So, this week I decided to take my own advice. Following the Blog post I did on finding your first job in fashion, I decided, after reading an incredible book (which I will be telling you all about shortly) to reach out to the author on Linkedin in hope of asking some more advice and questions. This is the power of networking: We got talking, shared stories and talked about all things empowerment, success and strength, every new connection opens a new door for learning, meeting people and essentially growing your outreach.
I knew Gem was my kind of person after I told her of my career story and said something along the lines of 'I hope that doesn't sound like I am showing off" She replied with:
"Please don’t be ashamed of being powerful. So many women apologise for being strong, for being outspoken, it is not showing off. It is being heard, it is taking up space – and it is even more important nowadays that young fashion designers see women owning their success. Your story is important, your struggles were hard, and true, and relevant, so your success and your mindset are what got you through those dark times."GB
And she is so right, we should never dull ourselves down to make others feel comfortable or feel we cant talk about our achievements. So, I encourage you all to go out there and back yourself. Be your own biggest fan, and be confident in your abilities and be proud of the journey that has brought you to this point today. Share that story with others, you never know who you could inspire. This is what The Outcrowd is all about: sharing stories, inspiring others, learning and bossing it. Always.
So back to this book. I would recommend buying a copy ASAP! The book is based around architecture but the same rules apply for any creative discipline. Having graduated during the recession, jobs were at an all time low and this book celebrates those who invented and hustled their way in to their dream jobs. A lot of graduates are facing this uncertainty in the aftermath of the Coronavirus, who knows what this may bring to the industry. I know I have my views, which is that the clothing industry is commodity, it is supply and demand and we all need clothes so the industry will survive. I see it changing and adapting, I think, for the better. More sustainable solutions, a slow down in the lifespan of clothes and consumer driven demand for doing the right thing. It will go through hard times, but survive nonetheless. Jobs will be there, but with lots of graduates chasing fewer positions, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Don't get a job, Make a job is the book I wish I had when I left university. It echoes the mentality I touched upon in an earlier blog post about going out and finding jobs, putting yourself out there and thinking outside the box. I have spoken to so many successful creatives, across many different disciplines and this is the underlying advice from all of them.
Everyone has a degree, so what makes you different?
When I am interviewing, I am looking for the skillset and the right design handwriting, of course. But what makes me sit up and pay attention is those that go the extra mile, that show they want this job, the people who won't just be there to clock in and out, but to show their intention to do more. The thing I look most for in designers, is something you would think is a given, but trust me, it is not: Enthusiasm. This can drive so much creativity, we do it because we love it. Don't get me wrong, in companies you need do-ers, but everyone can be a do-er. What I want to see is the Thinkers - solving problems we didn't know existed yet and always challenging the process.
'This book celebrates the strategies that new generation trailblazers have used to carve out unique routes into the design world, and includes interviews and inspirational advice from well-known international designers who are now enjoying the successes brought about by their own 'make a job' attitude.'
I LOVE a trailblazer.
This mindset can be as small as sending an email: Here is one of my career stories.
When I was looking for a new job, I was spending hours every night trawling recruitment sites and job platforms, applying for the same roles as everyone else. I didn't feel very enthused about any of them, but I was desperate to get a new job. And that shows. When you don't really want a job, you act different and your energy is different. Taking things in to my own hands, I wrote a list of 5 companies I wanted to work for and set out to get in touch with them. I did this either through my network, friends or linked in, connecting with designers and asking for a contact. I then sent them my Portfolio and CV and in the email I wrote a brief cover letter telling them why I wanted to work there, why their brand inspired me and spoke to me. Because these were companies I really wanted to work for, I was showing enthusiasm and Drive to reach out. From this, I was offered an interview for a job that came up that wasn't even advertised yet, which I ended up getting and I am still there today.
One of the Headlines from the book is 'When you feel this passionately about something, sometimes you have to move mountains for it to happen.' This won't always come comfortably or naturally to people so how do we stay confident in our abilities?
"Your confidence should come from knowing and believing that you are fresh, you are relevant, you are energetic, you have thoughts, opinions, ideas that differ from those that might employ you – that is what makes you special and unique and desirable. You are current. You are being (have been) taught by the best academics, and trained in the latest techniques and platforms, you have a lot to offer an established designer, and the world beyond that. You are your own currency, and your stocks are rising." GB
I think that having a vision about what you want in life can be so powerful, and it helps to direct and focus your actions. For example, in listing 5 companies I wanted to work for, I had easy next steps to reach out to them. So take some time and really think about what you want and what is important to you. This gives you a clear visual you can use to push yourself and keep your progress in check, and as life changes, your vision can change to, it is all about adapting.
"Rather than focusing on specific goals as such, I prefer to think about it as ambition, having a vision of your future, but one that you regularly check in on and revise as necessary - because lets face it, life happens fast and unexpected opportunities arise. A more flexible approach allows you to recognise and respond to these opportunities if they get your juices flowing. Or it helps you to see the potential in difficult situations - I have personal experience of this, I graduated my postgrad in 2006 and was just getting tot he swing of things when the recession smacked me in the face, it brought about many similar challenges as recent graduates are currently facing as a result of the downturn in business associated with the coronavirus pandemic. I had to think on my feet, change my perspective and career trajectory very quickly." GB
Another thing to think about when applying for roles and also what you want in the future is about who you are. Think of yourself as a brand, what are your values, ethics and aesthetics? This can be an important tool when marketing yourself in to your first, or even future, creative roles. With so much technology and social platforms you can use these to your advantage to show who you are, what you do and how you do it without ever having to meet in person. If you are a brand, what does that look like?
"There is no escaping that in the age of communication how you are perceived online is really important, more so than it was 10-20 years ago when the majority of networking was still conducted face to face. I like to think of it as having a personal brand - how do you want people to think/speak about you when you are not in the room? And then ensure that you embody these traits as best you can, more often than not this transcends beyond professional lines and is more about the kind of ‘person’ you are as a whole, rather than the kind of ‘worker’ you are. There is increasingly less definition between the two as our work lives and personal lines blur due to freelancing, working from home and the multiplicity of online communications."
As well as your skillset, potential employers want to see who you are and what you are all about to see if you will fit in to the environment and team. Be a good person and invest in yourself. Personal values go a long way.
There is a lot of information to take in, as well as finishing your final year, it can all seem very daunting. But this is a great time for reflection, to really think about these things. This situation is something we have never faced before, so amongst everything, be kind to yourself, and know that this is going to make you stronger. You are facing uncertainty with vigour and breaking through with new ways of working and doing things, that in itself is a huge life lesson that will be another string to your bow.
"The first thing I would say is that it is perfectly natural to be feeling overwhelmed. Finishing university and the uncertainty of what happens next can be a confusing time under ’normal’ circumstances. Right now you will be feeling the weight of innumerable other things too, but now this. I can honestly say that how I coped in the darkest of times has been the measure of my resilience going forwards. Give yourself time, don’t rush any decisions. When I completed my undergrad in 2013 I rushed into the first job that I could find, I was afraid nobody else would want me, and that was a mistake. Although it did teach me a lot about what I do and don’t want from a job - its good to try an extract the positives from any situation you find yourself in." GB
I know in reading this you can think it all sounds very well and good, what if I can't do that. I am just not that sort of person. I hear you. As I am writing this I almost feel like I am writing to my younger self, with advice I wish I had known then. In my early 20's I had a constant anxiety, I worked so hard and felt I had to over achieve to prove my worth. All these expectations were on my shoulders, and I felt so overwhelmed. I had terrible anxiety and panic attacks, but I was determined. I am strong and I knew I was going to get back to where I wanted to be. What I want to say is no path is ever clear and straight, there are bends, dips, blockages but this is what teaches you to get to the end goal, and then use those experiences to help others.
'worry is a misuse of the imagination’ (Dan Zadra).
Many creatives are with me in this, full time worriers! that creative mind of yours can get VERY creative! So make sure you keep control of your thoughts, talk kindly to yourself, don't ever put yourself down, you are stronger than your worst days.
"Quote from ‘these cards will change your career’ - be a warrior not a worrier’
‘Imagination is the amazing gift of being able to ‘see’ things that are unreal. Used well, this talent can achieve amazing things […][. But when this woeful gift gets muddied with a lack of confidence, your brain begins to imagine negative scenarios, in life as well as at work […]. Use your ability to ‘force’ problems to your advantage (rather than letting it own you) and it will become an extremely beneficial asset." GB
Everyone is running their own race. Do things at your own speed, without looking at what others are doing or achieving, especially at this time. One thing I wish I had done when I first started in fashion was take time arming myself with information with things you don't often know you need: relaxing, meditating and journalling. Refocussing on myself and taking care of number one.
Time to switch off that creative brain and sit back and relax.