How to become an Ikea designer
"We are looking for courageous people who are not afraid to make mistakes!"
The Communication & Interior Design (Com & In) department at IKEA in Germany is currently starting a recruiting campaign: 300 new colleagues are to be hired in the current financial year. We met Berna Brandsaeter for an interview. The Norwegian heads the Com & In department at IKEA Germany, which has around 1,000 employees.
You have been working at IKEA for almost 20 years - what do you enjoy most about your work and what is special about it?
Berna: We are given a lot of freedom here - that's really great! Each individual can bring his or her personality to the fore to advance projects and to further develop IKEA as a company. I really enjoy that IKEA is such a curious company. We are always working to make things better. What is also really special is that mistakes are allowed - as long as we learn from them.
IKEA is looking for 300 new employees for Com & In over the next year. That is really impressive! Why are you hiring so many new colleagues?
Berna (laughing): There are mutliple reasons for this. Germany is the largest market for IKEA and continues to be very important. We have just opened our 51st furniture store in Wuppertal and two more will follow next year. Of course, we need new colleagues for every new house. It's also about how we present our products in the furniture store. We like to experiment with new ideas and concepts. This results in many exciting tasks with great development opportunities on a national as well as international level.
What exactly does the Com & In department do?
Berna: When my husband is asked what I do at IKEA, he always says: “She shakes up the pillows!” But of course there is a little more: in every furniture store we have a so-called Com & In manager. He has three teams: Firstly, there is interior design. This team creates the heart of IKEA: our living spaces. This is about furnishing solutions that are functional, beautiful and sustainable at the same time. There are also the designers for visual marketing - the largest group at Com & In. You develop the floor plans and the layout of the entire store. But of course it's also about how and where the products are presented. And then there is the team that is responsible for graphic communication. These are primarily graphic designers who develop text, but also sound and digital communication elements. They support both the interior design team and the designers for visual marketing.
Are these colleagues all specialists in their respective areas of responsibility or is it also possible to switch between teams?
Berna: Some of them are specialists who have completed appropriate training. But everyone can develop and reorient themselves at IKEA - that's what always fascinates me about our company. We are primarily concerned with what kind of skills and competencies a person has - and what his personality and values are. Everyone can develop in all possible directions - for example from a job in a furniture store to a job at the head office in Wallau or even in product development in Sweden. You just have to want it! But of course we also have employees who love their job so much that they would never do someone else.
What is important if you are interested in a position at Com & In at IKEA?
Berna: Of course, we are interested in what training an applicant has. Even more important, however, are the applicant's personality and practical skills. We always have a practical task in our selection process. We want to see how the candidates deal with creative challenges and how they approach a task. It is not so much a question of evaluating the end result, but rather individual skills: the visual eye, compositional skills or the applicant's creativity, for example. And above all the question: Can we recognize potential?
The job description for trainees says that IKEA doesn't care about school grades. Is that really true?
Berna: That's actually true! Some of our colleagues have studied, others have completed secondary school and then completed an apprenticeship. That does not matter. We are looking for people who want to grow with us and who share our values. At IKEA, for example, teamwork is very important - you have to like it, otherwise you won't be successful here.
Are there any other experiences that would be an advantage when applying?
Berna:Retail experience is definitely an asset. Because our big goal is to make IKEA a better and better furniture store.
What is the biggest challenge in a job in the Com & In department?
Berna: We are a very dynamic company and try a lot of new things in order to surprise our customers again and again. That's why it can get hectic at times. Of course, there is always a lot of activity in the furniture stores. So if you are used to working in a museum, it is already a change at the beginning.
How challenging are the tasks of the Com & In department physically?
Berna: Of course, that depends a lot on the area in which you work. Our job is definitely physically demanding: you climb ladders, drag things around, screw furniture together. We have carpenters for the larger structures, but we all also work a lot with our hands. But that's exactly what makes the job so special - the mixture of creative work and implementation.
How much creativity is required in your job?
Berna: Creativity is something that defines IKEA. We want to make life better for people in everyday life and inspire them. And it is precisely this inspiration that we create in the Com & In team. Creativity makes up maybe 20 percent of our daily work - but they are the most important. And that requires people who want to try new things over and over again. We are looking for courageous people who are not afraid to experiment and make mistakes!
You said at the beginning that IKEA is a company that forgives mistakes, right?
Berna: Exactly! Our founder, Ingvar Kamprad, said as early as 1976 that only those who sleep don't make mistakes. I think that's great! Even if it is of course not always easy to admit mistakes, we can only learn from mistakes.
That sounds like an exciting task, but for which you also need a lot of inspiration. What inspires you
Berna: I am a very extroverted person. I get my inspiration from working with people and exchanging ideas. That's why I love working for IKEA - it's always about people! Above all, however, I am inspired by life itself. I have three small children and a husband and in every phase of my life I learn something new and have new experiences that I can all incorporate into my work.
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