Written by ELLA
It’s four years after college graduation, and I’m finally doing what I love to do — for fairly decent pay. I don’t know how long I’ll be satisfied, but I’m finally in the place to make the right moves. I’m not just talking about the paycheck, but I finally qualify for the Masters program I’ve been looking at for four years (they require three years as a manager in the fashion industry, and not in retail sales). I started my new job on June 30th, and I haven’t been this happy since I started working for Calvin Klein in 2010.
Before working at Calvin, I was a key-holder at ALDOshoes in Emerald Square Mall in Attleboro, Massachusetts making $7.50 an hour and selling shoes to people I used to go to school with. I had just graduated and spent most of my free time at the public library applying for better jobs. I had only packed two-weeks worth of clothes with the goal of “moving to New York.” Soon, those two weeks extended into two months. I had interviewed at a few places, but hadn’t gotten a real job, but I never lost hope. Meanwhile, I landed an internship with a Providence magazine, EastSide Monthly which I was supposed to start after I got back from a family trip to Chicago. I was in the Chi when I got an email to interview with Calvin. I called into ALDOshoes and told my boss I’d need to miss a day of work, all he did was threaten to fire me. “You can wait until your ready, or you can take advantage of the opportunity,” my brother-in-law guided me. Needless to say, I got the job, took the job, gave my notice and never looked back.
I consider myself extremely blessed for the opportunities I’ve been given and I truly try not to take them for granted, but I’ve often felt like I was at the end of my rope. I’ve looked people in the eye who obviously didn’t want me to move up. I’ve been tired to the point of asking myself, “is this shit worth it?” I’ve learned that the answer is not to quit, but to search for better/additional paths. I resigned from Calvin Klein on May 30th in search of an opportunity to be both challenged and appreciated. Still, that job wasn’t what I had needed it to be. I’ve been at my new job for a week now and when I was on the train today making my daily commute and Kanye’s “I Wonder” came on, I must have looked wonderfully insane, smiling and groovin in my powder pink skirt suit. But as happy as I am today, the one thing I’d like to clarify is the work it took to get here.
Just like my Communications major, my Fashion Industry job is sometimes looked at as if there is no real work required – but it’s super saturated so it just takes more to stand out. It’s not magic. In fashion especially, so many people want to be in the industry just to name drop, but don’t actually want to work. They think they’re going to be in a closet all day organizing shoes and don’t really put the effort in. The most difficult thing about corporate America is having to work amongst people who got the job by recommendation and not by true merit. the most difficult thing about fashion is having both style and sense.
Some people are hard workers and other people know someone important- I had both. I met my current boss at my sister’s birthday party. I didn’t know he worked for Calvin Klein, but he was standing across from me as I explained to someone else what school I went to and what activities I was participating in. I directed Loyola University in Maryland’s annual fashion show in 2010 – managing 4 scenes, each of which had one scene leader and 2 assistants, with 10-15 models. Before my own show, I had spent the summer of 2009 volunteering for Baltimore’s Fashion Week and Washington DC’s Fashion Week. I dedicated the end of my Junior year to visiting every nearby college and attending their fashion shows, so that I could plan my own. I had a co-drector who was great with contributing ideas, but the production fell to me. My Senior Capstone Seminar in Advertising was a semester long course where I acted as a Creative Director managing 2 graphic designers and, preparing a presentation for Under Armour on how to market their women’s clothing; my designers hadn’t prepared everything we agreed on, so I stepped in and created my own graphics, so I used these materials during my interview at Calvin. For every class assignment I had, I picked a fashion brand. I completed my Writing for Advertising class by creating marketing plans for Urban Outfitter’s Free People brand. For my final presentation in my Spanish class, I introduced the class to Cristóbal Balenciaga. Fashion isn’t something that landed in my lap, it was what I wanted, so it was what I chased. I made it part of everything I did. This was what I explained to my current boss, who also left Calvin Klein, who I was able to follow to another great job. Our connection was no longer that I “met” him, it was that I had the chance to work for him and proved myself to be worthy of the opportunity and capable of handling whatever he’s thrown at me.
When I started in Calvin Klein’s Advertising department, my job was to work with all teams to make sure files were approved and sent to magazines on time. The trafficking system was fairly archaic and the information wasn’t current. But it didn’t matter that it wasn’t my fault nothing was updated, I had to get my work done and I had to be punctual. The only issue with the world is that even if you’re on time, you never know what schedule the next person is on. That was when I started working towards getting ahead. I would stay at my desk until way after everyone had gone home, trying to get everything up to speed. I would leave my work requests on the design team’s desks the night before, so that they would know exactly what was do as soon as they came in the next morning and get a head start. In the very beginning, I was often at my desk until 8:30-9pm. Eventually, I helped my boss by leading the work with Calvin’s corporate technology team and building a web-based media tracking system that could be easily updated by our international offices. Meanwhile… we had all these requests coming in from different avenues that no one was keeping track of. I learned to apply my own method which worked well enough to train my replacement for a seamless transition.
I’ve learned that being overly prepared is the bare minimum required for greatness. If the best person is “ready”, what do you do to get ahead of them? I’ve never been ahead of anyone, by default. I’ve always been a minority. I don’t come from money. I don’t know anyone. I’ve had no choice but to depend on the actual results of my efforts make a great impression. Work ethic is everything. “You know what a boss likes to see?” my boss filled me in, “you’d like to see your employees in before you get there, and they should leave after you do.” As fucked up as that sounds, I totally understand. When someone works for/with you, you want to feel like you can rely on them. You want to feel like if you miss something, they’ll be there to catch it for you and that when you work together, you’re get further than you could have gotten by yourself. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with people who were actually no help. People who let the work fall on me, or who were lazy and made me look bad. No one wants tho work with that person ever again, you just wait for a way to quietly get rid of them. And if that person is you… you might be quietly gotten rid of.
Last night, I stayed up to put rollers in my hair and sat under the dryer until 12:42a – mostly because I thought we were going to have a meeting with an outside team at another office. I’ve been trying to get up at 5am to get some exercise in, but it just hasn’t happened yet. As my alarm clocks went off, I decided that no one is worried about my abs today, but I had to iron this shirt. On my “late” days, I get up about 6am and Duchess and I have breakfast. We go for a walk from 6:30-7a, then I finish getting ready, and I’m out of the house by 7:45a. I’m supposed to get to work between 9-9:15a, so I’m at my desk at about 8:45a. I work until about 6:30p, I stay as long as my boss does or I make sure he doesn’t need any help before I head out. I try to be in bed by 10:30pm. & I’m happy to do it all again at 5am. I have no problem sacrificing what others consider “fun” so that I’m peaceful in my own life. Again, I’m not rolling in dough, but I have no complaints – I’ve worked hard to make sure of that.
I’m lucky enough to do everything I love, and I admit that I’ve just begun to really appreciate that. I used to be late to work everyday. Now that I’m chasing my actual dream in fashion management and hoping to go back to school, I really need to work my ass off to get two kick-ass letters of recommendation. I also love JustWhatWeWannaDo magazine which might not be evident by my lack of posts… but how can I write on life and love if I’m not out living and loving? In time it’ll all get done, as long as I continue to push myself. I know that everything takes time and sometimes it takes a lot longer than you’d like to get the payout you desire/derseve.
The only way to get paid to do what you love, is to do it like you love it – that way you can’t be denied and if you are, someone smarter will pick you up. I think we get fairly complacent and stop working as hard as we used to. We need to find ways to advance in whatever it is we love and continuously become better at it. I love music too, so I try to look for shows/venues and I’ve started taking singing lessons (read “ASK ELLA: Do you need to take lessons if you’re a natural?”). The more you know, the better you will be and the more you can ask to be paid. It doesn’t matter who you know or what your degree says, you have to also be a good worker, you have to be worth the salary. If you want to get paid to do what you love to do, you might have to work even harder than you imagined. You’ll have to prove your dedication.
Good luck ❤