This post originally appeared on the blog MakingManhattan.com.
By Caroline Vazzana
I was 12 years old when Project Runway first aired in 2004, and like many creative kids at the time, I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. After watching the show week after week, I intent on becoming the next Coco Chanel. But once I started studying fashion design and merchandising at college, I quickly learned that design wasn’t actually my calling. After several internships with Anna Sui, Marie Claire, and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, I found my place working in fashion editorial. Below you’ll find 13 career lessons I’ve learned (so far) from working in the fashion industry.
- Be Determined When I gradated college I had my sights set on working for a major fashion magazine, but after several months of writing cover letters and interviewing I still didn’t have a job. Luckily, I didn’t use it as a reason to throw in the towel and landed a dream job at Teen Vogue. I now look at my job search as a stepping-stone and remember everything happens for a reason.
- You Have to Love It In September 2015, I interviewed Betsey Johnson before her Fall/Winter 2016 show at Fashion Week and I asked her what advice she would give to the next generation of fashion designers. She told me, “You have to love it.” And she is so right.
- Be Humble Remember the anxious (and excited) feeling you had walking through the doors on the first day of your internship and keep that with you for the rest of your career. You never know where the people you encounter will end up, so it’s important to be kind to everyone.
- Speak Up At my first internship with Anna Sui, I worked in house in her production department. After several months, I asked my boss if I could assist in a few other departments. She was thrilled that I was eager to learn and started giving me more important assignments because she knew I was capable and cared.
- Stay True to Yourself I LOVE color — but when I started working in the industry I often found myself gravitating toward all black outfits to fit in. Now, when it comes to my daily uniform, the brighter and sparklier, the better. Find out what makes you different and use it.
- Always Dress to Impress You never know who you might run into, so always dress your best. That doesn’t mean dressing in designer labels. You can find great pieces from brands like Zara and Topshop, vintage stores, and, of course, sample sales.
- Don’t Do It for the Glamour At your first few internships and jobs, you’ll probably be asked to take on the more administrative tasks. But no matter what you’re doing, do it to the best of your abilities. If you’re making copies or getting coffee, do it with pride!
- Network, Network, Network Going into my junior year of college, I decided that I wanted to intern with a fashion magazine over the summer. I didn’t know anyone who worked at a magazine, but I was determined (see rule #1) to break in. I found an upperclassman at my school that had interned at Marie Claire, and I made it a point to meet her and ask her about her experience. As a result, she put me in touch with her intern supervisor and I interned in the fashion department that summer. Always take time to meet people and learn about their background; you never know where it could lead.
- Do Your Research When it comes to an interview, be clear that you know the brand. If you want to work at a magazine, be sure you’ve actually read it. If you want to work for a designer, be able to reference their last few collections.
- Follow Up After an interview you should always send a thank you email, as well as a handwritten note. If you don’t hear anything after that, use your best judgment to figure out how to proceed. I always say that a week or two after sending a thank-you note, send one last follow-up email checking in on the status of the position. If you still get radio silence after that, it’s time to move on.
- Write It Down When I interned at Marie Claire, I always kept a notebook on hand in case my editor gave me a new task. The absolute worst thing you can do is to forget to do a task for your boss, whether it’s setting up a meeting, booking a car or organizing expense receipts.
- Smile! No one wants to hire someone who doesn’t look excited to be there.
- Follow Your Dreams When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone in the fashion industry — not a one — but don’t let that stop you from pursuing your dreams. Always be persistent and stay true to your goals and you’ll land the dream gig before you know it.
Caroline Vazzana is a fashion writer, editor, and stylist living and working in her hometown of New York. She’s worked for Anna Sui, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and InStyle. She has collaborated with designers including Betsey Johnson and Diane Von Furstenberg, and has styled celebrities for various red carpets like the MTV Video Music Awards and Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. Caroline is currently the Founder & Creative Director of MakingManhattan.com where she hopes to shed light on the industry to the future fashion generation. Make sure to follow her everywhere @cvazzana for an inside look into her day to day in NYC.