University is an unforgettable experience. At least three years of education, experience, and eating 3am takeaways, all culminating to something that’s more than just fancy piece of paper – it’s the key to unlocking the career of your dreams.
That’s what you’re led to believe anyway, and while of course a good degree heightens career prospects, in the current highly competitive market you need more than just a 2:1 to win a role. It’s a marathon, not a sprint – and whilst some people are fortunate to fall straight into their perfect role, for others it’s more difficult, so it’s down to you to do everything you can to up your stakes – so use my advice to help your chances.
- The importance of the CV – When searching for any new opportunity, be it a one week internship, meeting a new contact, or a full time job –never underestimate the importance of your CV. This piece of paper is your professional and academic identity, your chance to stand out from the crowd. According to studies, on average recruiters look at CV’s for six seconds – which gives you a minute amount of time to represent your best self.
When applying for a creative industry like fashion, it’s important to show off your personality and innovation, which can be difficult through one sheet of paper. Don’t just stick to one template, craft every CV specifically to the role you’re applying for – they’ll appreciate that personal touch. If you’re sending a number of CV’s out, or have the opportunity to give your details to a new contact, have a different CV for each field you’re interested in, e.g. one for buying and one for merchandising.
- Attend job fairs – With everything going on at university it’s sometimes hard to remember the ultimate goal is getting a job, so thinking about postgraduate prospects can often feel a bit rushed. Ultimately, universities want to help you achieve your career goals – so speak to your careers advisor and ask about upcoming job fairs. Nearly every uni will hold one at least once a year, and it’s a great way to gain industry contacts and get an idea of whether a firm may be the right one for you.
If you’ve missed the chance to attend a university fair, big cities also hold their own job fairs open to the public. Manchester has a huge one in the Bridgewater Hall which exhibits more than twice a year with hundreds of employers – you could even discover a prospect you’d never have considered before!
- Internships – Internships are often subject of debate in the fashion industry, but are an easy in to making valuable lifetime contacts. Whilst I don’t condone free labour – a week or two’s unpaid work experience could open many career goals, and it’s a great way to dip your toe in the water to see whether a company or role could be the right one for you. Speak to your university – even if you’ve already graduated to ask for any work experience contacts they may know, or contact the companies directly, on most careers sites there’s an e-mail address to approach for internships.
If you’ve completed a short-term internship and are asked back know your worth. In an industry where money is tighter it’s a sad fact companies will try to exploit hungry graduates for free, so whilst it’s important to keep up good relationships, ensure you’re getting paid. Research freelance day rates for the type of job you’re doing, and see what the companies can offer you.
There are also many longer term paid internships available, but these can be extremely competitive. Target companies you know have these roles available for short term work, and express your interest in becoming a more permanent part of the team – they’ll remember you when that role opens up. Alternatively – look at short term work. There are hundreds of temp agencies in Manchester which could introduce you to companies or even roles you may not consider – plus the day rate is generally much higher than in a full-time role. It’s a great opportunity to think about if you’re still struggling or are unsure where to direct your long term career.
- Networking – The fashion industry is smaller than you know, so keep a contact book and follow people on Instagram LinkedIn. There are so many networking events on offer in cities, so keep a look out online and on eventbrite for relevant opportunities, most of them are free – but even if they aren’t – it could be a worthy investment for your future, and you could even learn something!
- Think outside the box – One of the best things about degrees is that they provide you with transferrable skills. Just because you have a degree in fashion design doesn’t mean you have to stick to that forever – I know plenty of Designers who haven’t thought about Design since!
Think about other similar fields, ecommerce has millions of job opportunities in brands other than fashion, and design could be used for homeware as well as clothes and in Product development not just design. You can always build yourself up in another similar field and come back to fashion – you’ll have something different to other candidates as well.
Another perhaps underrated field which fashion graduates in Manchester and beyond don’t always consider is the supply and manufacturing side of fashion industries. There’s a wealth of opportunity in these fields – and whilst they may not seem to appear as glamorous as head office roles – they are often where all the action lie! Dip your toe into the water by trying some work experience with a Manchester based brand, supplier or manufacturer, – you never know what you could learn, and many roles don’t even need a university degree, so it’s an advantage to come in with one.
FINALLY… Don’t be disheartened! It’s a brash reality that companies are folding, meaning more redundancies – so there’s more competition than ever for roles. Just because you may have been unsuccessful in an interview doesn’t stand against your own skills – it could simply be that you’re up against someone who has been working in the industry for years.