CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Fashioning a fabulous career

By Joanne Collins
Special to the Toronto Sun

Heather Mercer always knew what she wanted.

"As a little girl, I dreamed of being creative, wearing business suits and being on planes," she says. Today, at the age of 33, she does all of the above in her career as General Manager of Brand Development for Sears Canada. "Looking back, I realize this job is a dream come true."

Home fashions
At the age of 33, Heather Mercer has her dream job as General Manager of Brand Development for Sears Canada.

Mercer gets paid to do what many people do for fun: shop and explore the latest home fashions and interior design trends. She ensures the hottest styles are reflected in the home furnishings and decor at all Sears stores across Canada. "I research the market, go out and find the trends in home decor," she says.

Mercer graduated from the Fashion Merchandising program at Ryerson University and landed a job in marketing at the Bay. While at the Bay, she received a call from a vice-president at Sears offering her a position as fashion director.

As fashion director, she spent six years flying around the world shopping for beautiful articles and meeting foreign designers and manufacturers.

Her road to success was not a direct route. Although she always knew she wanted to work in fashion, she was afraid of the starving artist stereotype often associated with fashion designing, so she pursued a sociology degree instead. The siren call of fashion still beckoned, so Mercer enrolled at Ryerson and has never looked back.

I met Mercer at the Sears Canada head office in Toronto. She emerges looking stylish yet casual and certainly looks the role of a fashion expert. She ushers me into the "brand development work room," the creative hub for product development of the Sears Whole Home line.

The room is brimming with colourful fabric swatches, photographs and vibrant storyboards illustrating themes for the upcoming season. Mercer offers a sneak peek at the latest candles, vases and dinnerware from around the world that will be translated into Sears' products.

Mercer's favourite part of the job has been the travel. Her career has enabled her to see many exotic parts of the world.

"My trips took me to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand. A typical trip through Europe always included Paris, Frankfurt, London, Milan and Stockholm. I have to say that's been such an amazing part of the job."

Her favourite trip? "My trip to India was one of the most incredible experiences of my life," she says with awe.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Take chances.
  • If you enjoy what you do, it won't feel like work!
  • Take the time to do some soul searching about what you really want.
  • Ask yourself: "What keeps me going? What do I love to do?"
  • Try to answer the question "What makes me tick?" Try to incorporate it into your career.

  • Mercer doesn't travel as much in her current role, which suits her just fine since she recently married and would like to spend more time at home.

    Mercer beams when she talks about her work. "I love my job because it's very creative. Another thing I really like about my job is the variety -- every day is different," she says.

    "Yesterday I was on television talking about home design trends, the next day I could be in a corporate strategy meeting where I'm making a big contribution, and the next day I could be out at a supplier checking out new products."

    The work provides Mercer with a sense of connection to her customers. "I'm really helping people decorate their homes -- how cool! And today, our homes are our sanctuaries, so if I can do something to make the home more comfortable, than I do feel there is a connection through what I do."

    Mercer's role is always expanding and she is now overseeing the development of many Sears' brands beyond just fashion, including the Craftsman and Kenmore lines.

    As a model of career success in the fashion industry, she offered this advice to those looking for career bliss: "A job is more than just this thing you fill in from nine to five. It should provide you with a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment," she says. "I really think people need to soul search and figure out what they love and do it."

    Mercer's attitude about joyful work has obviously contributed to her success. Her final thoughts about her job: "I love to get up every morning and get in here to see what's next. I feel completely and absolutely passionate about my job."

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