How I got a fashion job during Covid-19 (7 strategies)

On my way to work (back when the office was open)!

It’s well-known that getting a fashion industry job, pandemic or no pandemic, can be a frustrating experience. Half the roles are either unpaid, below living wage, or have received 500+ applications minutes after going live.

While this may seem incredibly dire, the truth is –not all applications are good applications. The main problem with finding a fashion job isn’t that all the applicants are amazing. Rather, I have found that a lot of people want to get into the industry, but don’t cultivate unique skills or a story to set them apart. As a result, employers are drowning in CVs, but the CVs aren’t that exciting.

When I pivoted my career into product design for fashion apps, it was terrifying. Thankfully, I leaned into these 7 strategies which helped me find a role I love.

1. Unfollow negative people

Ever since the pandemic began, a lot of depressing posts appeared on my LinkedIn. While these negative feelings are understandable, I did not want to broadcast desperation, or consume content from people who were desperate. Instead, I unfollowed these people, and followed positive mentors in my industry. Almost immediately, my motivation to apply for roles skyrocketed.

2. Get a clear focus

In my UX bootcamp, the first people to get jobs all knew what industry they wanted to design for. I’m obsessed with fashion apps, another designer LOVED cars (he now designs at Ford in Michigan), and another peer was keen on Fin-tech. As a result, we were able to brand ourselves in a niche way, whereas other candidates struggled to craft a story around their work. Just wanting to work in fashion isn’t enough — loving a specific niche is key. With students I coach, this is their #1 problem. Once they gain clarity, they go from bashing their head against a wall, to actually getting interviews. While it’s easy to be worried you’re blocking out some opportunities by being focused, you’re actually blocking out all opportunities by not being.

3. Create a portfolio

Whether you’re a designer or not, having a portfolio to show what you’ve created illustrates a clear sense of career identity, an online presence, a passion for your work, and a willingness to communicate openly and share your story.

4. Make your CV easy to read

As someone who has applied for roles and received CVs, I can attest that no one wants to read walls of text about a job you did in 2016. Refine your CV— make the hiring manager’s life easy. Use keywords from the job description, use bullet points, and include as many numbers as possible. It has to be one page — no exceptions.

5. Up-skill

I quickly realized that if I wanted work-life balance, a fair salary, intellectual stimulation AND a fashion job, I would need to up-skill. Even if you’re dead-set on a generic fashion role, they will ask you how you have spent your time while unemployed (and watching Bridgerton isn’t going to cut it).

6. Ask for help (not a job)

Find people who have achieved a career trajectory you aspire to. Message them on LinkedIn, and tell them this. Research their work, look at their education. How can you get there? People love to share their stories, things they’ve learned the hard way. Ask specific questions about how they’d approach your current situation –rather than asking for a job. In doing so, they are teaching you how to fish, rather than giving you the fish.

7. Message hiring managers on LinkedIn

Read job descriptions, and search the title of the person who’d be your line manager. Send them a message that shows you have researched the company, are interested in solving the problems they have (they’re hiring because they need someone to solve a problem), and that you’re curious about adding value to their team. At minimum, they will mention your name to HR.

While there are a lot of factors that can impact the pace at which one finds a job (location, industry niche etc), these seven principles have helped me find roles and internships across the fashion industry niches of styling, journalism, media and design.

If you’re skeptical about these strategies, I challenge you to try one — let me know how you get on!

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Product designer / lecturer / artiste working in fashion e-commerce.

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Stephanie Irwin

Stephanie Irwin

Product designer / lecturer / artiste working in fashion e-commerce.

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