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Do you have an eye for fashion and design, coupled with business savvy? In this interview, a product merchandiser for a famous designer shares his career story, including the the exciting, although stressful elements of the work.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am a Product Merchandiser for a well-known clothing designer.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am a South Korean American male. I can't say that my race or gender has ever helped or hurt my chances of finding work. I have been lucky to not experience much discrimination in the workplace.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I help designers for my company choose outfits for fashion shows and for retail sale in stores. Many people think that what I do is easy, but I can assure them that it is not.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I rate it a 10. If I could change one thing, it would be the few customers who tend to bicker more than the others.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: This job does move my heart. I am able to help put a smile on people's faces each and every day by doing something I love. This is definitely my calling and I am so grateful for finding it.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: I went to school for fashion and received a degree in design. I am actually one of the few educated product merchandisers who do not have a business degree. My experience with fashion is what landed me the job.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I got started by showing up to various firms and asking about available jobs. I left resumes with everyone until I began getting callbacks. Most of them were very surprised by my level of experience, because I had never worked at a job in this field outside of internships before.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned that regardless of race, I needed to put my best foot forward to ensure that my employers were happy with the job that I did for them. I wanted to be the best human being for the job, not just the bet South Korean employee. This is important to me and I hope that it is for many people out there.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: I learned that someone can get all of the education that they desire but in the end, it is the experience that truly prepares a person for the job. No job experience means no job offers. At least, not the kinds of offers that people want. I personally interned every chance I got to make sure that I had something to put on my applications so that when I was interviewed, they could already see that I had a working knowledge of the job in question.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: I have had customers ask me very personal questions about my marriage. Once, a coworker tried to get me demoted because she was anxious to take my place. Of course, it never panned out for her because through my actions and work ethic, my employer knows that I am the right guy for the job.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I get up and go to work each and every day because I love what I do for a living. My family also depends on me to support them. We have pretty high expectations for quality of life and the only way to meet those expectations is through hard work and perseverance. One of the things that makes me feel good each day is when I exceed the goals set forth by my job and my boss compliments me on a job well done. It is extremely tough to be a product merchandiser and when you pass true milestones in this position, it's something to be happy about. I brag every day to my friends and family about how much I love this job.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: I have never just wanted to quit my job, although it is stressful at times. We have to coordinate products for major fashion designers and other companies looking at our clothing lines. Some people are gracious and patient with you while you try to explain the differences between outfits and which accessories go with them, among other things. On the other hand, other clients are not so nice about it and they can be quite confrontational. I have often tried my best to keep these tougher customers happy, but you can't please everyone.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job is highly stressful at times, but it is also just as rewarding. It is often tough to maintain a comfortable balance between career and personal life, but that comes with the territory. I have been able to shuffle home and work with a little creativity and my wife and children sure haven't complained about anything. My life is hectic, but everything balances out in the end and I manage to lead a pretty happy life.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: The amount of money which can be made as a Product Merchandiser can vary. Some industries pay more than others. In my field, it is very possible to exceed 70k per year if you work hard. I have heard others in similar positions claim to make salaries as low as 30k and as high as 100k. It really depends. Personally, I am very comfortable with the pay that I receive. It might not sound like enough for the amount of stress I deal with each and every day, but I am able to support my family and a high quality of life for us, so we are happy.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: With this job, it is important to take a vacation each year to keep from being burned out. I like to take my family to Miami every year for 2 weeks. We forget about the stresses of home and just concentrate on having fun. Sometimes it feels like that 2 weeks each year doesn't quite cut it, but when the time to enjoy it comes around, I am certainly thankful. I am always very careful about the amount of time I take away from work. I want to have a break, but at the same time, I don't like falling behind.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: Firstly, it takes experience. A degree in fashion or business is also important, but it is not required. Employers in my field want people who know what they are doing and are comfortable dealing with high-profile clients.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: I would tell them to run! I'm kidding, of course. My advice would be to work hard and show your employer that you are worth keeping around. I would tell them not to wait on orders. Take initiative before you are asked to do something. This shows that you love what you do and you care about the company.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: I would be doing the exact same thing that I am doing now. I went to school for this job and it is the only thing that I have ever wanted to do professionally. Working for high-profile clients and being able to help set trends in the fashion world is exciting. My family is proud of what I do and so am I. As a successful Korean American, I would not change a single thing about my life. I love my family, my home, my career and the success which comes with all of those things. It has truly been a blessing and I couldn't ask for more.