Landing the perfect job is no easy feat. And when you’re trying to do so in a hyper-competitive field — like fashion — your idea of perfect may seem to be even further out of reach. You’re determined, though, and as a creative individual, you know there’s got to be away… and there is! Here are seven things you can do to help you get your career in the fashion industry moving in the right direction.
1. Enroll in a continuing education class… or two.
Whether you’re just starting out and seeking your first job in fashion or want to make a change within the fashion industry, continuing education classes are a great resource. Don’t just take the class for the practical content. Of course you’ll be learning valuable skills, but you’ll be making valuable connections, too. In big cities especially, many of your classmates will already be actively working in the field as fashion designers, fashion stylists, sales associates, marketing managers, fashion photographers, and more. There are tons of niche jobs within this biz. So, be sure to get to know your fellow students — they’re now part of your professional network!
You'll also want to sit in the front row and make a good impression on your teacher, regardless of whether you’re pursuing your bachelor degree in fashion, a master degree, or doing continuing ed. Both of these types of classes tend to taught by working professionals who have achieved a certain level of success and are well connected themselves. You never know when they might be in the spirit to make introductions for impressive students, especially when their contacts ask them if they can recommend any of their students for available fashion jobs. Additionally, the school you choose should have a career center that may be available to you. Fashion schools like FIT and Parsons have relationships with a wide range of fashion brands that are always looking for assistance with entry-level job openings.
2. Utilize our own college alumni network.
While you may not have gone to a fashion-focused college, that doesn’t mean that alumni from your school haven’t landed in a top spot at a fashion company, including at one you want to work for. Take a good look at your alumni network though your school’s office of career services as well as on Linkedin. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make the connections — in fashion perhaps even more so than other industries, who you know is over half the battle of getting started. You need to have the right connections, and no shortage of them, either. And it’s just good sense, pure and simple, to start your networking endeavors with those you already have a major common tie (like an alma mater) with. The jumpstart to your dream career in fashion may be just one alumna away from you!
3. Develop relationships with fashion recruiters.
There are many recruiters and recruiting agencies that specialize in fashion, and it’s in your best interest to align yourself with someone you feel comfortable with and start working with them. Make sure the recruiter truly understands what you’re looking for. While many recruiters may try to get you to take the same job you already have at a different company, good recruiters will be your advocate. They will actively market you to their clients and be your champion. Ask friends in the industry if they’ve worked with someone they would recommend. Because it's such a fast-paced industry where talent often needs to be identified quickly, most fashion companies use multiple recruiting companies to fill their roles!
4. Find fashion-focused job boards, Linkedin job postings, and company websites.
While it’s been proven that most jobs are filled through networking, getting a job through a job posting is still a possibility. When you’re looking for your dream job, you’ve got to keep all your options open, so don't rule out job boards just yet. But you also can't just apply to the job and leave it at that. Find a way to connect with someone at the organization. Linkedin will often show you who the job is posted by. This would be a good time to connect with the poster and try to ask some questions. Maybe you can find someone else on Linkedin who works in the department that is hiring and connect that way. Whatever you do, use this information to get you one step closer to someone in the organization you want to work for.
Similarly, utilize social media at large to scout out anyone who might be willing to answer your questions over coffee. People really do love to talk about themselves, and if you reach out to a mid-level fashion industry insider via LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and ask to pick their brain, there’s a fair chance they’ll be flattered and happy to help. You might also check out Facebook to see if there are any groups you can join for those interested in a specific fashion field — maybe your city has a Facebook group for those working in fashion merchandising, or perhaps you can find a fashion photographer meetup. Again, if working in fashion is truly your dream career, you have to be willing to pull out all the stops.
5. Go to fashion career fairs.
You may think it’s a waste of time, but many a fashion company will send representatives to these fairs to seek out new talent. And even if the jobs they’re hiring for aren’t the ones you want, or are too entry level, it’s a great way to get facetime with someone who works in a hiring capacity. Make a good introduction and then keep in touch! When the right job vacancy comes up, you’ll be top of mind.
6. And, that dreaded but truthfully quite essential task… intern!
There’s really no true alternative to putting your time in as an intern and getting as much experience as you possibly can working under an industry veteran, whether you’re working to become a stylist, visual merchandiser, fashion editor, or designer. No matter the niche, nothing will serve as a better framework for your ensuing career in fashion than some good old fashioned elbow grease as a hardworking intern. The real-world experience you’ll gain is invaluable, and if you’re lucky, you might just gain a mentor figure or two, as well. If utilized properly, the skills and relationships you’ll gain as an intern will continue to serve you well throughout your career in fashion.
Michele Mavi has nearly 15 years of experience as a recruiter, interview coach, and resume writer. She is Atrium Staffing’s resident career expert, as well as director of internal recruiting and content development. She also founded Angel Films, a division of Atrium Staffing focused on the creation of recruiting and training videos.
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