was depressed exactly but I wasn't myself in the end. I lost myself in a constant cycle of being stressed, angry, worried. I took the daily problems of that job home with me every night and my personal life suffered. It was such a negative environment which put far too much pressure on people for a ridiculousy low pay. There was no support available just constant unachiebable targets and consequences for not hitting them. It wasn't that I was bad at my job - the whole photography industry changed very quickly and they failed to keep up with the needs of a new digital-age of customers who now take all of their pictures on their phones - the quality may be rubbish but as long as their child is smiling, this does not matter. The blame for this was passed onto the staff who shed blood, sweat and tears trying their best to keep the company going - and for very little thanks. Several years ago the owner called my area to a meeting to ask us for help to save the company - he ignored our ideas and sold the company to his son for £1. HR made up holidays you didn't have, expense and bonus claim paperwork routinely went missing or was received too late to be paid....same with sick day paperwork, basically anything to get out of paying people what they were owed....
I'd like to explain that although I got to take photographs every day in my old job, that was a very TINY part of the job. The rest was high pressure canvassing, telesales and sales. Dealing with complaints from customers which I was never allowwed to do anything to sort out as refunds were forbidden and we had no "complaints" department to hand it over too, so I'd just be left to be yelled at and usually have the phone put down on me after receiving alot of abuse. That's if I was lucky - if I wasn't they would then come down to the studio to repeat the abuse in person..... Staff hating me like I was the devil incarnate due to having to enforce practises that were not my choosing ie; dinner breaks being pretty much banned. Hey I'd have liked to have eaten too ya know....
Since I left there has been a company restructure and from keeping in touch with my team, things are alot different. My protege who filled my boots, is doing really well and I sincerely hope it continues for them and the company as a whole but I can't help but feel it's a band-aid on a wound that won't stop bleeding. I hope for the sake of my friends who are still there, that I am wrong about that. I am however, so incredibly relieved, happy and thankful that I got out when I did. I turned down the offer of a pay-rise to stay and I am very glad I stuck to my guns. My notice period was awful - as soon as I turned down the offer, I was basically ex-communicated. I did what I always did though, just got on with it and I left with my head held high. Things had come down the unofficial grape-vine which convinced me that now wa the right time to jump ship. From being recently blatantly lied too by higher management, to knowing what happened in Australia (the company disappeared overnight and nobody got any redundancy pay), it confirmed to me that peoples lives did not matter, money was the only thing that they cared about. The experience has left me with some life-long friends who also went through the hell of that place and managed to get out of the other side - I am certain we will always have a special bond!!!
Moving on, I am a completely new person. Like literally I have had a personality transplant. I am eating really healthy (10lbs gone!), don't drink half as much wine (not that I was ever nearing a "problematic" level by the way....) and cut down alot on smoking to now being 9 days cold-turkey. I don't feel like I need bad food/alcohol/nicotine to make it through the week! I wake up on a morning and I spring out of bed. I don't wake up with a feeling of dread and scared as to what the day will bring. I can't explain how much of a revelation this all is - this is actually how life is meant to be?!
I now get every other weekend off so I can have quality time with my husband. I now know what that "friday feeling" is I have heard people talk about! I have an hours dinner break every day and somewhere to actually sit and eat and even prepare food if I so wish - this has helped me get into a routine and eat proper food at a set time rather than ramming crisps and chocolate dow my neck in the 5 minutes between appointments...) I wear a uniform so my clothes are my own again. I never thought I'd be happy about wearing a uniform but it's pretty cute, (bonus - it's also blue which is my favourite colour!) - and also the headache of buying/wearing outfits that looked both "professional" for being a manager, but also allowwed me to crawl around on my hands and needs getting down to babies levels and acting like a loon to get them to smile....yeah, not gonna miss that daily debacle! My house has had such a declutter. I work less hours yet get paid more and this company actually care about the people they employee. The perks the staff enjoy are fantastic!
Having said all that, it's not been easy - there has been SO much to learn. Much more than I anticipated. I was trained by a fab team and now I am in my own store I have found my feet and am looking forward to adding more strings to my bow such as pharmacy training. I realise I am still in the honeymoon period of my new role, I'll admit it also has some stressful times like the till not working when you have a massive queue for example....but these issues are so minor in comparison and I can never see myself lying awake at night upset about anything. I have actually been so satisfyingly happy and chilled out that I have been crashing out on the sofa at like 9pm....not through being exhausted but literally through not being wired til 2am on stress.
So the moral of the story is - if you identify with this long account - GET OUT! You owe it to yourself. When your best friend interrupts your holiday together to stage an intervention to tell you how much of a rubbish person you've become (triggered by your extremely hysterical reaction to someone from work messaging you whilst on said holiday) - you know it's time to make a change. Just don't just quit. I very nearly did on more than one occasion but luckily I had good people around me to talk me out of it. I would have gotten by on savings probably but it wouldn't have been the right thing to do. After working so hard to get where I was, (I was the longest standing manager of that studio), I didn't want to just give up and would have happily stayed for redundancy pay but then there was the trust issue of would people even get that...there's alot of info freely available on the internet that would suggest shady things were going down that would contradict that. If your face didn't fit then you were out. After the last few months of me kicking off about numerous issues, my face certainly didn't fit anymore so I took the opportunity to leave the sinking ship while I still could.
Anyway back to photography - fear not! Although I can no longer say I am a full-time photographer, this career move actually gives me alot more freedom to pursue my own work. With less hours I also have more time to devote to this. I am no longer tied by contract restrictions. Previously I was unable to do any baby/child/family studio work as it was seen as a conflict of interest. Well not anymore! I was a photographer before my 8.5 years there and will continue to be a photographer for the foreseeable.
My pharmacy training is starting after the summer so all the homework will not interfere with my wedding editing. Once I have got that started and am feeling like it is doable, I will be purchasing new-born posing equipment. I am also currently in talks with a friend about studio space.
So I guess - watch this space.
I recently attended the Photography Show in Birmingham with my buddy Sam where I was very inspired and listening to a talk by Lara Jade really re-ignited my passion for the art of photography. I am looking forward to this summers weddings as well as a return-trip to Berlin where I'll be taking my "proper" camera. Although I have just traded my awful I-Phone for a Huawei which features Leica lenses so even my daft phone pics are on the up ;)
And with that I close that chapter in my life and look forward to what the future brings!