Why Don’t You Work in Fashion if you have a Fashion Degree?

“Why don’t you work in fashion if you have a fashion degree?” – a question I was frequently asked over the summer when I was applying for jobs outside of the fashion industry. This is not a post justifying myself (because I don’t have to) or bashing the fashion industry but rather a post dedicated to anyone who’s been in the same position and who’s ever changed their mind.

Throwing it back (it is a Thursday after all) to when I first started looking around and applying for university I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At college I studied Ancient History and Classical Civilisation because at that time I wanted to be an Archeologist (I’m not an outdoors person) or a Museum Curator (I still think this is a pretty cool career) but after a year in I didn’t enjoy it anymore and it wasn’t something I wanted to spend three years studying at uni.

On a whim, I applied for fashion courses and eventually ended up at Southampton Solent University studying Fashion Management with Marketing. At this point I wanted to be a Fashion Buyer because I’d read an article somewhere that they got to travel and seemed to live a very glamorous life and to 17 year old me that sounded pretty good. Fast forward to the buying and merchandising unit at uni where I realised this wasn’t to be my calling, I didn’t enjoy pretending to be a Buyer at all, I’m not mathematically orientated which a lot of it was and enjoyed the marketing of the products as I understood that more.

Around this time I was starting to apply for placements in PR and marketing and got a position as a PR intern at an fashion agency in London. At first I was really excited about this until I had my first day and I knew I wouldn’t be able to work at this agency for a year as I originally planned. I won’t name the company but it was honestly one of the most stressful professional experiences I’ve had; the classic Devil Wears Prada stereotype was in full play, steaming clothes all day and running samples to and from magazine head offices is not proper experience and not covering travel expenses (let alone not being paid at all) is a big no-no.

I left after two weeks of being there and took some time to really evaluate my situation, even considering just going back to uni to finish off my degree.

Then I ended up in the Head Office of Monsoon Accessorize for a summer placement, again as a PR Intern, but the experience was drastically different. I actually learnt a lot about the PR process, why it was important for brands to have a PR strategy in place and had a lot of fun with the other interns.

My sister managed to put me in contact with the Brand & Marketing Manager of the B2B telecoms company she worked at and the rest as they say is history. I spent the rest of my placement there and learnt so much about marketing and what it was like to be in a marketing department which solidified my career aspirations to be a Marketer. Even though I was marketing telecoms and not fashion, the basic principles of marketing are quite transferable and I learnt more on my placement year about marketing than I did from my degree.

Fast forward to summer this year after graduating with a 1st class honours and putting on a major event as part of my FMP and it was finally time to start looking around for jobs. I didn’t really start looking until mid-late August and had a break after the intensity of third year and although I’m glad I didn’t go straight into working after finishing uni it started to make me panic seeing all my uni friends getting jobs and feeling like I was falling behind (which I wasn’t now I look back – I was just going at my own pace)

Going for interviews, non-fashion companies were confused as to why I wasn’t applying for fashion jobs (even though I emphasised the B2B telecoms experience) and that the creative design of my CV screamed fashion student. Fashion companies were confused as to why I was applying for fashion jobs because it was clear that even though I was passionate about marketing I wasn’t into the latest trends and they didn’t understand why I did my placement year in telecoms. It was a no-win situation.

After persevering I got into my current position as a Marketing Assistant for a B2B events company which I’m really happy in. Even though I couldn’t see it at the time when I was getting down about not having a job and having frustrating interviews, everything really does work out how it should and the right job came at the right time.

All of this experience made me think: Why was it confusing to people that I had changed my mind? People change their mind all time about what they wear, their hair, their favourite movie/band/song, what they want to eat, relationships, whatever, so why shouldn’t it be the same when it comes to our careers? Choosing your career path is one of the most important decisions since you’ll be spending 8+ hours a day (flexible working) doing it so you might as well do it in something that you’re passionate about and enjoy. I’m lucky that I figured out that I wanted to work in marketing and pursue a career in it when many other people my age still don’t really know what they want to do.

I think what I’m trying to say in this ramble is that it’s okay to change your mind about your career even if it’s completely different to what you studied at university or started out doing. People always want to know the ‘why’s of everything and sometimes there just isn’t one.

Parting thoughts: A slightly more personal post on the blog today but I hope you enjoyed! You can see more of my placement year and interning posts here if you were interested in reading more about my experience.

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