About two years ago, I started working part-time on the floor of Patagonia Europe’s Munich Retail Store selling clothes and other outdoor items as a sales associate. At the time I took the job because I needed something to get me out of the house and away from digital screens. I figured it would be a good way to help balance all the work I was doing alone in my home & office in 2020 ( a pre corona decision ) as well as a way to finance my work on my cookbook. What I didn’t realize at the time, was how much more it has offered me, and my life as a whole.
I started working part time in February 2020 for only 9 hours a week. I did this for 3 weeks before the pandemic hit, where I was then stuck at home for 3 weeks without further instruction. After this I had a further 2 months off, then 3 on, then 3 off, and since March 2021 steadily on ( thanks Corona Virus for your lockdowns ) Since then I have increased my hours from 9 to 23 a week. Working here is the perfect balance between my other photography and freelance work from home. I have 2-3 days a week at the store, 2-3 days a week working from home and I earn almost exactly 50% of my yearly salary at each place. I often thought that my interests in art, photography, sport, travel nature, and the environment would never coninciend. But here at Patagonia they do.
Below, I have compiled together a list of positives that I have learned over the past years while working for Patagonia. This ia bit of a love letter to these folks for welcoming me into this beautiful community, and for letting me continue to grow and change beside them.
1. Community – I have been going to Patagonia for over ten years to buy my outdoor gear. ( For the first 20 years of my life I wasn’t really aware of the brand ) And I have yet to be dissapointed. But what is more amazing about this community is how it is able to build together it’s clients, customers and colleagues through events, social media, workshops, retail stores, online events & films, trade shows and so much more. I was always aware of this, as I have been a front row seater at many events before. But now that I work here, and see things from the other side, I see how lucky we are to be apart of a group of people who are really trying to make the world a better place with all their might. “We’re in business to save our home planet “ is our slogan, and it is so fitting.
2. Confidence – I ask people hundreds of times a week if I can help them find something. This builds extreme confidence, character building, patience, and so much more. I see how much I have grown in the last years while doing this. All because PG is giving me a calm, happy, non-biased, comfortable safe space to do so. Most days it feels as if I am in my living room, talking to people, and folding clothes alongside good people and good friends.
3. Satisfaction – Seeing people try on a parkas and finally feeling warm and can the enjoy the Winter weather is so satisfying. Or helping them find the right size hiking pants or the correct rain jacket for their adventures boosts my confidence. It all contributes to a feeling of greatness when they thank you for your help or tell you how well you contributed to them making a decision that isn’t always possible to do on their own. They leave with a smile, ready for their next adventure.
4. Learning – Not only have I learned about so many outdoor materials, fabrics, care, repairs etc. I have also participated in multiple anti-racism trainings, language in the workplace trainings, and have first access to seeing films, newsletters and more info that the company releases weekly. I know we never stop learning things our entire lives, but this really is to a degree that I didn’t think I work ever experience while working in retail. Nor working for a international outdoor company in general.
5. Colleagues – I work directly with 8 other colleagues. Male and female, and aged from 24-60. Some started working for Patagonia 2 months ago, some 25 years ago. In this place and space, I feel that age, workplace hierarchy, and experience all play minor roles in the day to day workings of such a large business. RESPECT is hugely present, and we all support each other with our own strengths and weakness’. I realize that in many other workplaces this isn’t the case, and man does it make a difference! It should be a standard that we all receive.
6. Networking – I have sold many cookbooks, received multiple photography jobs and connecting with many new faces, just by being in a place and space that I have absolutely no way of reaching on my own, even after living and working in this city for over 10 years. This is a huge blessing. Who you know and not what you know is essential in growing a business and a community. And for this me, as well as my bank account or so thankful.
7. Friendships – At some point, after I turned 30, I didn’t think I would, or could make any new friends. But boy was I wrong! In an international space in Europe, with multiple languages and cultures, people come and go, but the friendships and values stay the same. On one of my first phone calls with management upon being hired, I listened to a colleague describe how she “found her people” now that she works for Patagonia. This describes my experience to a tee.
8. Equality – No matter your age, gender, height, shape, race, culture, language or purchase price or non-purchase, I stopped looking at the person in front of me with stereotypical eyes. I instead ask questions, helped when I can, and listen to many stories and circumstances daily. People just want to be heard and seen, and retail is a amazing space to do so. Equality in every form has a new standard for me.
9. Holidays / Lunch Breaks – 30 paid days of holiday are normal for any full time European PG Employee. With my part time hours this works out to about 20 for me a year. I also get 1 hour lunch breaks every shift, and work 10 am – 6:30 pm. For an American company, this is not at all American standard. This is truly a healthy balance. Need I said more ?
10. Commute – 90 percent of the time I bike the 7 km to and from my home to my work. The wind is in my hair, the fresh air on my face. I bike along the Isar river and then through the city park. I stay healthier this way, I test out the beautiful jackets I own, and I am able to spend time outdoors everyday. Most of my other colleagues do the same, and in any weather. It is free, and I burn fat not oil :)
11. Discounts – I get a generous discount on almost all PG products, all year round. Plus receive other offers, gifts, sales etc. at a low price. I get to test and use the products I am selling on the floor, without spending my whole salary on these items. And for this I am so thankful ! I had no idea of this before I agreed to the job. What a bonus!
This week I took a moonlit hike with 5 of my colleagues. I spent 5 hours outdoors on a Tuesday, climbing a small mountain in the middle of January. I saw the stars, and ate fresh glistening snow. I listening to the silence in the forest, cheersed beers in the mountain hut just before closing, and high fived at the summit. Cheesy? Maybe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you Patagoniacs, you get me outdoors more, you inspire me, and you make working such a pleasure.