Fashion marketing jobs are tough. I’ve spent fifteen years working in some of the most transformative times the fashion marketing environment has ever experienced. From the first websites to the first corporate Facebook page to the fake news scandals of recent times, I’ve seen all the major shifts that have created the current marketing and advertising environment. It all adds up to one fact:
College graduates and those seeking fashion marketing jobs are ill prepared to understand the dynamics of what these companies are looking for in new hires.
That can lead to disappointment at best, and at worst wasted years pursuing a career path that leads nowhere.
As an player in the space, I’ve detailed a direct, actionable plan for you to follow. I know because I’ve made (and regularly make today) hiring decisions at all levels. If you end up following this guide and becoming fashion marketing rock star, be sure to look me up. This isn’t a guide to becoming a fashion brand ambassador or getting free Instagram followers. It’s about a career in fashion marketing.
Why applying for fashion marketing jobs through websites never works.
Congratulations! You’ve decided a fashion marketing job is in your future. It’s a fast-paced world with huge upside, and deep pitfalls. If you’re looking for that special internship, first job, or transfer from a different industry, you’re in the right place. Unfortunately, the fashion world isn’t as transparent as other industries, and formal human resources is a neglected field even in the largest brands.
So, there are a few key things you should know before you spend the next few weeks of your life banging your head against a brick wall.
Contrary to popular belief, fashion brands aren’t that great at advertising.
Let me explain myself here. Established fashion brands are great when they are getting paid to do work. And when they aren’t? Since there is no direct value attached to recruiting, and very little incentive for the brand to focus on that aspect of the business until there’s an immediate need, certain things get neglected. In fact, recruiting through Facebook groups like the Fashion Brand Ambassadors Group is trending as jobs need to be filled at lightning speed and candidates are harder to come by.
The number one culprit for neglect? The brand website.
Now, you might believe that a modern fashion brand is going to be on top of their website game, and you would be wrong. That means job listings, corporate values, and even staff headshots could be ancient. Googling for brands and blasting out resumes is one of the biggest time wasters you can undertake when applying for fashion marketing jobs.
Compounding the problem is a decentralized hiring process.
Here’s how fashion hiring works. First, there’s a burning, emergency, five alarm fire need. This usually happens when fashion brand lands a big new sale, when an existing retailer dumps an order on the brand last minute, and when someone quits for greener pastures (more on this later).
Now the brand has a big problem: Finding someone who can execute the work that is owed to the client, which almost certainly comes with a very tight deadline. There’s no time to sift through resumes, dig through old form submissions on the website, or conduct weeks of interviews to find the right candidate. There’s time to do only one thing…
Creative recruiting companies are your enemy, but can be your friend.
If you want fashion marketing jobs, you’re going to have to do one of two things. Use this guide to build your skillset, and then get in front of recruiting firms. That’s because when brands need to hire – and I mean really, really, right this second need to hire – they call up a recruiting firm that specializes in just this task. Think about these firms as doing the job the brand human resources department should be: identifying top talent, categorizing their skillsets, and placing them in the most appropriate roles in the organization.
Fashion brands pay big fees to recruiters to find and place that talent, which creates a paradox for fresh talent. The recruiting firms are motivated to sell you, but they can only sell what they can see. That means you’ll need to develop a tangible skillset made up of at least one hard skill. I’ll get to that in a later section of this document.
Third party employment platforms for fashion marketing jobs are getting better.
Platforms like LinkedIn, Bēhance, and Glassdoor are your best bet at finding legitimate and current job openings at fashion brands around the world. The challenge you’re going to find with these platforms is almost always the same: Experience. That’s because brands typically spend time and money on platforms when they are hiring particularly difficult leadership positions in strategy, client services, creative direction, and development.
If you haven’t worked at a fashion brand before, you aren’t getting hired
Don’t despair, it’s a bit of hyperbole. But it is an unwritten reality of mid-level and above roles at a fashion brand. Optics matter here, and hiring managers want to see big brand names (not portfolio work – real “you got paid for it” work), big brand networks, and memorable campaigns that won awards.
Awards are stupid, but a necessary part of the fashion marketing ecosystem.
Learning the names and past winners of the major fashion marketing jobs awards will give you a leg up in the interview process. Start with the usual suspects like The Cannes Lions, the Clio Awards, and Ad Age’s various trophies. Then dig a bit deeper to find more modern incarnations like Glossy, Shorty Awards, and Content Marketing Institute’s Awards. Study the campaigns that won, and take a look at the brands making waves.
All of this is stupid because awards don’t mean anything. The committees are biased, the work is often misunderstood, and results are rarely checked or qualified. But awards serve a key function for fashion marketing jobs: Business development.
Because the average retailer spends about two years evaluating a given fashion brand, there’s a constant pressure for senior leadership to produce new sales. Doing that requires some way to objectively say one brand is better than another, and a shiny new trophy is a great, albeit low hanging, way to do just that.
When fashion brands make senior hiring decisions, the awards you’ve won in the past matter. If you haven’t had big press or recognition – awards included – you just won’t make sense as a serious candidate.
How to get noticed as a junior employee when searching for fashion marketing jobs.
Let’s back up just a moment and discuss the current fashion brand environment. On a macro level, the last five years have seen an incredible rise in brand staffing and growth, but is now resting on a precipice.
That precipice is the changing fashion marketing landscape butting up against a mismatch in talent. If you’re paying attention, that sentence should be the most interesting thing you’ve read so far. What I’m saying here is quite simple: You’re walking into an environment that is looking for new skillsets that nobody has, with very little time to find them.
Flipping the script to take advantage of tough circumstances.
Platforms have disrupted the fashion industry. The timeline goes something like this:
- 2008 – Current: Google has taken ownership of search engine advertising, the (now) second most valuable type of marketing because consumers are revealing their intent with each search.
- 2012 – Current: Facebook and their owned properties (Instagram, WhatsApp) have dominated display advertising, a highly valuable type of marketing that allows for discovery of unknown or new products, services, and brands.
- 2016 – Current: Amazon has created a robust system that allows sellers to advertise in an environment where consumers are actively and aggressively shopping. This is now the most valuable environment because it is the closest thing to printing money that brands can accomplish (if they can manage the platform correctly).
The disruption has to do with a complex ecosystem of data, media buying, and creative production that has trended away from “the big idea” (think TV commercials from your childhood that hammered jingles, logos, and visuals into your brain) and toward data driven marketing. More and more, brands are taking this function in house, leaving fashion brands to justify their fees in other ways.
The knowledge gap creates opportunities for smaller fashion marketing jobs.
This disruption has the potential to harm large brand networks that rely on people who “manage the client” to pull down big fees. Smaller brands that specialize may be in a better position for the coming year. This is because new changes, like Amazon’s sudden interest in the grocery business, create knowledge gaps that clients can’t easily fill. That’s when fashion brands aggressively seek out and hire agencies that match that need.
Getting noticed at an fashion brand means building hard skills.
The bottom line is simple: You need to be able to sit down and do something on day one if you want an fashion brand to pay attention to you. That could be designing killer imagery, creating beautiful video, or writing lines of code. That could be bad news for you if you were expecting to graduate with a liberal arts degree and become a key part of an brand operation.
Creative is becoming harder to distinguish.
Writing great lines and creating compelling graphics used to be a skill fashion brands were always hiring for. Nowadays the line between creative, media, and development is blurring, and a nice looking portfolio won’t get you very far.
Copywriters need to have a deep understanding of search engine optimization and coding. Designers need to be able to produce HTML5 ads. And creative directors need to be able to pick up a camera and shoot, edit, and produce engaging video with little or no help.
The new hard skills nobody understands, but everybody wants.
There three key areas on which you can build skills at home that – with a little time and investment – will help you stand out from the pack at literally any fashion brand in the world. It won’t be free. You’ll need to invest time and money to get the skills you need to impress in an interview and then actually provide value on day one of your new job. My goal here is twofold: to show you how to invest the time, and how to minimize the actual dollars you’ll need to put in.
1. The most in-demand fashion marketing jobs hard skill: Digital Paid Media
Earlier, I shared how the fashion brand landscape is changing. Digital paid media is the number one area of opportunity for brands, and they know it. Meanwhile, brands are struggling to find the expertise and human capital needed to meet that demand. It’s the perfect opportunity for a new candidate to come in and solve all their problems. The best news of all? You can learn the skills required at home. No, it’s not becoming a fashion influencer or brand ambassador. This is about cultivating your creativity with data.
What is digital paid media?
Digital paid media is the management of money brands spend on ads that are served in online, and increasingly in streaming services. That can mean search engine ads through Google, Facebook ads that garner clicks to websites, and Amazon ads that show shoppers competitor goods available for purchase. Each platform has its own software and best practices, and none of them talk to each other. After all, each company is competing for advertising dollars, so even though Facebook does something very different than Amazon, it’s all the same talking point in the digital media world.
How to build hard skills in paid media.
The best way to learn is through doing, and if you’re a motivated, quick learner you can get up to speed in no time. Luckily, the three major platforms offer certification courses that you can take online to get up to speed. Here’s the majors with links:
Once you’ve trained up on how to use the platform, it’s time to create some ads and test out your knowledge. Since the software platforms are totally free, the only expense will be the actual delivery of the ads you create, which can easily be limited based on your budget for developing skills.
Focus on driving performance and understanding metrics. Which types of ads perform the best for given objectives? What type of targeting is available? For example, Facebook has detailed software tools for building target audience groups, which alone can give incredible insight into opportunities for advertising. Like everything else in Facebook’s ad platform, it’s totally free to use.
2. The most in-demand creative fashion marketing jobs: Lean Video Production
If you use Instagram, you have probably noticed a lot more videos showing up in your feed in the last year. Facebook has pushed into the video space in a big way, and thanks to that shift brands must now produce more video than ever before in order to effectively market to customers. At the same time, fashion brands don’t typically have full time video production equipment, facilities, and staff. This has created a huge creative gap that has no immediate solution for brands.
What is lean video production?
Typically, video production is broken down into three key steps:
- Pre-Production: The planning of a video shoot including the script, talent, shot list, and set designs.
- Production: Actual filming.
- Post-Production: Editing video to include special effects, text overlays, color, audio, and other finishing details to get the piece ready for market.
Lean video production means condensing and blending those steps using far fewer resources. While a typical video production may require five to ten team members (sometimes many more), lean video production is done with as few as one or two. That means learning how to create great videos from start to finish on your own, and finding new ways to do more with less.
How to build hard skills in lean video production.
If you want to be on the creative side of the fashion business – more specifically someone who makes the beautiful content that convinces customers to buy – then you’ll want to learn how to create great video. It’s something that isn’t going anywhere, and that has immediate recognizable value when applying for fashion marketing jobs.
Thanks to a dramatic increase in the quality and reduction in the price of software and equipment you can build this skillset without a major investment. Here’s a starter gear list with links that you can use to get moving:
3. The most in-demand web development fashion marketing jobs hard skill: User Experience Optimization
As the technology changes, customer behaviors change too. A rapid acceleration of changes beginning with smartphones and apps has caused confusion and a generational disconnect between company senior leaders and younger customers. Millennial women are the hottest demographic amongst advertisers, yet few of them truly understand how to make a connection.
Developing a map of the customer journey, and identifying interface points where she is most susceptible to advertising may sound like strategy and thinking, but it’s actually testing and learning.
What is user experience optimization?
User experience optimization is the creation of a path to purchase, and then the alteration of that path based on what works best. Put simply, if a user has the choice between purchasing a product on a mobile device or in store, which will they choose? Why does this happen, and how can a brand change things to push customers to do more of one and less of the other?
The most common application of user experience optimization is to ecommerce environments where purchases can be tracked cleanly from discovery to order confirmation. It’s an invaluable skillset, but it’s also difficult to learn.
How to build hard skills in user experience optimization.
In order to understand how users are engaging with your advertising, and how to improve upon that engagement, you’ll need something for them to use. This could be a website, online store, or other similar experience. Creating something from scratch can be daunting, but it’s the only way to get better at user experience optimization when applying for fashion marketing jobs.
Luckily, there are a few tools you can use to build and measure user engagement, and combined with skills like digital paid media can be used to create something that delivers real cash into your pocket. Not a bad hobby, right?
Having hard skills in any of these categories will make you instantly valuable to any fashion brand or brand, and will instantly differentiate you from those without. But hard skills are not valuable without a way to communicate them to prospective employers…
How to format your resume for maximum success when applying for fashion marketing jobs.
Generally speaking, your fresh out of college resume that covers your GPA, extracurricular, and other interests will be skipped in favor of those who showcase hard skills. This is because brand hiring managers have immediate problems that need solving, and unless they have a clear line of sight into how you will do that they will move on.
It’s time to take those newfound hard skills and put them down on paper. Use wording that indicates you understand the lifecycle of an advertisement, from idea to placement to optimization. Focus on any projects in which you produced a tangible improvement, for example increasing clickthrough rate on a Facebook campaign from 2% to 5% over the course of a month by using new creative or targeting. In your extracurricular section, be sure to include any certifications you have earned in paid media, linked above.
You should also make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to par. If you are an aspiring creative professional, a well-developed Bēhance portfolio is also a mandatory.
What to expect in an brand career, and if you really want one at all.
Fashion brands offer certain perks. You’ll often be working in a high energy, exciting, and demanding environment with unique office space and a bit more freedom than a brand side job. After all, it’s the brand’s job to do the work the retailer cannot, and that often requires a totally different culture to pull off. You’ll work with new opportunities like starting a brand ambassador program and other cutting edge tactics.
There’s also a few downsides. Job security rests on clients, and they can be fickle. Layoffs are common, and loyalty to the employee is generally regarded as low. Turnover tends to be high due to a “greener pastures” mentality and the lack of loyalty to employees. While working at an fashion brand isn’t perfect, it’s also a great way to get a wide body of experience marketing different products and services and learning from top talent.
There’s also another opportunity that your newfound hard skills will create: Tapping into the robust freelance community. Remember those recruiting firms I discussed earlier? They can be invaluable at matching you to brands with immediate needs for hourly fashion marketing jobs.
Here are a few reputable firms that specialize in filling hourly positions for freelance integrated marketing and communications professionals:
It can’t hurt to reach out and schedule some interviews for practice.
Let’s summarize. To dramatically increase your chances of multiple, high quality offers for fashion marketing jobs:
- Stop banging your head against the wall and submitting resumes to brand websites.
- Develop a semblance of one or more hard skills listed in this eBook.
- Create a new communication including resume and outreach talking points that show off your hard skills.
- Start your new career with eyes wide open, and never stop learning or adding to hard skills.