Contrary to popular belief – working in the fashion industry was never really my “dream”. People always assumed it was because A) I wanted to move to New York City, and B) I liked to go shopping.
That’s it. There was also a brief stint during my childhood when I begged my parents to let me pursue a career in modeling because the lady at the mall from the Barbizon Modeling School told me that I could. For a fee. But she thought I had a real “look”, so the $750 application fee would be totally worth it.
To this day, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d just gone to the Barbizon Modeling School. Maybe that lady WASN’T just trying to scam me as a poor, unsuspecting eighth grader with low self-esteem, maybe I really did have “the look” – if that look was ‘glasses and frizzy hair’. Instead my parents got hung up on that measly $750 application fee. Even though I was like, “The lady said it’s TOTALLY worth it! I have THE LOOK.” And my parents were like, “uh…” and I was like “The Barbizon lady said that! And she knows what she’s talking about, SHE WORKS THERE.”
Right. She works there. So, she said it because it’s TRUE. Not because she’s trying to scam my family out of nearly $1,000. She wouldn’t do that, she was so nice.
The first year after college was a weird time for me, as I think it is for a lot of post-grads. For some reason I was under the impression that – upon graduation – life gets all figured out. It just falls right into place. “Hey guys! I have a Bachelors degree now! You can hire me! It’s okay – I’m one of YOU!”
It doesn’t work that way. I mean, people tried to TELL me it didn’t work that way, but I was very stubborn and didn’t listen. (You can read more about that here.)
So I hung around my college town for awhile working as an event coordinator at a local winery while I kept applying for random jobs in random places. There wasn’t a plan. At this point when someone asked me “what I wanted to do as a career”, I usually said, “Uh…like, something in marketing, I think? Or maybe sales?” My degree was in Communications, I had no idea. I was just a fish floundering around in the ocean without a life jacket. (I know fish don’t wear life jackets. OBVIOUSLY I didn’t end up with a career in writing analogies.)
Eventually I started researching companies I wanted to work for and sending them my resume directly. (Some of them were in New York, because – yes, I still wanted to move to New York. I was young and didn’t realize that it was, like, expensive.) These companies didn’t have any job postings listed – but I was sending my stuff to Human Resources and saying, “Heeeeey…. here’s ME… in case you ever need any extra help in those big offices of yours… I’m great at making copies, pouring coffee, answering phones, using Post-It notes – and I’m proficient in Microsoft Word.”
And finally – FINALLY – someone responded.
Surprisingly, they did not offer me a job based on my impressive Microsoft Word skills.
Actually, they didn’t offer me a job at all. Instead, they sent me an email back that said – roughly – something like this:
Thank you for sending over your resume! Unfortunately we are not hiring for any marketing positions at this time, but I’ve passed on your resume to the company next door to us [the fashion company] because I know they are looking for a Communications Director and your skillset may be a good fit for the position. Good luck!
It probably sounded a little more professional that that, but you get the gist. I was dumfounded. Is this really happening?, I wondered. Is this how it all starts? Some company just ‘passes along’ your resume and you get your dream job? Because suddenly my ‘dream job’ (which I didn’t realize until five seconds earlier) was “Communications Director for this fancy-pants fashion company in New York City”. (I will not tell you which company it was. I mean, it wasn’t like, Chanel or Louis Vuitton – but you’ve probably seen their name before.)
Someone else sent me an email the next day. Someone from fancy-pants-fashion-company-in-New-York.
I was sitting on an air mattress (my bed at the time) in Ohio.
Received your resume from [so-and-so at the company next door] regarding our Communications Director position. I’d like to set up a phone interview tomorrow afternoon if you have some time.
A phone interview. An INTERVIEW. Fancy-pants-fashion-company wanted to interview ME. On the PHONE.
I started looking up apartments in New York. Some people may say that’s “getting your hopes up”, but I was not one of those people. “So-and-so at that other company recommended me for this job BASED ON MY SKILLSET. I have THE SKILLSET.” Just like I had ‘the look’ for Barbizon.
I told my parents I was moving to New York. “I have a job offer,” I said. And they were like, “What?”, and I was like, “Well. I have a phone interview. But that’s really more of a technicality. I have ‘the skillset’.” And they were like, “Oh. Sure. Well. Good luck.” And I was like, “Guys, I’m serious. I’m moving to New York. I have a PHONE INTERVIEW.” and they were like, “Yea, we heard. Good luck.”
So I had my phone interview. Kind of. It was more of a, “Okay, so, what is your degree in again? And you’re in… Ohio? But you’re willing to move to New York?” And I was like, “Yes. Yes, I am.” Because that is what you say when you’re trying to get your dream job.
And then the lady on the phone said, “Okay – well, I’ve got to run – but let’s set up another call when I have more time to chat.” ANOTHER CALL. I was getting a SECOND INTERVIEW.
I couldn’t believe it. We’d barely had a conversation and she already knew I was right for the job. Right? Otherwise she wouldn’t have said “let’s set up another call” because she wanted “more time to chat”. She wanted to CHAT with me. Because she wanted to HIRE me. Why else would she say that? Right??
I told my friends that I was moving to New York. “I have a second interview with fancy-pants-fashion-company”, I said. “It’s like my DREAM job, I can’t believe this is happening.”
“I thought your dream job was marketing?”, they said.
And I was like, “No, this is my REAL dream job.”
I waited around for my second phone interview. I sat in my bedroom with the door closed from 2pm – 3pm staring at my resume, and my phone. She was supposed to call at 2, but maybe she got tied up in a meeting? I could wait. I’d seen Devil Wears Prada, I totally knew how the fashion world worked.
So I waited until 3pm. That’s when I started to panic. “What if I was supposed to call HER?”, I thought to myself. “What if I misunderstood and she’s been waiting around for me to call? Oh, no. What if she’s testing me to see if I’m willing to follow-through and take initiative? Maybe I should call her. Should I call her? I should call her.”
So I called her. And she picked-up. And it sounded like she was in a crowd of a zillion people. “Yea, hey, Jennifer,” she said. “Sorry. I got tied up at a photoshoot here. I didn’t realize how late it was. Can I call you tomorrow?”
And I was like, “Of COURSE! Not a problem! I TOTALLY understand.” Because I’d seen Devil Wears Prada. And Sex & the City. So I *totally* understood.
I pretended to “know how it is” when I explained to friends and family why my second phone interview had been post-poned. “She was at a photoshoot,” I shrugged. “Ya know…*fashion*…”
“That doesn’t seem very professional,” my mom said. “Are you SURE you want to work for this company?”
Was I sure that I wanted to move to New York and tell everyone that I worked for a fancy-pants-fashion-company, even if my future boss was being kind of an airhead? Yea. Yea, I was sure.
So I waited around for my THIRD interview. (It wasn’t a third interview. But it was the third time we would talk on the phone – and maybe this time it would be even longer than two minutes, so… that counts. Right?)
I waited, and I waited. And she never called. So I called her again. She’s probably at another photoshoot, I thought to myself. I *get* it. But she wants to talk to me. She SAID she wanted to talk to me, so she wants to talk to me. Right? She wouldn’t lie about that. She seems so nice.
I had to leave a voicemail. I told her to call me back “whenever she has a moment”.
She never called me back. Days went by, and she never called me back. Maybe she died?, I wondered. I mean, I hoped not, but… I don’t know – traffic is crazy in New York City. Maybe she got hit by a cab.
So I followed up with an email. “Heeeey…. just wondering about that job….” (It sounded a little more professional than that, but you get the gist), and she eventually responded.
Sorry, it’s been a crazy few days. We’ve decided to hire someone from within. But thanks for applying! Good luck in New York!
“Good luck in New York”. My future as a Communications Director for fancy-pants-fashion-company in New York City was squashed by a four sentence email and some lady who was terrible at phone interviews.
“Well, maybe it’s for the best.” My mom said. “They didn’t seem very professional.”
And I was like, “Or maybe that’s just how the fashion world works?”
Note – not how the fashion world “works”. Don’t blame unprofessionalism on an entire subculture of an organization. If something feels a little fishy, it probably is.
Have any of you ever gone through a similar situation, or applied for your DREAM job? I want to hear your stories in the comment section!