How can fashion graduates make themselves more employable?

In today’s competitive job market, graduates need to ensure they make themselves as attractive as possible to prospective employers for technologist roles through gaining work experience or completing internships. Although many fashion courses do include an element of work experience, it is increasingly important that graduates seek out as many opportunities as possible to gain industry knowledge. The more experience a student has, the more employable they are – it really is that simple.

Kate: “Competition for good work placements is very high, and this really reflects the value that employers put on a good years’ work experience to compliment a degree. We would recommend choosing a University course that includes a year out working in the industry. It can be easier to find internships or work experience via contacts at University, rather than trying to find your own unpaid internship when you’ve finished studying.”

Sally: “Responsibility seems to be the key – employers are looking for graduates who have developed their skills during their year in industry and have the confidence to manage their own product or department i.e. not just shadowing or acting as assistants. Employers are expecting a lot more at entry level now and really want candidates that can hit the ground running.”

Nowadays, retailers and employers increasingly expect graduates to learn about legislation during their intern experience - and to have good knowledge of test reports, specifications, and REACH.  Students really do need to show they have gained this when they apply for jobs.

Kate: “Try to get broad experience - take several short internships in different departments if possible, e.g. fabric department, garment technology, and sourcing. Employers want to see juniors who are proactively managing their own career path.”

Sally: “Keep yourself informed of what is going on in the industry, both UK and globally. Use internet research, read LinkedIn forums and laboratory websites to keep updated on legislation – this is easy to do these days and is expected.”

It is very important applicants represent themselves well with a clearly written CV in the correct format. Graduates should present a CV that begins with a personal profile and a statement about their individual career goals and aspirations. Next, they should include any relevant internships or work experience that they have completed and give information on Products/Departments covered, e.g. Men’s, Women’s, and Jersey; and most importantly show their technical knowledge and legislation.

Graduates should also include their qualifications and highlight any specialist areas of expertise: e.g. Performance Wear Skills, computer skills e.g. Coral Draw plus any industry student awards or achievements.  It is good practice to include references from work experience not a course tutor. CVs need to be presented in a contemporary font and a maximum of 3 pages.

Applicants should be mindful that these are technical not design roles and CVs should reflect that by using relevant technical language, showing knowledge of current technical developments and keeping abreast of industry news.

Kate:  “Experience is hard to get early on in your career and depends very much on the ways of working within each company and their budgets. However, any visits - UK or offshore, will really add value to your experience and understanding.  Seeing warehouses, fabric mills and factories all broadens your knowledge and demonstrates a greater understanding of the product life cycle - so take the initiative and set out to learn as much as you can.”

Sally: “Employers want to see that you have researched the different sectors of the industry and have a passion for your chosen path, i.e. fast fashion, luxury, or the brand environment. So show commitment and initiative and you will be successful in pursuing your chosen career path.”