Fashion Jobs – Q&A with Jessica Kaplan-Carson


Curious about how to make it from the sales floor to a sales executive? Experienced fashion expert and Brand Director for Mendocino and M, Jessica Kaplan-Carson gave Style Nine to Five a few pointers on how to get noticed, revamp your resume, and own the interview.

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SNTF: Firstly, do you find retail companies are more willing to hire internally for head office positions rather than externally? If so, why?

JKC: I think all companies would prefer to hire from within if at all possible. It’s important to nurture the talent already in your company. Hiring from within offers a unique benefit, as the new hire already is familiar with the company culture and policies. It’s also a great comfort that either you or someone in your organization knows the perspective hire and has worked with them directly.

SNTF: Many fashion students work in retail throughout their studies and would potentially like to move up into the company and work at head office. What is the best way to stand out from other employees as a positive candidate? What type of past experience do you look for when hiring internally for a head office position?

JKC: The best way to stand out is to be a star at your job. Create a genuine relationship with your direct managers and make your goals known to them. When a position at head office opens up, and [if] it’s something you have experience or interest in, your direct managers will be key resources for you. Any relevant experience for a position works – whether that’s volunteer or interning, when coming directly out of school, no one is expecting you to head up a department. In the Marketing/PR side of things there are so many ways you can push your own brand personally. Make sure you have curated and cohesive social media accounts that work to help form your brand and aesthetic, and a blog that does the same.

SNTF: What is important to you when looking at a cover letter and resume?

JKC: Number one is spelling and grammar. If you haven’t taken the time and care to read over your resume, it’s difficult to see you taking care when you are in the prospective position. Additionally, your resume must be easy to read and understand. If you’re being creative make sure it isn’t too busy or hard to read. In your cover letter, it’s always good to mention why you think you’re the best fit for the company, specifically naming the company in your CV is important. Use it as an opportunity to show your passion and what makes you different from other applicants. It doesn’t hurt to say what you LOVE about the company you are applying for either.

SNTF: Social media has become such an important tool to represent our personal brand. As an employer, do you look at your candidates’ social media platforms? If so, does this affect your final hiring decision?

JKC: As I mentioned, 100% social media accounts are looked at if they are available, especially if the position is one that encompasses a social media component. In regards to if it affects the final hiring decision, all I can say is the world of social media can now speak for you, so make sure it’s saying what you want it to say.

SNTF: Are there any tips you could share that a candidate could benefit from, to stand out positively during the interview process?

JKC: In the interview process, it’s best to show that you could fit in with the corporate culture. Try to find out what kind of environment it is – corporate or creative. Your perspective employer wants to see that you can integrate seamlessly into the company, so find out as much as you can about it. If your perspective employer has retail stores for instance, go and visit them. See what they’re about, and be prepared to talk about them. It shows your interest in the job, that you are willing to put your own time into researching and learning about what the job and company are all about.

SNTF: First impressions are important. Do you look at how someone represents himself or herself through style as a deciding factor for a position?

JKC: Working in fashion, there is a certain look that you need to fit into. With that said, it will vary company to company. It goes back to culture. Your style and personality go hand in hand in most cases, and fit is a huge component of if you will work out in a position. Your education and experience are hugely important but embracing the company culture is also vital.

SNTF: Once someone has gotten a position in head office, what is the best way to show they are eager to move forward without crossing a line?

JKC: Being available to do whatever, whenever. It’s important to take the time to listen for the first while to learn personalities and how things work. You want to be positive and someone your colleagues know they can count on. Don’t forget to find out who your point person should be if you have any questions.

SNTF: Looking for jobs, especially for the first time post-graduation, can be intimidating. What is the most important thing to keep in mind when applying for jobs in the fashion industry?

JKC: Keep on looking! The best advice I ever got when I was starting out was to use a potential employer as a contact to reach new people, AKA informational interviews. Try to find one contact that you can meet with, not necessarily for a job, [but] just to speak with them to find out about their career path. Be conscious of their time and don’t run over the time you asked for. When you’re done the meeting, don’t be afraid to ask if there is anyone they can suggest that you speak with to learn more about the industry. Then don’t forget to follow up and say thank you! Just get out there and meet people. Look for any meet ups that you can go to, even workshops, you never know who you will meet. They may not have a job opportunity for you, but they will usually make time for a coffee.

SNTF: Lastly, is there any advice you could share that you wish someone had given you about working in the fashion industry?

JKC: Looking back when I was starting out, I’m sure many people told me, but I wish I had taken their advice to, work hard but have fun too. Work/life balance is important and it’s great to have a job you love, but you have to be able to take time when you can to decompress. At the end of the day, it’s just fashion! It’s a creative industry where we get to play with clothes and styling all day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough industry, but it’s the best!

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By Sarah Said, @sarahannesaid

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