Welcome to Career Week! While we always make career-focused content a priority on Fashionista, we thought spring would be a good time to give you an extra helping of tips and tricks on how to make it in the fashion industry.
Fashion is a notoriously difficult industry to break into, especially when you don't have someone who can vouch for you in the very beginning. But what happens when not even your ex-boyfriend's dad's college roommate's wife knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who can help you break through all the noise? The situation is tougher, certainly, but not impossible. It's about research, timing, luck and, above all, being smart. Read on for some tips from industry insiders.
DO YOUR RESEARCH AND SHOW IT
Do as much online reading as humanly possible about the company or person you want to contact. Check out every page of the company's website or blog, read profiles or features written about it, check out what they're doing on social media: find out everything you can about the key players and the clients they work with. If it's a media brand you're targeting, read their content religiously in print and online. Be as knowledgeable as you can be without leaving the comfort of your couch.
"I always appreciate when an email comes in that says, 'I'm such a fan of these brands,' so that I know that they physically sought us out and that they’re not just doing a blind mass email," says Cindy Krupp, the founder of fashion PR company Krupp Group. "The beauty of the Internet is you can gather a ton of information."
GQ.com's editor Jon Wilde says it's a tough environment for young writers pitching stories to national publications like GQ, but regardless it is important to "make damn sure that what you're pitching fits in with where you're pitching at." And because the editor has no idea who you are, don't write too much. "Make it really clear, really crisp, really quick: a paragraph or two at the most," says Wilde, adding that it helps to explain "where [the story you're pitching] fits in the magazine, what exactly the angle is, the expert you're going to talk to." Reference another story the publication has run, if your pitch fits a similar rubric or approach, to "make them understand that you've thought about it in relation to what they do."
Wilde also advises linking to a few of your writing clips or attaching a small PDF to show what you've written on the subject (or other subjects) before. Don't have those clips yet? Think locally. Pitch city and regional publications of all shapes and sizes that might be more willing to take on an unproven writer. "You can't dive right on in a national level," says Wilde.
Designer Isa Tapia recommends reaching out to an HR person or meeting with a headhunter if you're looking for design jobs. "They know where there are openings at the fashion companies and they also talk directly with the design directors and CEOs, so they will know if you can potentially be the right fit somewhere or not," she says. "Maybe there's a company that’s not as cool or trendy but that is a great, dynamic environment in which you will get to do more and or learn a lot that you didn't know was an option."
BE CAREFUL ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
Contacting someone directly on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat can be hit or miss. "Contacting on social media is a little bit creepy," says Krupp, who actually doesn't like to be contacted about jobs through her work email either. "I find it really aggressive." She recommends using the company's jobs or "info" email and if you can't find one, call and ask who is the best person to contact about employment.
Wilde agrees that social media can be tricky. If someone isn't active on Twitter or posts more about their family than work, they are unsubtly saying they "don't want to take pitches that way." But if he or she is active, as Wilde is, and using it as a "front-facing outlet," it's fair game to try.
Odds are very high that you do everything right and you just don't hear back. Do not despair. Everyone working in fashion is running on a fast-paced schedule and it's very easy for emails to fall through the cracks. "Editors are getting a ton of [pitches] and in a lot of ways, unless you've got something no brainer-y, there's almost no chance you're going to hear back quickly," says Wilde. "Expect to wait and don't be too ashamed about popping in every week or every couple of weeks saying, 'Hey, I'd love to do this... let me know what you think.'" It's okay to give a deadline after which you'll pitch it elsewhere. Krupp recommends waiting two weeks before circling back.
KEEP TRYING TO MAKE A PERSONAL CONNECTION
Just because you think you don't have a connection to someone in your industry of choice doesn't mean one won't come up over time. Tapia recommends maintaining a relationship with HR people should something come up in the future. It only takes a "sliver of foot in the door," as Wilde says, to make a difference. Asking for dinner or drinks with someone is probably more time than they can afford to spare, but ask them to pass your name along to someone in a hiring position. "Most people are okay with connecting somebody who's enthusiastic," he says.
Luck and timing play a big role, but so does a positive attitude. "It's really important to be enthusiastic and hungry," says Tapia. "Having drive and passion is palpable when you go into potential meetings." Making initial contact is one thing: afterwards, the real work starts.