Thursday, 27 December 2012

THE UNDERGRADUATE FORUM: 6 THINGS EVERY FASHION STUDENT SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FINDING A WORK PLACEMENT

I'm no veteran in the fashion industry but over the past year, I've managed to squeeze a few placements under my belt - two of which saw me working at London Fashion Week. If you've tried before, you'll know that finding a placement can be the most gut-wrenching, jaw-clenching, heart-benching (yes, that is a figure of speech referring to the feeling that your heart is being benched up and down, up and down by an extremely hench, insensitive juice head) experience of your life. Ever. 

But not to fear. It gets easier with time and even less stressful if you follow the 6 cardinal rules:

1. Get on a plan, Stan: Yes, it's hard to get a placement. Yes, beggars can't be choosers. No, you shouldn't take a placement as a machinist in your sister's friend's neighbour's factory just because it's convenient. If you want to be a buyer, then seek out buying internships. If you want to work in PR, then start ringing up agencies. Your placement should be reflective of your future plans and should be beneficial to your career in the grand scheme of things. There's no point working at McDonalds if you're dream is to chargrill next to Heston Blumenthal. You get me?

2. Be resilient: There are hundreds - I repeat, hundreds - of people dying to knock you out of the race. You know, a dog eat dog world and all of that malarky. Now, I'm not suggesting full on evil mode like Emily Blunt in The Devil Wears Prada but what I am encouraging is an unshakable sense of tenacity. You'll never be the only one going for a position nor is it likely that you'll even be one in ten. If you're going for a position, you need to be ready to do whatever it takes (bar compromising your dignity) to prove that you are the only possible candidate to appropriately fill it. 
Send out your CV and follow up 5-10 days later with a phone call - it's likely that at least 25% of the applications never even get seen to. Do your research - follow them on all of their social media sites, find out the company history and prepare questions for the interview. They'll never snub you for being a keen bean.

3. Increase your chances: It's hard when you've set your sights on a specific brand or firm to send out high standard applications to more than one place. Nonetheless, it's a must. Applying to a number of companies can only set you up for more successes and who doesn't want a handful of excuses to drink a celebratory cocktail?

4. Pimp out your CV: Does anyone else remember Pimp My Ride on MTV? New spinners, a candy apple paint job and some hydraulics thrown in just for good measure. It doesn't only apply to cars. Not feeling this metaphor? What about Milkshake by Kelis? You want your CV to bring all the HR heads to the yard. I'm not talking ostentatious borders, Clip Art or Facebook style head shots but a little colour never hurt. Choosing an accent colour - for example, I've chosen lavender and pink - to create a theme can be both charming and eye-catching. Here's an example of mine:


5. Don't get down-hearted: This sounds like the easiest rule of them all but, unfortunately, it's probably the hardest. Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow and can leave you feeling like Voldemort at the end of the Harry Potter series - shrivelled, defeated and, well, dead. I can't stress to you how imperative it is not to let these feelings get on top of you. Take a day or two to grieve - especially if it was your first choice. Eat copious amounts of chocolates, drink a whole litre bottle of Tango in a hour and watch Four Christmases even if it's the middle of June. Then, pick yourself up. The more time spent wallowing in self-pity, the more time wasted. The more time wasted, the less chance of success in finding a placement. If you let rejection kick start a domino effect, you'll be kicking yourself later for all the opportunities missed. If at first you don't succeed...

6. Take a look into your little black book: If you don't have a little black book of contacts then find, borrow or make one. Whatever industry you're in, networking is key. Have you ever heard the saying 'it's not what you know but who you know'? Collect as many emails, numbers, Linked-In profiles as you possibly can even if they seem slightly irrelevant at the time. You never know when you might need some help getting your foot in the door and, as the pushy door to door reps know: once your foot's in the door, it's much easier to force your way in.

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