20something profile: Laura
Before I started my degree, I did not expect to have a career in fashion after my 4 years of study. Graduating in 2012, I studied English and Spanish in a university in Devon with the general idea of perhaps going into teaching or translating after the course. However, as more and more lectures wore on, the concept of carrying on these subjects post university started to seem undesirable.
Suddenly, I was faced with a rather large stretch of future with no clue how to fill it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved studying my subjects, but the slightly limited careers relating to them didn’t exactly set me alight. It didn’t occur to me at the time that my part time work in retail would ultimately be my foot in the door to a rather tricky industry.
During quite an average shift, a number of head office staff visited the store I was working in, and without even thinking, I quizzed them about the possibility of gaining work experience in HQ — even if it just for a week or so! They gave me contact details, and after a further 6 months of pestering their HR team, I was heading off to work within the buying department.
I spent the next 2 weeks being a knowledge sponge, trying to absorb as much as I could and to really test whether this experience could be something I could cultivate into a career. By the end, I realised working part time in retail for 7 years had taught me more than I previously thought. I had managed to learn about an industry back to front just by working on the front line — I was more suited to working in buying that I had presumed.
Once the two weeks were over and my degree was finished, the next few months of my life was filled with what felt like an endless stream of job applications. I received a number of rejections with the same line of, “Not the right degree background,” but I couldn’t bring myself to give up. I kept going, and before I knew it, a well-known and well-established retail group decided to give me a shot.
After getting through the 4-stage interview process, they told me at the end it was my different degree background and work experience that made me an interesting candidate rather than unsuitable. Soon enough I was uprooting my Devon life to live in the big city of London, and moving was the best decision I ever made.
In a tricky economy with such an unstable job market, I am so unbelievably grateful that I get to wake up every day and go to a job that I love. Whilst also having a job that I love, I managed to learn a few things along the way that I hope would be of use to anybody reading this:
1) Don’t be scared to be tenacious. It took 6 months of calling to get my work experience alone, and I don’t think I would have gotten it if I didn’t call almost every week.
2) Be a bit cheeky. My degree background definitely did not lend itself to this career, but being cheeky enough to ask for work experience/a job regardless of this led to wonderful things!
3) Remember that starting a career is like starting school again. Much like school, there are people that have been there long before you and know more. You are starting out, so take a step back and remember that just because you have a degree does not mean you know everything.
4) All experience is good experience. You never know, your part time job or hobby could be the spark of a career you never even considered!