How MatchesFashion's People Experience Coordinator Found Her Voice
A career in human resources might seem exciting but constantly finding your voice and pushing yourself past the racism, lack of access, and microaggressions in the workforce can bring your career to a halt. Sarah Akanbi, People Experience Coordinator at Matches Fashion adopted a different approach — deciding that her voice mattered and constantly celebrating her accomplishments no matter how small. Her work is ungirded by her hope to inspire an up-and-coming generation to speak up for themselves and listen to their intuition.
Sarah Akanbi - People Experience Coordinator, MATCHESFASHION
"Celebrating accomplishments, whether big or small should be discussed way more! It's easy for us to forget how far we have come and also dismiss achievements, as we are always onto the next big thing!"
BYP: Why did you choose your career within HR?
Sarah Akanbi: The main reason I chose a career within HR, is that whilst at university I studied Business Administration, and one of the modules was based around People and I got my highest grades from that particular module. In addition to this, HR is the heart of all businesses, and especially within retail, no day is the same. There are a lot of opportunities for growth and personal development, and you get to know all employees within any organisation. It's great if you’re nosey too, as you are exposed to all areas of the business!!
BYP: What are the three biggest challenges you faced navigating your career to date?
Sarah Akanbi: The 3 biggest challenges I have faced in my career are dealing with work-life/balance- especially in the last year, deciding and navigating the next steps of my career, and dealing with racial comments and using my voice/position to educate and speak up on matters.
BYP: How did you overcome those challenges?
Sarah Akanbi: The challenges mentioned above are varied, however, I was lucky enough to have a great support system at work, as they listened, encouraged, and provided support at every step of the way. When in these types of situations I ask myself the following questions, ‘what is the ideal outcome that will make me feel good/better?’ ‘how will this affect me long-term career-wise?’ ‘what is this situation trying to teach me/others or what can I learn from this?’.
These questions really helped me to gain clarity on certain situations, and also helped me to make informed decisions using my head and not emotions in order to achieve results that would be the most beneficial.
BYP: How do you process/celebrate your accomplishments?
Sarah Akanbi: Celebrating accomplishments, whether big or small should be discussed way more! It's easy for us to forget how far we have come and also dismiss achievements, as we are always onto the next big thing! I have learned to take the time to celebrate all wins by buying myself something cute, telling my friends and family, and documenting this somewhere for reviewing. This is especially great for when you feel stagnant, have had a setback in your career, or are unsure of your next move, and it’s a reminder of what you have achieved so far
Don't feel as though you are boasting or have no right to celebrate as you don’t know who you are inspiring behind closed doors!
BYP: Why did you want to join MATCHESFASHION?
Sarah Akanbi: During the pandemic, I think we all had some time to really look at our careers and think about the next steps. I really enjoy working in retail and wanted to stay within the industry, however, I felt it was time for me to leave my current role. I did some research and knew that in the current climate it’s clear that businesses with a strong online presence were able to adjust and adapt quickly when the pandemic first hit the UK. I knew that e-commerce would probably be the next best thing for my career and MATCHESFASHION was an amazing opportunity to do so.
Additionally MATCHESFASHION stocks amazing brands, and some black-owned ones too such as Nubian Skin and BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB! MATCHESFASHION also did a great piece on their Diversity and Inclusion report and whilst this is an ongoing project, working for a business that is making a conscious effort to be inclusive and continuously encourages and promotes this was important to me.
BYP: Are there any projects and/or forums that you want our BYP network members to become familiar with?
Sarah Akanbi: If you are thinking of joining HR, familiarise yourself with organisations such as Xpert HR, ACAS, HR Grapevine. You can sign up for newsletters to stay updated and keep up with policy/legislation changes. Also, BlackinHR is an organisation that is relatable and offers great advice on navigating the workplace –whilst being Black!
BYP: Lastly, what are your key takeaways for our network members?
Sarah Akanbi: I am sure you’ve heard this all before but always be yourself in the workplace whilst understanding the culture of the business you're in. Learn to be adaptable as things are ever-changing, and remember to speak up for things and causes you believe in. Learn to celebrate ALL wins and don’t settle for any job or position, and make sure you enjoy what you’re doing! Take time to rest as burnout is real and take regular breaks during the day- your eyes will thank you for it!
To learn more about MATCHESFASHION or to apply for their available roles please visit their BYP jobs board here.