Congratulations, you’ve just graduated! Now what? The fashion industry can seem a daunting place before you’re in it, so I’ve rounded up the most honest fashion pieces of advice (read: tough love) from a variety of fashion professionals to give you some guidance before you make your first step on the career runway. From stylists to analysts, these girls have been through all the internships, career moves and hardships to know exactly what you need to hear.
It is going to be tough to find a job right now
Graduating drops you straight into the ‘real world’. Social Media Consultant Kerina Duhra says ‘To be brutally honest, you’re not only going to be up against a lot of other graduates, but you might also be competing with junior staff who already have experience and may have lost their job or love for their current job during lockdown’. In the current Covid-19 climate, being a graduate of 2020 is going to look a bit different; understanding that the job landscape is going to be tougher is the first step to changing how you apply for positions and stand out from the crowd. ‘That doesn’t mean you won’t find a role though, just be prepared for a little bit of a battle’ continues Duhra. Embrace new, innovative ways to sell yourself. Get those creative juices flowing!
You don’t always need a specific degree for the type of job you’re going for
It’s easy to think that you must find a job in the field you graduated in, however that isn’t always the case. Whether you studied English Literature or Business Studies, there are still so many opportunities in the fashion industry that don’t require particular fashion degrees. ‘I did complete a fashion degree but many of my friends did various other subjects and still secured a great job in fashion’ says Jessica Evans, a fashion stylist for Fabulous Magazine. Even if your degree is fashion-based, it doesn’t mean you can’t try out different areas of the industry to discover your niche. ‘I chose fashion as a degree as I thought it would secure me the best role in fashion, now I realise that I could have chosen a different subject that would have worked just as well.’
Be honest with yourself
Once you graduate, the fashion world is your oyster, but it’s time to ask yourself honest questions. Think – ‘How consistent am I going to be? How far am I willing to go to make it?’ asks Olivia Gold, a Fashion Marketer and founder of Life of a Marketing Girl. When you’re starting out you may have to deal with rejections and bad internships which can take a heavy toll on your mental and psychological journey. ‘Prepare to ask yourself the honest questions, am I okay with that being my job for quite a while, while you build up your portfolio?’ continues Olivia. ‘This is just the beginning of your career and doesn’t define where you’ll be’.
Learn, learn and learn some more
You may have just finished learning in the traditional sense, but there’s always going to be new opportunities to expand your skillset. Fashion Editor and Art Director, Jodie Kharas still finds herself wanting to watch and learn more from peers and professionals despite graduating in 2008; ‘getting work experience assisting people in the industry gives the best insight you’ll probably ever get into a potential career path. Knowledge is power’. So, whether you land your dream job straight out of uni or not, keep topping up your expertise with online courses, freelancing or volunteering. ‘Everything I did contributed in some ways’ says Kharas, ‘There’s always something to extract’.
Being a jack-of-all-trades IS important
Gaining knowledge and know-how from internships and freelancing post-graduating will show you how important becoming indispensable really is. ‘You need to make sure you become the ‘yes’ person’ says Basma Khalifa, a master of all trades herself being a successful filmmaker, director, fashion stylist and writer after graduating in 2010. ‘In any eventuality, always try and figure out a way of saying yes’. If you can be that person your peers and superiors can count upon, the ladder to the top will be easier to climb.
Find your glass slipper, Cinderella!
Finishing university and not really knowing what you’re going to do next can be daunting, but take the pressure off yourself and remember it can take time to find your dream career. Kerina Duhra advises: ‘If you haven’t decided what career you want to go into, test a few out. Apply for internships if you can, and give yourself the chance to see what it’s really like to be in that job. Internships will show you the true day-to-day of the role, and if it doesn’t gel with you it’s not the one’. This is the prime time to apply your skillset in a number of areas and find the perfect fit for you. ‘Fashion is a notoriously difficult industry to get into, but if you want a job that’s more than a paycheck it’s worth it.’
If you have to cry, go outside
There are always going to be moments that take their emotional toll on you, especially when interning or in your first position in the industry. ‘As soon as you become vulnerable to tears, people will think you can’t hack it,’ says Basma Khalifa, who advises stepping away from a situation to control your feelings. ‘Give yourself the time and allow yourself to cry instead of sitting at a desk and getting worked up’. Taking some breathing space is a cathartic release that will help your work ethic and professionalism in the long run. Plus, you’ll feel so much better after!
A good attitude goes a long way
Seems obvious, but it’s always important to remember that your attitude is always reflective in everything you do and who you work with. Junior Buyer, Sophie Bentley reiterates: ‘a lot can be said about a person based on their approach to the task at hand and what they are like to work alongside. Teamwork is so important in this industry.’ Whether you’re having a bad day, or not enjoying a particular role, a positive, can-do attitude will get you further in your career, and probably make the situation easier to deal with.
First impressions are EVERYTHING
It’s true when they say first impressions are everything, especially when you’re going for job interviews. Sophie Bentley recalls: ‘As I was waiting in reception before the interview, I started a conversation with a woman whilst she was waiting for the lift nearby. I had no idea at the time who she was, but as it turned out she was the Buying Director and hired me straight away.’ Always be on your A-game, be respectful and show off your personality, you really do never know who you’ll bump into.
Keep in touch with EVERYONE
The fashion industry is a small world; everyone really does know someone who knows someone, so good impressions, optimistic attitudes and being a yes person goes a long way. ‘Always, always stay in touch, even when you don’t need to be interning’ says Fashion Journalist, Emilie Hill, ‘Try and make yourself on people’s radars as much as possible.’ Not only is it good etiquette and a great way of maintaining relationships, but keeping in touch will make you memorable. Perfect for when positions come up or companies are looking for an extra pair of hands.
Don’t go for a job expecting to be earning the big bucks straight away
After living off student loans for the last few years, you probably can’t wait to be earning some money. The fashion industry, while being lucrative, isn’t always the best paid especially when you’re starting out. Fashion Analyst, Heather Ibberson says ‘it’s important to understand that you need to be in this industry because you’re chasing your dreams, you love fashion and you’re determined to work hard for what may seem like not much to begin with’. Internships and temporary positions may not pay well in terms of finances, but they will provide you with a wealth of experience, contacts and skills that money can’t buy. ‘Those connections and what you do on the side as your passion project will likely be what gets you through the door at your next role.’
Being a graduate of 2020 is going to be a unique experience in more ways than one. Take heed of our ‘very’ honest fashion advice and you’ll be sure to be on your way to a stellar career in the fashion industry.
Written by Rebecca Boffey