This article, will probably be the most informative & personal one I’ll ever write. I’ve been in the fashion industry on & off throughout the years, & it has definitely evolved & changed. I felt compelled to write a previous article, Things You Should Know About The Fashion Industry Before Working In It, because I felt that a lot of people have misconceptions about the industry. I even had an employer once tell me that there are some students that go into the fashion industry thinking that it’ll be just like Project Runway! I thought, if I can give some input, why not?
Anyone working in the fashion industry today knows that it’s a challenge to find a job these days. And searching for a job has definitely changed in the last 10 years. I would work in the industry even when I was in college, & I’ve seen the dynamics change a lot. Curious about how to get a job in fashion? Are you a recent graduate or graduating soon? Or looking for another job? Here are some tips about how to go about finding a job in fashion:
-Network & make connections. Are you a recent graduate & thinking that you have no connections? Not true. Your classmates, & your professors are the beginnings of making connections in the industry. Your professors most likely already have connections in the industry (going back years), & your fellow classmates could be your future coworkers. I’ve known some people who got jobs through their college professors. (It doesn’t hurt to ask!) You will find your other classmates might land great jobs and you start thinking, ‘Oh man! I wish I could’ve gotten that job!’ I’m not saying that brown nosing up to people is a good idea, but planting seeds for future relationships is important. If you are on good terms with that person, there’s nothing stopping you from asking for a contact in the company that they’re working in. Even a contact person in human resources never hurt anyone.
Also I remember an old coworker who at one point, had 3 job offers. All through word of mouth. Mind you this was deep in the recession, & she’s not a US citizen, nor did she have a green card. Her secret? She got them through her connections. I kept thinking, ‘what’s her secret?’ To get to that point, best to follow my next tip:
-Never burn bridges. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people do it. In the intense field of fashion, you will find polar opposites of people working in it: either people who could be your friends, or people who willing stab you in the back / throw you under the bus. The industry is getting smaller all the time (due to outsourcing) so circles are starting to run smaller than they used to. I can honestly say that I’ve had 2 coworkers that I’ve kept in touch with, that have helped me get jobs. Forget about the backstabbers; these people are toxic & are best to stay away from them. With the nice people that you do connect with; these are the people who could possibly help you in the future. Or vice versa.
-Make the most out of Linkedin. You’ll find as the higher up you go in fashion, & the more experience you get, this is a really vital tool. This not only keeps you in touch with old coworkers; but you can apply for jobs as well on Linkedin! Want to apply to your dream company? Do it! Just because they’re not posting jobs currently; doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not hiring. Contact someone anyway! Quite often people are hiring but don’t always post an ad for the job. Maybe it’s the job you’re looking for?
-Attend job / internship fairs. There are always people who are not crazy about these; but I feel that going to one never hurts. Ok, they may charge you $10 to go in, but that’s about it. You will find when that you’re applying for jobs, especially for corporations, you will have to fill out a long online form, only to hear nothing back from them. In all honesty I prefer to go to a career fair than fill out one of those long forms. I may have to wait in line, but at least I get some face time with someone from a company. And I get to personally hand them my resume, & possibly talk about my background / opportunities they have. I went to an internship fair as well! Even though most of the recruiters are well, obviously dealing with students; but I didn’t care! For me this is a part of networking & getting business cards! And I think that’s invaluable.
-Make your resume & background unique. I remember when I had a supervisor interview for a position, & she would go through dozens of resumes. All black & white, in similar formats. One interviewee actually had printed her resume on special resume paper; & that had already made her stand out from the crowd. Don’t go for the standard format; do something different than everyone else is doing. Tip: I usually hand out a business card with my resume. That’s already something different than everyone else. It’s up to YOU to be creative.
-Keep yourself busy. And maybe have a backup job. This is especially important when you’re unemployed. And not only in fashion, either. A person who’s working is far more appealing than an unemployed person. And there’s a saying now that ‘a job leads to another job’. I remember an article about it during the recession, at how controversial it is; that it keeps the unemployed, unemployed. It sounds far more appealing when you say something like, “I’m working in retail at the moment, but I’m trying to get back in the industry” vs. “I’m not working at the moment.” Having a job (even if it’s not related to the field) is always more interesting in comparison to someone who is doing nothing at the moment.
The backup job you might need simply because of the instability of the industry. You’d be surprised how many companies went out of business during the recession. The fashion industry before & after the recession; is really different. And in this tough job market, when you lose a job, it may take you months to find another one. So what to do in the moment until you find something else? This is where the backup job comes in. Whether it be waitressing, bartending, babysitting, retail; you probably need something to pay the bills until the next job comes along. Unless you have a significant other that can hold down the fort financially, you will probably need something.
-Send out resumes every day. That is, if you are unemployed or really want to change your current position. Don’t apply just for jobs that you exactly qualify for; apply for jobs that are even remotely close to yours. The point is that you want to cast a wide net; the wider the net, the more jobs you can catch.
-Make sure everything is perfect on your resume & cover letter. It sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often people make mistakes. And don’t send out generic cover letters. This lacks individuality & effort. Employers are far more flattered when they see a cover letter tailored to their company / the position. People think that the job interview is the 1st impression, but it’s really the cover letter & resume that makes the first impression. Employers are not impressed when you misspell their names, addresses, or when you apply for the wrong job! Always say something that is specific to the job or to the company in your cover letter.
-Always send a thank you note. This may sound obvious also, but a lot of people forget this detail. Not only does this thank the interviewer for their time; its your chance to remind them why you are great for this position. Also it makes you stand out from the crowd-think about it: most people don’t send thank you notes. Sending one also helps you stand out from the crowd & shows that you have the courtesy to thank the person for their time.
-And follow up after the interview. Best to do this by email or phone. I would say wait around a week after the interview, and if you haven’t heard anything, give them a call. Say something like, “I had an interview last week & I haven’t heard anything. I was calling to inquire about the status of the position?” This shows you’re interested, proactive, & a go getter. Keep in mind that most interviewees won’t call back. Tip: Don’t call right away after the interview. You want to be careful when walking that line between interested vs. desperate.
-Have a portfolio? Keep it updated! This applies to people who are in design. (Any design, whether it be fashion, graphic, interior, etc.) What I’ve noticed throughout the years working, who has the best portfolios? Recent graduates. Not the seasoned professionals. Recent grads have fresh talent & are in tune to the newest methods & technology; whereas the seasoned professionals have lots of experience but probably have gotten rusty in the portfolio area (for whatever reasons). Take a look at www.styleportfolios.com and get a glimpse of what is out there & what employers are seeing. I remember once a professor said that the shelf life of a collection in a portfolio, is about 6 months. As much as I don’t like that, he’s right. Anything that is more than a year old; is not relevant anymore. And trend forecasting is a big part of the industry, or at least the eye for it. Take some time, do some research, & update your skills and / or portfolio.
-Always, always do research on the company before going for the interview. A lot of the advice I’m giving applies for many fields, not just fashion, but you’d be surprised how many people skip the basic facts. An employer feels instantly flattered when you can tell them about their company & what they’re doing, vs. ‘I’m sorry I haven’t heard of you guys. What do you do?’ You always want to have an edge over other people, and this just may be it. People always love to hear compliments, especially if it’s about their work. This shows that you are genuinely interested, & you have done your research. There are times you will come across companies that have no website; there at least you can say, ‘I’m sorry, I tried looking for you on the internet but I didn’t find anything. Where do you sell your clothes?’ Which opens the door for conversation for them to explain (which is good to your advantage).
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