Ruth Bibby currently works in fashion PR in New York City, with a love for event coordinating. Before moving to New York, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Liberty University with a B.A. in Fashion Merchandising and a B.A. in Journalism. Ruth found her love of fashion at an early age by working as a child model in Taipei, Taiwan which eventually led her to work as a fashion show director and then move to New York. Please contact Ruth at [email protected] or www.linkedin.com/in/ruthbibby
The fashion industry may be the only place where you are asked to pick up six pounds of strawberries and 12 cases of champagne flutes for a company party that night—while wearing heels. For fashion in New York City, that’s just another day on the job. Anne Hathaway romanticized running around Manhattan as the struggling magazine assistant in the Devil Wears Prada, a dream job of many fashion hopefuls.
From the advice of movies, professors and online articles, it seems that the formula for success is a college degree + working hard + interning + networking = dream job. Yet thousands of college grads are following that formula meaning they are not shining in the pool of applicants.
According to the Economic Policy Institute’s report last May about the 2014 graduating class, “In today’s labor market, there are nearly 1 million “missing” young workers—potential workers who are neither employed nor actively seeking work (and are thus not counted in the unemployment rate) because job opportunities remain so scarce. If these missing workers were in the labor market looking for work, the unemployment rate of workers under age 25 would be 18.1 percent instead of 14.5 percent.”
College degrees are simply a passport into New York City but employers are looking for detailed skills that they’re not telling you about. New grads searching for entry level fashion positions can remain one step in front of their peers by following four easy steps.
1. Learn the lingo.
High level items, flats, decks, laydowns, off model, and PLM are just a taste of fashion lingo.
In a world where everyone seems to be working nine hours a day and still leaving unfinished work, clarity is mandatory. When your boss needs the high level presentation with PLM data for the upcoming season, they expect you to know what that means. The easiest way to learn the fashion language is to look at job postings and create a keywords database. Are the postings asking for merchandising roadmaps or assistance in creating production tech packs? If they care enough to talk about it, then care enough to learn about it. It will put you ten steps ahead of the other applicants and gives you topics to talk about in cover letters and interviews.
2. Appearance Matters.
Remember that appearance and brands are not synonymous. A Prada skirt that is too tight with a Rag and Bone sweater that doesn’t match will not save your style based on name alone. Young fashion professionals know that senior management is looking for someone who is the whole package, including someone who knows their figure type and how to dress it. A fitted Macy’s dress paired with a clean pair of H&M heels will always beat a sloppy Fendi outift. And for fashion, appearance means dressing the part every day.
This past fashion week, I wore jeans and a comfortable shirt into the office. At 4:05 p.m. I get a call asking me to be ready to leave at 4:30 to go to a fashion show at Lincoln Center. I had 20 minutes to find and buy a dress, something that should have been avoided if I remembered there is no day off from fashion.
3. Excel in Excel.
Design students and other arts majors usually rejoice at the lack of business classes required to graduate. They turn their focus to handling fabrics, drawing flats, and other artistic classes, not considering that fashion is still a business. When an excel file needs to be updated and filtered, your boss will expect you to know how to create formulas and sift through hundreds of lines of data. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single fashion job that can escape this expectation.
It may not be discussed in an interview because it is expected knowledge, or you may be like my coworker and have to take an Excel test as part of the interview. If a document is late because you had to learn how to sort for items or use formulas, no one will be happy with that wasted time. Take an extra Excel class in college or practice with the program so you will be ready to rock from day one of your new job.
4. Intern Early.
Searching for your very first internship during the senior year of college is the quickest way to be lapped by your peers in the fashion world. Girls who live in New York City and are serious about fashion begin interning while in high school, some as young as 16. They are your competition, and employers know that internships are the new prerequisite to entry level positions.
If you’re still unsure what area of fashion to work in, being in college gives you three summers to intern in different areas before making a commitment. That’s three summer of real experience, networking, meeting important contacts, and hopefully finding a boss who will hire you before you even have your diploma.