According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 20,000 individuals were employed as fashion designers in 2006, and 1,000 new jobs are expected over the next eight years. This growth rate of only 5 percent is much lower than the national average (10 percent) for all occupations. As thousands of aspiring designers graduate with fashion or fine arts degrees each year, how can you set yourself apart from the pack? Like most other careers, hard work and dedication can lead to success in this field. Here are some strategic moves that can help you leverage your formal education to find success in the highly competitive world of fashion.
1. Be picky about your education – Almost every job in the fashion industry requires the minimum of an associate’s degree in design or fine arts, and a four-year degree will carry even more weight with potential employers. When choosing a school, check to see if it is one of the 280 accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, a designation that indicates the institution meets the educational standards set by a group of industry experts.
In a label-oriented business like fashion, names are important. If you have the opportunity to attend a prestigious design school, take it. While the educational experience may not differ greatly from that of a lesser-known institution, the networking possibilities could open doors for you professionally.
2. Make the most of your college experience – Be strategic about how you spend your time while earning that fashion degree. College is a chance for you to make connections that can help launch a career. Try to find one or more mentors among the teaching staff who can serve as a reliable job reference. Apply for as many awards and internships as possible to get exposure in local, national, and international trade organizations (like the Fashion Group International). Put plenty of thought and preparation into your final show, which is where you’ll have the chance to show your stuff to potential employers. Finally, remember that almost a quarter of fashion designers were self-employed in 2006, according to the BLS, so consider taking some business classes along with your courses on sewing, textiles, and pattern making.
3. Explore your career options – While it might not be possible for everyone to be a top designer, there are many other careers in the fashion industry that are less competitive and can be equally rewarding. Consider these alternatives:
4. Intern, Intern, Intern – No matter how skilled your professors or how many hours you spend studying, classroom experience is no match for the hands-on learning you’ll get as an intern. In addition to gaining the important real-life skills that can’t be taught in a formal setting, internships will connect you to professionals in the industry and can often lead to your first real job.
5. Go Above and Beyond – In a competitive field like fashion, you need to go the extra mile to differentiate your resume from the others. While a design degree is required for most positions in fashion, you’ll probably need more than that to land the best jobs in the industry. Hone your skills further in your free time by doing some or all of the following activities:
6. Be a globe-trotter – Fashion is an international industry influenced by cultures worldwide. Try to visit fashion hubs such as Paris or Milan to keep abreast of emerging trends. Experience in other countries could also help you find a job, as many manufacturers and designers look for employees who can live and work overseas. Learning another language (such as French or Italian) is another wise career move.
7. Don’t get discouraged - The path to success in fashion, as in any profession, is usually long. Hard work is par for the course, and you may have to fail several times before you can succeed.
Publish date: June 2, 2008