Here I am, back again, a bit more nervous than usually, posting my first English article on the blog. First of all, feel free to correct me if you notice any mistakes. Writing more in English appears obvious to me each time I check my blog’s statistics and see that many of you, my dear readers, come from United States and South America. These last months I have received many questions about my professional experiences and some of you asked me advices about this complex sector which is fashion and luxury. Thus, I have finally decided to post this article for you guys. I hope you’ll enjoy it and find the advices you looked for!
As you probably know, I am a business student learning marketing in France (and also where my desires lead me). During my 3 first business years I had the chance to find three amazing internships in Chanel and Hermès. By the way, I am currently preparing an article comparing both brands and experiences. Be prepared and stay tuned! Well, I did my first 3-month internship in London working for Chanel as a sales assistant. A year later, I was doing exactly the same (with a bit more responsibilities) in Chanel – Geneva. This year, I ended up in Paris, being a product supervisor in Hermès from June to December 2017. Finally, I’ll be graduated from my French school very soon and will leave my comfortable half Lyonnaise, half Parisian life to move in New York City to study marketing at Pace University in Manhattan. I feel like my life will really start in September (by the way, I am also preparing an article about my future new American life, more to come very soon). There’s so many tips I could give you so the most structured way to do so would be with a Top 5 comparing expectations and realities when working in luxury
Expectations: “There is so many job offers available everywhere on the internet to work for many different amazing luxurious brands I always admired. If there is that much opportunities, there’s probably one for me! “. Before my first experience, I truly believed it was that easy to find a job in this fascinating area. I thought it was possible as long as my professional profile was matching the different requirements posted on the job offer. I thought that sending outstanding CV and cover letter would be enough to – at least – get a job interview. It’s not.
Reality: Luxurious brands always want to hire people having experience in fashion and luxury, but they rarely want to be the first experience for a new young passionate. Then, if you don’t know someone, or someone who knows someone working or entertaining any network with one of these brands, it can become really difficult to integrate one of them. Sometimes, if your profile is very interesting (thanks to your school’s reputation, your past experiences, or if your family name is Dumas or Wertheimer) you can be hired without any experiences, but you have to take a very lucky guess.
Tips: Since networking remains the safest way to fit in the fashion and luxury industry and to find your place in the sector, the best strategy would be to meet people being able to help you enter the fashion sphere. To do so, you’ll have to hang out in the right places and to not hesitate, even a second, to talk to people. Always keep some business cards in your pocket and be ready to draw them out anytime. Another way to build an interesting network correlating with your career plans is to use social networks as a tool to meet people, and to develop professional relationships with them, based on your common interest for fashion and luxury. Personally, my Instagram account and my Blog are my favorite ways to meet people and to find new job and professional opportunities.
Expectations: Anyone already having sent many applications to many job or internship offers know how long can be the time to receive an answer, even a negative one. When applying for opportunities in fashion and luxury industry, many people tend to believe that because these brands are internationally known and famous for their high quality services, they will probably give an answer in the average time (which is usually around 2 to 4 weeks).
Reality: Yes, these brands are famous partly thanks to their outstanding services. But, to provide such qualitative duties, HR need to spend even more time to hire people capable to reach these high services requirements level. Therefore, they need a looooot of time to select a pinch of applications, before calling you back for an interview. Consequently, you can wait about 4 to 6 weeks before having any answer. Most of the time, luxurious brands receive too much applications to call back every rejected candidates, so they just throw your CV away and never let you know. Silence means a lot in this sector.
Tips: If you want to be remembered and selected among the lucky CV kept on the HR’s desk instead of his bin, you have to send the most amazing CV and Cover letter you ever wrote: It must fit the brand’s spirit, it also has to be original, different, reflecting your personality, while staying conventional. I know, it seems difficult, but you can do it! Then, do not hesitate to call or email the HR office to ask them questions about the job, and to chase them up again when you think the answer deadline is being too long. In fact, this strategy is a good way for the HR to see your name many time on emails and phone calls besides your ordinately given application documents.
3) THE SALARY
Expectations: Working for luxurious and fashion brands is financially prolific since these brands are manufacturing and selling very expensive products.
Reality: As in many other industries, employee’s wages are compound according to their degrees and professional statute. In other words, if you are a stock manager in Louis Vuitton, don’t expect to earn a hugely bigger salary than if you were doing the same in Amazon. As everywhere, the most powerful is your job title, the most interesting will be your salary. However, even if it is rarer and rarer, some brands still add commissions to a settled salary according to sales, then, this is interesting if you want to be a sales assistant or a sales representative. If you work for a leather goods brand adding commissions to your original salary, then, do your best to sell as most crocodile bags as possible 😉
Tips: Do your best to evolve enough in order to reach an important and powerful job paying you well. There’s no shame to have high salary expectations.
4) THE ATMOSPHERE
Expectations: “WOW! Working in fashion and luxury is a dream job, you must meet so many interesting and passionate people”
Reality: Fit or quit. Indeed, working in fashion and luxury, you’ll meet fascinating people, but most of them will probably hate you if you are too admirative and naive, and they will hate you even more, if you are talented. I know it’s sad, but we can’t blame them: Thousands of people want to work in these amazing brands like Chanel, Dior, and Hermès, and the places are very limited and difficult to get, then while you get one, you do everything to keep it, because is this sector people can be replaced very quickly. So don’t expect to make many friends, you’ll find some, among them there’s probably one or two you can really trust. The atmosphere is this sector is extremely competitive. I am not saying that it’s bad, personally this competition spirit helped me a lot to shape a strong personality and a great motivation to always do my best. In addition, every brands have their own spirit and core internal values, when you’re the new one in one of these companies, you have to be yourself but to do anything to show your new colleagues that your little self is fitting and conforming to the House’s spirit.
Tips: Be strong and confident enough the show people that you know you deserve your place in the company. You have to find an equilibrium between being too kind and too competitive. Because, if you can’t be the shark sometimes, then, you’ll become a prey and people will probably disrespect you and, even worst, discredit you. Metaphorically, they will eat you raw. Furthermore, be very observant and discrete during your first weeks before daring to show your personality. In fact, it is important for you to understand how pioneer employees and managers want people to behave to correlate with the company’s spirit. Once you understand the image they want you to give, you can reflect what they want and adding up progressively your personality to this conform behavior, it will allow you to entertain good professional relationships with your coworkers and superiors. Finally, because sometimes competition can be very tough and grueling, surround yourself with reliable and friendly people sharing your opinion and experience. Personally, working for Hermès, my hard times were devalued and alleviate thanks to my very good friend and colleague who was the best person to understand my struggles and to advise me. Besides, it is morally important in a such competitive sector to have, at least, one person to count and rely one.
5) THE EVOLUTION
Expectations: Once I’ll be able to integrate one luxurious brand, it will become easier for me to evolve internally.
Reality: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA nope. Luxurious brands and big fashion groups base their recruitment strategies on experiences and diplomas. Basically, it is not because you worked for Dior as a Sale Assistant that you’ll become easily a marketing director, or even a store manager. You have to have corresponding diplomas and past experiences to the job you target. I am not saying that it is impossible to evolve internally, it is just difficult and time consuming. In other words you’ll have to stay in the same company, at the same statute for a long time before expecting a potential upgrade; it will occur only if you can prove that you and ONLY YOU are able to do the job, otherwise your managers will undoubtedly hire a young new brilliant over-graduated new recruit who will be half your age and will give you condescending orders without scruples. Talking from my personal experience, I noticed that in Hermès employees were able to evolve linearly: For example a product supervisor of jewelry could become a product supervisor in leather goods. Same title, same salary, same missions, different products. I still think it remains interesting since it allows you to discover different products, to develop new skills, and to add a new line or your CV.
Tips: Be patient and work hard at school, and at work. Don’t spit on linear evolution because it still is evolution. It is better than nothing and it gives you experience and credibility to apply later for more challenging and upgrading opportunities. If you want to progress faster, it can be a good strategy to quit a company for another one, and to apply for a better job elsewhere arguing during your interview that you left because you were seeking for better and more rewarding opportunities. This is risky, but life is about risks, and it is less risky than being bored to death stuck in the same job for your whole life.
To conclude, I know this article can be a bit confusing and depressing but it was important for me to answer your questions with transparency and honesty. Be reassured, the most difficult part will be to integrate first a company: To find the brand who will see your potential and accept to give you your first chance. Once you’ll have on feet in the fashion and luxury sector, it will become easier for you to put the other one and find opportunities. So, be motivated, strong, confident, and work hard for what you want. Nothing is impossible when you transform your dreams into projects, and your projects into plans.
— Fashionably yours, Cece !