When I began the search for the right college to start my career, I had no idea what I even wanted that career to be. I landed on the school I currently attend because it was not too far from home, and it offered a wide range of majors so I could change my path a few times if I wanted to (and I did).
I came into school wanting to be a lawyer, and after taking one philosophy class I realized that it wasn’t for me. Fast forward to now, and I am a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying business. I have finally realized that my passion lies with the retail industry, primarily fashion and beauty. After taking a few years to get here, I know that I would love to pursue a career working for a fashion company.
However, those first few years I spent trying to decide what I want to do feels a bit wasted. My peers who figured out their dream career is in fashion spent those same years I did working fashion internships and building a network of people already in the industry. So, you can imagine the struggle I feel now with no experience or connections in the fashion world.
But, I am determined to believe that all hope is not lost. While getting in with companies early in your career or attending a prestigious fashion school are great ways to enter the industry, these are not the only ways. Only about half of fashion industry workers attended a fashion school, while the other half attended a university that did not have a focus on fashion. A lot of times, this is because you know someone who knows someone who is able to help you get your way into the company. If you do not have this sort of network but you have a degree in a business-related field, the question then becomes, how does one enter the fashion industry with no connections?
It may take a lot of hard work, but as the numbers prove, it is possible. If you are looking to enter the fashion industry with no connections, be prepared to create your own path and use every situation as a learning experience.
Here is a breakdown of the topics we will be discussing today on how to get into the fashion industry with no experience:
- Start from the Bottom Up
- Create Your Own Connections
- Fuel Your Passion
- Capitalize on the Experience You Do Have
- Start A Blog
1. Start from the Bottom Up
Not only have I not had any experience in the fashion industry, but I haven’t had experience in a retail store at all. I have always opted to work in restaurants as a summer job for quick money. However, getting in with a company you love starts with doing the less desirable jobs in order to prove dedication to a brand. To do so, it is imperative to try to work your way up through a company. Often times, this process begins at the sales associate level.
Working in a sales associate position is a great way to learn about the values of a brand and the products it offers. It is also a great way to prove your work ethic to the company—if you are consistently meeting and exceeding sales goals or providing outstanding customer service, it is likely that your efforts will be communicated to the corporate offices. Many fashion companies look to hire within for internships or full-time positions because they like to know their candidates before considering them for a more dedicated role. And, if this is the case it would be ideal to work at a customer service position in order to create a rapport with managers who have communication with those who are higher up in the company.
Gaining this sort of retail experience not only helps you learn about merchandise and company initiatives, but also helps open doors for you in the future by beginning to build connections you previously did not have.
2. Create Your Own Connections
Speaking from personal experience, it can be difficult to see people land jobs at your dream company when you feel as though you have been doing everything you can to get a job, and they get an offer purely because they know someone. However, as I have come to learn, this is how the business world works most of the time in any industry. After all, around 80% of jobs are landed through networking.
While you may not be lucky enough to have people, who are already working in the fashion industry, in your contact lists, you can take initiative to change that. Utilizing networking sites like LinkedIn can truly set you apart from other candidates for a position. Conversations can be started by simply messaging someone who has the job you want and asking them about their experiences with the company and the steps they took to get to the point they are at today (after all, most people enjoy talking about themselves). Or, you can even message recruiters directly and ask to learn more about the role you are interested in, and what kind of candidate they are looking for.
To find who to contact, you can simply search the role you are considering into the search bar, or to form a closer connection, you can look at your university’s or organization’s “people” tab, and search for anyone who works at the company you are interested in. Finding common ground with those you are contacting makes it more likely to form a connection with them, and more likely that you will have effective communication. If this sort of communication doesn’t come naturally to you, there is no shortage of networking templates online to use to help get the ball rolling for your first message.
While this step can sometimes feel uncomfortable, it is a crucial part of being considered for a highly sought-after job. Entry level positions at desirable companies have hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. It is likely that your application will not even be considered, even if you have an outstanding resume, unless you take the extra step to introduce yourself to someone in the company.
3. Fuel Your Passion
If you consider yourself as having a passion for fashion, you know that there is always more to learn about the industry. Although it is what I hope to do in the future, it is just about all that takes up my free time as well. To set yourself apart from other candidates, another step you can take is to stay on top of trends and fashion news as well. By doing so, you will be able to convey how passionate you are, and that you take the industry seriously, specifically if you find yourself in an interview setting. Especially if you are hoping to work for a specific company, learn about its values, missions and history from the inside out in order to show your passion for the brand.
Another way to fuel your passion would be to create a strong presence for yourself on social media. Conveying your fashion sense and ability online is a great way to catch recruiters’ eyes and help them understand how you creatively fit into the brand image. While not having the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram probably will not hurt you in an application process, having a creative one can only help you when trying to get a job in an industry that is so creative. Brands are always keeping up to date with their socials, so tagging them in your posts when you are sporting their merchandise can be another unique way to catch the eyes of someone at your dream company.
4. Capitalize on The Experience You Do Have
While you may not have experience working for multiple fashion companies already by your early twenties, you definitely have marketable experience that will make you a qualified candidate for a position, even if you don’t think so at first. As previously mentioned, not all people who work in the fashion industry come from fashion school. Many employers embrace candidates with a regular business degree, as they have learned the foundations of what it takes to excel in a marketing, supply chain, finance, or another sort of role, outside of the fashion industry. Because this is the case, do not be afraid to sell those skills, and let the fact you have educated yourself about fashion speak alone for your passion and dedication as well.
To show you that know how to operate in a professional setting, highlight any experience you have working with a business in quantitative numbers. If you have sales associate experience, include numbers in your resume highlighting how much revenue you brought in for the company each week. Depending on your personal situation, it may be smart to skip adding other customer service positions that are not in a professional setting, like in my case, waitressing or bartending. Instead, fill gaps in your resume with coursework or projects you have completed in your time at university to prove the competence you possess in your field.
5. Start A Blog
This piece of advice may come across as a bit biased coming from someone who works as a content writer, but I have seen with my own eyes how blogging has opened up doors for multiple people to get into the industry of their dreams. Starting a blog proves not only competency in a related field, but also that you are knowledgeable about a subject enough to form your own opinions and your own thoughts on a subject. When trying to enter the fashion industry, this adds value to an applicant in the eyes of a recruiter.
Blogging, similar to social media, shows that you have your own following of people that trust and respect your opinion and creativity. Not to mention, it is a guaranteed way to get into the industry without having to interview or compete against another candidate. With a blog, you can be your own boss and work on your own time (although it takes a lot of hard work to get a blog started, it can be done during the times that are convenient for you!).
Even if you are not trying to land a job in marketing or content creation, writing for a fashion blog is still a great way to show that you are dedicated to working in the industry, and is a good way to tie together your work ethic and passion, as well as proving your strong communication skills—a marketable trait for any job.
Trying to work your way into the fashion industry with no experience is tough but trying to get in when you have no connections feels nearly impossible. However, by keeping in mind five simple tips while hunting for a job in the industry, you can certainly land a role in the field to get your foot in the door.
First, we discussed starting from the bottom up in a company to learn about the core values, products and daily operations of a brand. Starting at the most entry level position, likely a sale associate role, also helps get your name out to the corporate offices, rather than cold applying to a higher position. The second tip was to create your own connections via networking services like LinkedIn. Third, the next point was to never stop fueling your passion for the fashion industry. Staying on top of trends and expressing your style on social media is a great way to catch the eye of recruiters during the application process. Next, we discussed the fourth tip of capitalizing on the experience you do have. Fashion companies hire fashion students and general business students alike, so expand upon the skills and competencies you have. Finally, the fifth tip would be to start a blog. By doing so, you can gain a following and express your voice on topics relating to retail.