It’s September and around the world, fashion is the topic of choice. With fashion shows, clothing line launches and celebrity collaborations, one can become fixated on the topic. If starting a career in the industry is your goal, it can be challenging to access. Due to its prestige and glamour, it feels that even accessing an entry-level job is impossible unless you learn how to network and make strong connections. Below, BLAC editors offer tips to help you to connect in meaningful and authentic ways in the fashion industry.
It is time to start networking again
The pandemic and its consequential massive corporate layoffs threw away our need for cultivating new professional and personal to connections. During 2020, the World Economic Forum estimates 114 million people lost their jobs. The Financial Times reported the number of conversations between LinkedIn members jumped 55 percent in March 2020 versus March 2019.
“Without having my network, I wouldn’t be sat where I am today. I have built what I call ‘professional privilege’ in terms of the types of people and contacts that I have been able to amass over the years,” says Daniel Peters, who founded Fashion Minority Report (FMR) in 2020. Today, FMR works with clients like Farfetch, Asos, British Fashion Council and Belstaff to create more inclusive and diverse workplace cultures through strategic consultations and workshops.
Building out a professional network is regularly cited as a crucial component of success in one’s career. Your network can act as a sounding board, help you problem solve, platform and champion your work, or provide connections to further your career development.
Change Your Mindset
The concept of “networking” is still as vital today as ever before. Harvard Business School published a research paper in 2014 entitled “The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty.”
“‘Networking’ can be scary to an introvert who wants their work to speak for them. But we build networks unknowingly and subconsciously through family members with similar experiences, former co-workers and classmates, teachers, neighborhood friends, church members, favorite restaurant owners, make up the beginning of a professional network. A useful place to start is actively connecting with people that actually do what you want to do in life. Connect with ambition individuals that are at your similar age group — who will often be experiencing similar concerns and challenges as you. Connecting with your peers ensures relationships can evolve.
“I learned the importance of the relationships that you make, and tried to befriend and learn from as many people as I could. We tend to rise up the ranks in groups […] so there is a real community spirit,” Kenya Hunt, editor-in-chief of Elle UK, shared in an interview with BoF about her career advice in 2020.
Seek Offline Connections
An office or workplace may have offered one of the most organic ways to build out a network, but those days and situations are largely over and it is worth setting aside time each week to connect in person with colleagues.
Similar interest groups also offer a community and support system and allow you to connect with colleagues from different backgrounds, and career seniority levels. Sometimes, the most effective way to maintain and develop tight-knit relationships is through proactively creating your own community.
Keep the Conversation Going
While making a new connection in the community or through an associate is a great start, the effort needs to be made to sustain the relationship for it to provide any positive benefit to you and your career — which can begin by simply following up or connecting with that person online. The sustained online or social media interaction will be more likely to develop with authenticity and positivity when beneficial to both parties, rather than purely self-serving.
Do Your Homework
Networking can be especially intimidating when you are more of an introverted personality, and find the process of meeting new people challenging. But you can still benefit from physical events, even if you struggle to speak up.
We recommend the power of prior research, when you have access to an event page ahead of it happening; looking at attendees’ profiles on social media to come up with some talking points, and allow you to pinpoint individuals with whom you know you have common interests.