Dear Assistants, Your Job Is More Important Than You Think

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Dear Assistants, Your Job Is More Important Than You Think

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Hands up, who actually feels as though they’re learning something new at work every day?

I used to define learning rather conventionally. Instead of viewing it as ongoing and often subconscious, I only truly felt I was learning when I was trusted to do something big and important by someone superior. While this belief sounds ridiculous aloud and written here, I believe it’s more common than we think.

To me, the main problem with the concept of ‘learning’ in fashion is THIS:

Fashion internships/junior jobs involve a lot of admin and manual labour.

As a result, people often complain about not gaining much from it,

other than feeling really exhausted and full of aches.

When I first started interning, my parents and mentors told me I’d learn the most through ‘observing.’ I used to think this was simply a cop-out and a nice way to brush over the fact that I won’t be doing a ‘real’ job. Basically, an excuse to give young people menial tasks. Lately, however, my opinion has changed quite drastically.

Now that my years interning have paid off and I’m employed at a company I love, I look back with fondness at my intern days. While I think dismissiveness towards interns/assistants is detrimental to any business, the menial tasks we do give us the unique ability to see the whole picture of our workplace. Whether we’re tidying the cupboard or answering the phone, assistants notice things their bosses are too preoccupied to see. Additionally, our ‘lack of experience’ gives us more of a neutral, common-sense perspective on the business. For example, do you have a closer ear to young people and therefore know what millennials’ are ‘actually’ buying? Have you spotted many ways that day-to-day tasks could run more efficiently and smoothly? Heck, do you spend more time on the internet and know more about influencers than that whole marketing team put together?

I can speak for so many people I know in saying that assistants don’t give themselves enough credit. Friends have told me about issues arising in the workplace, then a month later their predicted outcome materialise. Because they’re ‘junior’, however, no one respects their opinion (besides fellow assistants, of course).

So, you ask, how is this supposed to motivate me? I’m a member of The Junior Network and for me, there is nothing more motivating than coming together with other assistants, making observations about the industry, then devising how we’ll change it. When we make these connections, stuff like cleaning the kitchen or counting stock doesn’t seem so menial anymore – these tasks may not be powerful but we’re powerful in our own right.

So, in the spirit of these connections, this week I challenge you to:

1. Grab coffee with a fellow assistant/someone at your level in a different fashion company.

2. Make a point of sharing what you feel your fellow assistant friends strengths are and put a smile on their face.

3. Ask someone outside the fashion industry for their feedback on your work and how you could improve.

Words by Stephanie Irwin

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