So, I’ve made analogies to The Hunger Games or Game of Thrones when describing the fashion industry to friends. You win or you die! May the odds be ever in your favor! But, really, it’s been in jest. I truly think that every career path has the potential to be competitive: academia (getting on tenure track!), law (partner track!), medicine, retail, film, really anything. What it is, I think, is that the fashion industry can attract people who, er, have a flair for the dramatic (and understandably so—it’s often their daily job to dream up larger than life stories or images). The fashion industry gets a bad rap; I almost think people want life to resemble the magazines depicted in movies or television (which, ultimately, are works of fiction. They’re not documentaries, unless you’re talking about The September Issue, which I just think highlighted the next-level professionalism of Vogue staffers). To be honest, in my decade of working in the magazine industry, the kind, considerate, helpful (so, so many have been helpful along the way) people have far outweighed the catty, witchy, or cutthroat. So my advice to you: the best thing you can do, whatever career you’re interested in pursuing, is to maintain your sense of self and be the best version of yourself no matter what. If you feel yourself changing or find yourself surrounded by people you fundamentally don’t agree with, it’s time to course-correct.
I’ve talked endlessly about my first internship at a magazine (visit my Ask Eva archive should you want to read about it… I know I’ve written about it at least 9842 times), but my first real job was at Lucky magazine in the fashion department. I was hired as a freelancer, which means I wasn’t full-time, with benefits and health insurance—but I didn’t care. I was so happy. Why? Because I had spend the last nine months in veritable misery. You see, when I first graduated, the magazine industry was in a time of transition (much as it is now) and magazines were folding (politespeak for going out of business). I couldn’t find a job in magazines and took a job at a law firm. My soul died a little, working at the law firm, but I did learn a lot—how to work 110 hour weeks, how to file and redact like a champ, and how much I didn’t want to be a lawyer. When I got that lifeline from a former colleague at my first internship, I was so grateful. At Lucky, I helped compile the credit (where to buy) information for hundreds of items in each issue (such as: Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau de Toilette, $90 for 4.2 oz, sephora.com). It was very detail-oriented work, and the sheer volume of it was rather insane, but I loved it. I was so happy just to be surrounded by and immersed in the magazine world again. I suppose what made me good at it was my previous job, actually: the crazy, microscopically detailed work I had to do at the law firm. What made me bad at it? I’m not sure—perhaps the fact that I got a full-time job after just six weeks. So, the lesson to be learned from this rambling response? Find value in every job you do. Even if it’s not strictly related to your field of interest (like, say, working at a law firm if what you want to do is magazines, or temping at a doctor’s office, etc)—maybe it’s organizational skills, perhaps it’s dealing with difficult people (I feel like working in retail or the restaurant business can be so helpful as you have to deal with all sorts of people)—there is always something to be learned.