Updated: Mar 30
Finding a job can be a job in itself...
So, University is coming to an end. This is such a high point in a designers life, and you feel ready to take on the world. I know things are all changed at the moment, but I hope this helps you in your pursuit to an amazing step in to industry. You have your CV, your portfolio is pristine, but for many graduates in this position, full of promise, just don't know where to start. 'How am I meant to find a job?', 'There are never any entry level positions', 'How can I stand out with so many other graduates looking at the same time' Sound familiar?
I meet so many graduates and also designers already in industry who feel the struggle of finding work, and most of them with all the skills to get the job. The answer lies in how you market yourself and the energy you put out there. Don't wait for the job to come to you, go out and get it!
Of course, we are here to help!
So, on a mission to bring you some insight on how to get the job, we spoke to Damien Barclay, who has worked in fashion recruitment for over 13 years. From his wealth of experience with all levels of fashion talent, and working alongside different brands and retailers, he knows both sides of the process.
“The single most important thing to do is contact any company you are interested in working for.” DB
Damien shares his top tips (in quotes) and The Outcrowd also reminisce of their experiences.
1. Make a distinct choice of your career direction from day one.
"In terms of your approach into the industry make sure any opportunity you apply for or are offered is that direction. Choices now can in effect restrict choices offered in the future. Don’t take a job just because it’s a job , make sure it’s heading in the right direction."
This is not to say in the future you can change path. I, for example started in womenswear and now work in menswear. Once you have the skills they are transferable, but when you are staring out you want to set your sights on the end goal and make career choices wisely. For example if you want to work in technical sportswear, Make sure your first job is in a role that will put you on that path, this way when you do progress you will have all the skills you need to do so. Personally, I would never apply for a job just for the sake of having one, for example if you take a job designing kids socks when your goal is designer dresses, it won't be to your advantage. I turned down the first job i was offered after university, because it just wasn't what I wanted to do. At the time I thought I was crazy, but actually it turned out to be the best decision I made.
When you really want a job and it is at a company you really want to work for, it shows.
When managers are in 10 interviews a day they won't remember the person who was indifferent. They will remember the person who had researched the company history, said the store was looking good or they loved their new campaign. Do your home work!
2. Think Commercially!
Fashion is a business and it has to make money, I know that takes away some of the romance, but get to grips with this and you have the mindset of a great designer. TOC
For me, this is something so crucial that is not often spoken about at university. Having great Ideas, really Wow designs and catwalk finale pieces are great, but know the difference between fashion as art and clothing as a commodity. For example, for the majority of the population, jeans and a t-shirt is the uniform. There is a real talent in being able to design something that looks new to the shopper, as well as being easy to wear. In one of my first jobs I worked on the jersey department and each season had to design a new plain white t shirt, it was our best seller in terms of volume and cash. You can't change it so much that it puts the customer off, but you also need to change it enough for the customer to buy it again - a different hem shape, adding a pocket, different neck depth, for example.
Fashion is a business and it has to make money, I know that takes away some of the romance, but get to grips with this and you have the mindset of a great designer.
"The initial dream for many is that they graduate and want to produce their own brand and become the next McQueen straight away. The realism of this is that is a one in a million eventuality. You will have to initially have to start at the bottom and work yourself up, that’s the industry and that’s the case in most industries."
3. Apply for jobs in your capacity.
"If you see a Design Manager role being advertised at £100k be realistic, you’re not going to be shortlisted for that. Apply for entry level, graduate opportunities, internships. Websites that are best are Indeed, Fashion Workie or Gumtree"
A common sense one, but designers applying for roles that they have not had enough experience for get pushed to one side by the HR department, who may not see the potential in them. Don't get me wrong, I am ALL about shooting your shot and taking chances. A friend of mine once applied for a job as a footwear designer, with NO footwear experience, but, the head of design just so happened to see her portfolio and was so impressed they gave her an interview for another role and she is still there to this day, progressing her way through the company...but that is a story for another day! This is an exceptional example, but in my opinion you are way more likely to hear back if you are applying for the right jobs. LinkedIn Jobs is also great for finding roles.
4. Make your CV Attractive to the role.
"Make sure your CV highlights the skills you have but more importantly the skills that the company you apply for would be looking for , if you need to edit a CV then do it before you apply , never expect that the company are going to call you and ask questions . Tick as many boxes as you can on your CV."
This is SUCH a key piece of advice. I don't think anyone should have only one edit of their CV and portfolio. Target and tweak your CV to the role you are applying for. Let's use the example of technical sportswear again, If you are applying for a job and have worked retail in Adidas, that will be very relevant to your application. So really think about the company you are applying to, what makes you similar to them? Companies want to hire like minded people. Also portfolios should be adjusted to the role you are applying for - put the most relevant project to the front so it really stands out.
5. Speak to recruiters.
"Call some recruiters and ask them if they have many entry level roles that come in ,many don’t because recruitment is a paid for service so companies don’t want to pay a recruiter to find them somebody technically they have to train, but some do."
This is why it is important to treat your job search as a targeted attack. Use the job platforms -indeed, fashion workie etc but the best way to secure that job is to apply directly and target your applications. This way, in your email, you can tell the company why you want to work for them, what you admire about them. Damien talks about this in more depth in our next tip.
Find the “design manager” or “head of design” of the companies on your list. Ask them to connect to you. If they do then great, this is your opportunity to approach them, pitch yourself in, explain why you are interested in their company and why you would like to work with them. Send a CV and if you have design work you know identifies with the company send that too. DB
6. Be Proactive!
"Most companies find their grads/juniors themselves , The singular most important thing to do is contact any company you are interested in working for. Look on their website for relevant opportunities, if they have them great, if not still send a CV anyway. Get a list together of a minimum of 30 companies you would like to work for and that you are happy to work in the location their head office is, if you don’t want to work in Paris, don’t contact Chanel for example. Get a Linkedin profile together and up to date. If , for example, you are looking for a job in design use Linkedin the try and find the “design manager” or “head of design” of the companies on your list .Ask them to connect to you. If they do then great , this is your opportunity to approach them, pitch yourself in, explain why you are interested in their company and why you would like to work with them. Send a CV and if you have design work you know identifies with the company send that too. If the person doesn’t connect to you it's fine, call the company and ask for their email address. Some companies may resist from giving an email address. Again its fine, look on the companies website and fish around because somewhere on that website is somebodies email address and from that email address you will no doubt be able to guess that persons email address. Of course the final way to get a CV to somebody is by post. When you do this our advise is wait 3 days for it to arrive and then call and make sure the person has it. Keeping an eye out online, seeing if companies are hiring is of course logical , opening a door for yourself is much more rewarding."
I cannot echo this enough. Networking is the single most important part of progressing in to your first job and through the industry. I was interning at Topshop at the very start of my career and had applied for an entry level job that I really wanted. I was waiting to hear back for an interview and a few weeks passed by. I was telling the designer I worked with who told me to call them and follow it up, in my head I was thinking 'I can't do that, isn't that a bit pushy'. Long story short, she made me make the call, by the next day I had the interview secured and the job was mine. Moral of the story - If you want it, go out and get it. If there is one key of advice to take away from reading this article it would be: be proactive, be assertive and network.
"Moral of the story - If you want it, go out and get it." TOC