Ask around the fashion industry and you'll find people who dreamed of working there all their lives and people who stumbled into their positions by chance. As one associate designer maintains, "To get into the creative end of the industry, you need a proper education. You need to study design. Technical people such as buyers and inventory planners, on the other hand, have likely 'fallen' into their jobs."
No matter how they got there, however, fashion professionals admit that having industry contacts is often more important than having talent. "To find a job," reveals an employee from Federated Department Stores. "It's important to use the people you know. I found my first job through contacts, the next by sending an exploratory note, and the third was luck - I got it out of a newspaper advertisement. I'd say my first job was the easiest to find." Indeed, a recent study of top fashion schools says that 65 percent of fashion students are hired through connections.
The Necessity of Networking
While many people - and fashion students in particular - might feel dismayed by the pressure to know the right people, one insider says the worry is unnecessary. "Students often think they cannot make connections while confined within college walls," says a career counselor from a top New York fashion school. "This is a myth. Connections is just another word for relationships. You have relationships with other students, professors, career counselors, the school administration, and many others. At fashion schools, most of the teachers have previous experience in the fashion industry." What does that mean? An acquaintance at your school or workplace might already have valuable job information.
Connections, relationships . . . it's really about networking. To find the right fashion job, discuss your job search with the people you know and with the people they know. Ask questions, inquire about openings, and request informational interviews. Fashion students should attend as many college-sponsored events as possible. They should also seek relevant internships. After a fashion internship has ended, they should keep in touch with their managers. Confirms a fashion career counselor: "Those who serve as intern advisors often grow very fond of their interns. They want to know that you've graduated; they want to help and advise you."
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