I went to a career networking event on Tuesday and have some great tips if you're interested in working in fashion or journalism. I was invited through my blog but you could apply as a student to go as it was hosted by Elevation Networks, a charity that gives people a hand in getting on the career ladder and meeting members of top, relevant organisations. I'm not aiming to be a journalist but I would like to work in publishing and marketing, and the event was at NatMag's HQ so I had to check it out! Among the speakers were Sir Terry Mansfield, Doreen Adusei MBE of Fashionworks (an agency that also helps foster talent in the fashion industry), and Louise Court, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. Also, Richard Bradbury, the former Chief Exec. of River Island, was the guest speaker, so it seemed fateful that I should go as I work there! I always turn down press events as they're in London but this was a careers event, so nothing promotional, just all useful. I hope you find these tips helpful if you're hoping to work in the industry, as I know many of you are.
So I hopped on the train to London after my Tuesday lectures and almost nearly got scammed as an innocent tourist-type when a random man behind me in the tube ticket queue offered me his day ticket for a few pounds as he'd bought one for the wrong zones by mistake. Just before I went through the barriers I thought, 'oh no, this could just be a fake ticket and I'm on The Real Hustle or something!' but it was a real ticket, which shows I am very naive or nicely trustworthy, haha!
The reception of the building was full of keen looking students, quite obvious that they were all into fashion, some dressed up to the nines in huge heels. The event took a while to get started as the waiting room was too small to fit every attendee in, of which there were only about 50! I was expecting a large lecture theatre but the venue was a very small room, and I was sat three rows from the front, with only four chairs in each row. You may have seen my internship guide from some placements I had last year, and I noted a girl behind me in the queue have a conversation on the phone that went something like, 'Well I'm meant to be doing a six month internship for *** company but I've quit after two months, I thought: I'm not doing your admin work anymore, I want to be a fashion editor, not an office worker.' That's not the attitude to have, as many of the speakers said!
After some of the members of Elevation Networks introduced the event (and we had to do a cringy task where you found someone in the room who you had something in common with), Sir Terry Mansfield, the former president of the National Magazine Company (Cosmopolitan, Company, Harpers, etc), gave a talk. He stressed the importance of being multiskilled, and how photography, editing and admin (note to the girl mentioned above!) skills are crucial to a role in media, and your CV should reflect that. At NatMag, they look for people who can translate their creativity into skills they can bring to the workplace, so on your CV, rather than stating you're a team player or you have an eye for style, give evidence of this by naming times you worked in a group and projects you have created. Sir Terry said that design is the centre of technology and the gravity of the fashion world, and that without talent and style, we would "just have buildings, chairs, and a bit of technology", which I think is a great quote. Sometimes it's hard to show a degree involving textiles lives up to other degrees, despite mine being a Bachelors of Science.
Then Louise Court was introduced, and she gave some fabulously friendly tips, and further confirmed in everyone's mind that working on a fashion magazine would be an amazing job. And one of the first things she said was about interns who refused to do work like copying up a transcript for a meeting because it was 'below' them or because they 'had a degree', which again made me think of that phone conversation I overheard when queueing at the entrance! You must realise there is so much to learn and be humble that you have the internship in the first place. The best view of the industry is from the base level of it. I don't know why people would complain as I felt extremely lucky and excited to be interning at fashion companies, even if I was just ironing or addressing envelopes! And I'm not under the impression that internships are readily available or easy to get either; surely you're very lucky if you are getting experience like that. I had to pay to stay and live in London while doing my voluntary placements for over a month- that's how happy I felt to be there! If you already live in/near London and are lucky enough to score an internship, be grateful!
Anyway, Louise also spoke a little about Cosmo on Campus, the free mag they're distributing around Unis. A girl in front of me nodded her head when she mentioned it, and Louise asked her what she thought! If I was put on the spot like that, my mind would have probably gone blank, but the girl gave a great answer and Louise was really keen to get the feedback. They know that the market is so segmented nowadays and a special mag targeting Uni students is a great idea, although some of the tips like 'Don't use Wikipedia as a reference in essays' are hopefully known by all already! And apparently they got the idea for Cosmo on Campus from Korean Cosmo at a global Cosmopolitan event, how cool! Louise discussed how blogs were relevant to magazines too and that the staff write blogs now, which made me smile!
The next speaker was from T.M.Lewin (I'm afraid the lady wasn't in the programme so I don't know her name!) and she was the best public speaker ever. T.M.Lewin is a smart clothing brand selling shirts and suits, so the talk was about making an impression at an interview. The lady herself was a great example of her point as she was dressed in a simple shirt and skirt suit, with her hair tied back and minimal makeup, yet she really stood out because her personality shone right through. She stressed how you should be making the impression at an interview, not your outfit, and said how we would have all thought 'ooh check her heels, check her earrings' if she'd rocked up in designer labels, but at that moment we were simply concentrating on her. She said it was better to eliminate negativity, such as accessories or shoes that could be a bit distracting or brash, rather than try to add loads of quirky things and go a bit wrong. I felt most of us at the event cringe a little as we must have all put a fair bit of thought into our outfits that morning, and many people had flashy bags and lots of makeup.
More tips came from Doreen Adusei of Fashionworks, who showed there are always ways to foster your ambitions, and Nanette Gibb, the head of human resources (recruitment!) at NatMag. She spoke about getting your CV into shape by highlighting your USP (unique selling point)- we all have one! If you're at Uni, utilise your careers centre as I know the one at Manchester is really great. She gave four other points for your CV; to match what you list in your CV with the requirements of the job role, to do your homework on the company you're applying to and know where you'd fit in, to not be afraid to be creative with your application, especially if you're applying for a design or styling role (submit work or make a magazine cover mock up), and ensure your CV is transparent, with no sweeping statements and inaccurate spelling or grammar.
Then Richard Bradbury chatted about his time at River Island and how the fashion industry is so changeable and even volatile, and that people buy certain magazines because they believe in the brand. You must be aware of external market changes for each industry as they can make an impact, so wise up on current affairs when you go for an interview, or better yet, be constantly in the know!
After the event was a Q&A session where some people put great questions to the speakers, like how they managed their stressful work load and how you should apply for work without being annoyingly keen, and others asked confusing questions about things like social fluidity (?) that no one really understood! As soon as the event finished, most people rushed to the front to talk to the speakers but I had to get back on the last train to Manchester. All in all, it was the sort of event that you leave with ideas and inspiration buzzing in your head, and it really spurred me on in my own applications for when I graduate soon. I'm not going out this weekend in hope I'll complete the research for my dissertation, so wish me luck! I went to Sainsbury's earlier and stocked up on treats for this hibernation indoors so I'm very prepared! Hope these tips helped someone out there and you too have a nice weekend xx