A career in the retail fashion industry certainly has its perks.  Fashion shows.  Exclusive store openings.  Discounts (and sometimes free!) merchandise.  This makes for a competitive marketplace.  But with some social savvy and these tips, you can be on your way to being fashion’s next hot thing.

No Experience?  No Problem!

Don’t have the experience to gain the experience?  Not to worry.  Retail is a field where interest and passion hold as much weight as experience.  An easy way to brand yourself as a fashion know-it-all is to follow fashion groups and companies on LinkedIn.  Fashion & Lifestyle Industry Professionals Worldwide and Retail Industry Professionals Group are top groups that will keep you informed on fashion and retail news.  Self-initiate resume building bullet points such as starting a fashion blog or volunteering at Fashion Week.  Combined with skills learned from prior jobs and internships, your passion for fashion will get your resume to the top of the pile.

Be Open to Temp Opportunities

The seasonal nature of the fashion industry allows for a plethora of short-term contract roles.  Let this work in your favor.  While these roles are occasionally posted on a company’s job site, most companies choose to outsource these roles through recruitment agencies.  24 Seven and JBCStyle are national agencies that specialize in retail and fashion recruitment.  Their success is based on your success, so they offer free resume feedback and courses to help you pitch yourself effectively.  Do keep in mind that partnering with agencies can limit your ability to apply directly with certain companies, so make sure you are agreeable to the fine print before committing.

Consider the Non-Sexy Jobs

The hardest thing about a fashion career is getting a start.  Many people strive for the sexy Marketing and Buying positions, making those the most competitive.  Consider other roles to get your foot in the door.  There are many functions that support a retail fashion organization, ranging anywhere from quality assurance to human resources to office management.  Many have entry-level roles that will allow you to get exposure to the company and network from within.  From there, you’ll have a huge advantage in making the move to the area where you want to be.

Consider a Training Program

Okay, so you REALLY want to be a Buyer.  Got it.  Some companies offer formalized training programs that put you on the fast track to a Buyer role.  The most prestigious include Neiman Marcus’ Executive Development Program,  Gap Inc.’s Retail Management Program and Bloomingdale’s Executive Development Program. Most programs range from 3- 12 months and offer a salary and guaranteed job placement.  These highly-competitive programs vary in eligibility and application windows, though there might be room for flexibility within these guidelines.

Get Out and Mingle

This is a fun one.  Those in the fashion industry tend to be social, so get out and party.  Some great resources to learn about fashion networking events include BeautyCon and Meetup.  Tap into these resources to meet people in the industry and tell them about yourself and your interest in a fashion career.  The topic of available jobs may come up, but don’t force it if it doesn’t.  Be sure to get their contact information and follow up within 24 hours to let them know you enjoyed speaking with them and appreciate their insight.  Reiterate the type of role you are interested in and attach your resume.  While they may not have a role at hand, it’s likely that they’ll soon hear of a need within their network.  And who are they gonna call?  YOU!

Head Straight to the Source

Identify companies you would be interested in working and connect on LinkedIn with the recruiters there.  Every company has a different title for their recruitment team so try different variations.  For example, if you are interested in working for Gilt Groupe, try searches for “Gilt Groupe Recruiter” or “Gilt Groupe Talent”.  Once they accept, send them a short note introducing yourself and the type of role you are looking for.  If you have already applied for a role, follow up with the recruiter to reiterate your interest.  You may not always get a response, but you will stay top of mind for when that perfect opportunity does arise.

Keep it Professional

It’s natural to want to showcase your eye for style, but you need to keep it professional.  No wearing hot pants to the interview, even though Vogue says it’s the latest trend.  Avoid showing off expensive designer labels.  But being that this is fashion, you can, and should, break the rules of the corporate black suit.  Wear what tastefully hints at your personal sense of style and makes you feel confident.  Most fashion companies have lax dress code rules, so you’ll have a chance to show off those Gucci hot pants once you’ve landed the job.  But for now, show them you’re a professional.

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