Graduation day is quickly approaching, and for many new grads that means it's time to come up with a strategy on how to land that elusive first job. With so many qualified candidates out there, it's important to stand out and find creative ways to connect with potential employers. It's critical to think outside the box when it comes to getting your foot in the door. In other words, it's time to go big, or go home!
Request informational meetings
Like many people, I started my career in fashion by working on the retail sales floor. It was a great way to learn store operations and by the time I was nineteen I was promoted into store management. When I graduated from college all I wanted to do was make the move over to the fashion office. I couldn't help but romanticize this transition as being incredibly glamorous. Little did I know, making that lateral move would prove to be more difficult than I had planned.
When you don't have fashion office experience you have to get creative about how to land your first gig. I didn't know anyone who worked for the company that I had on my wish list, but I did have retail connections that led me to the district manager for the retailer I was targeting. She agreed to meet me for an informational meeting and eventually agreed to pass my resume along to the hiring manager at the corporate office. A few weeks later I was called in for an interview and the rest is history. In the words of one of my favorite college professors, I was officially "in."
It's important to get your foot in the door in whatever position you qualify for, even if it's entry-level.
"It's important to get your foot in the door in whatever position you qualify for, even if it's entry-level," says Jaymee Espinueva, who works for a high profile fashion retailer doing consumer research, "Make friends with people in other departments that you want to work in and begin building those relationships. Take them out for coffee or ask them to lunch so that when a position does open up you'll be at the top of their mind." Always follow up with a hand-written thank you note after a formal or informational interview.
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Be willing to intern, even after college
Sometimes your first job working in fashion will fall into your lap, but more often than not you have to network your way to the right opportunity. "The best thing to do is to find someone who can put you in front of the hiring manager-then, be persistent, but not annoying," says Andrea Wingert, founder of SkinnyPurse.com. If the company isn't hiring, ask about internship or project-based job opportunities. I know many fashion professionals who got their foot in the door by interning until a position opened up full-time, and still others who started out working on smaller projects before being hired full-time. Temporary or intern work is a great way for you to get to know the inner-workings of a company and for them to get to know you.
Be generous with your talent
Don't underestimate the power of having a great portfolio to share with potential employers. In today's competitive job environment old writing samples and school projects (while better than nothing) just won't do. You have to get creative in order to differentiate yourself. If you're looking for a job in fashion design consider designing a capsule collection for a potential employer to show that you understand their design aesthetic. If you are interested in working in digital marketing, send over 10 ideas on how your target company could improve their email strategy. Joan Kelly, producer of Seattle's Fashion First runway show says that "producing a short video to show your enthusiasm for a company while highlighting your skill set is another way to set yourself apart from the pack."
Become a self-appointed brand ambassador
Getting actual face time with potential employers is also key when it comes to to securing your dream job. If the company you are interested in is hosting a special event or sample sale- go! Often times people from various departments within the company will be there. So show up and be friendly. You never know who you might meet or what opportunities that chance encounter might lead toward.
If you have a blog or a social media presence, let the brands you love know that you are a huge fan by writing blog posts about collections or campaigns, and then altering them through social media. Someone in tracking those conversations and by showing a recurring interest you increase your chances of getting noticed.
Be flexible with the specifics
You might not land your dream job immediately, and while settling never feels good, accepting a position that at least gives you the opportunity to work for an ideal company, and demonstrate a strong work ethic and sense of commitment, is often better than living off of a dwindling savings account. For aspiring fashion publicists, for example, a job in consumer PR can be a great way to get solid PR experience, with the goal of transitioning to a fashion department or fashion PR agency in the future.
Dedicate yourself to your search daily
Sometimes it can take awhile to get in the door, but don't give up or get discouraged. Focus on building relationships with recruiters and hiring managers so that when the perfect gig does present itself, you're ready to go! Most importantly, don't stress out over the job hunting process, give yourself a certain amount of each time dedicated to looking for new jobs, following up and reaching out, and then focus on perfecting your craft. Good luck!
Tip: If you're looking to launch your career in fashion PR, look no further than Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR and check out Fashion PR Confidential, a 2-day workshop for aspiring publicists in NYC and LA (sign up to get notified on upcoming dates!
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Photo Credit: Adam Lerner