I can still vividly remember the moment I landed the job. Working for Kate Spade New York had always been a dream of mine, so the morning I received the phone call informing me of the offer, my heart practically burst with excitement. Here I was just a month after graduating from college, in a new city many states away from my hometown, officially entering the "real" world. Even after the endless networking, friendly follow-ups, and one-too-many nights scouring LinkedIn for openings, I'm still not completely sure how the stars aligned so well at the time.
As I reflect back on the two and a half years I spent working at Kate Spade, I cannot help but smile from nostalgia. Yes, those months were packed with crisp color, playful prints, and countless Champagne celebrations, but they were also filled with late nights, long hours, and bucketfuls of hard work. My time at Kate Spade not only opened my eyes to the corporate world and fashion industry but also taught me all about carving my own career path. Below are three invaluable lessons I learned by working at the headquarters of Kate Spade New York right out of college.
1. Company culture can matter more than compensation.
Working at Kate Spade taught me just how valuable positive company culture can be when it comes to your own happiness in the workplace. The company spent a lot of time and effort creating a welcoming culture, which resulted in an encouraging and empowering atmosphere throughout the entire office. Although I was in an entry-level position, I always felt appreciated and valued, which kept me motivated to consistently put my best foot forward when it came to my work and productivity. While my entry-level position came with an entry-level salary, the good vibes and culture around the office made me content with the numbers on my paycheck. From the company celebrations to the out-of-office gatherings and team-building exercises, I enjoyed the people I was working with and learning from, which ultimately increased my loyalty to the company.
Nowadays, I not only look at job descriptions when looking for a role but also heavily research a company's culture. Since most jobs today aren't the average 9-to-5, it is critical to find a place where you feel like you belong. Feeling "at home" at a company where you will spend much of your day can be worth so much more than your actual salary.
2. Networking beyond your department will lead to greater success.
During my time at Kate Spade, my position was in Merchandising, where I worked heavily with the Design, Buying, and Product Development teams. Not a day passed when there wasn't some sort of crossfunctional communication. However, by working for a company that grand in size, I quickly realized just how many other departments made up the brand. From Marketing and Public Relations to Finance, Human Resources, and Learning and Development, I yearned to know more about how each of these teams functioned and what their day-to-day roles entailed.
So, I took the initiative to reach out to employees — many whom I had never met — to see if they'd be interested in grabbing coffee to simply chat. Not only did these talks allow me to learn firsthand how each department was a critical slice in the company pie, but it also presented me with the opportunity to network and meet new faces of the brand. Ultimately, these casual coffee chats were what opened many new doors for me in my career.
3. You must accept when it's time to move on.
My time at Kate Spade was definitely an exciting chapter in my life. Although this period had its fair share of stressful and chaotic moments, I am thankful for the fast-paced environment and the many ups and downs, as I was able to grow both professionally and as an individual. Most of all, I am thankful for all the inspiration. By working alongside such talented and creative people, my own creativity blossomed. So much so, in fact, that I ultimately realized it was time to move on.
As much as I cared for my coworkers, I knew deep down in my heart I was in the wrong role. Merchandising was just not for me. After continuously observing all the passion people were bringing to their roles each day, it became clear to me that I did not have that level of enthusiasm when it came to my own work. And it was because of the many "coffee chats" that my eyes opened to this realization so quickly. Through these talks, I learned about new departments, new possibilities for my career, and new opportunities. I recognized that figuring out what you want to do with "the rest of your life" takes time, and you won't have all the answers right after college. There will be a lot of trial and error — and that's OK! What's important is accepting when it's time to move on, even if that means leaving what was once your "dream job."
So while saying goodbye to the colorful, inspiring world of Kate Spade was bittersweet, it was because of the confidence I gained during my time at the company that I had the courage to find the right path for me.