Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fashion is slow

For an industry known to be fast moving, the fashion industry has disappointed me with its slow thinking and adaptability over the years. This criticism is not directed at product and style changes, but at process and management. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase ‘that’s not how we do things’ or ‘you can’t do job x because you have only done job y before’. Career progression is often linear. If you start as an assistant merchant in a women’s division, you become an associate merchant in women’s, then merchant in women’s and then maybe you start to look for another job. What you will find is that already, you have been pigeon-holed in your career. You are a women’s merchant. You could easily find a job as a women’s merchant somewhere else, maybe even a senior women’s merchant role as that follows the linear path.  It would become incredibly difficult to find a job in men’s or kid’s however. The same is true if you try to switch from planning into merchandising or from retail into wholesale.  I could recite a hundred examples of this rigidity. It has always baffled me. First, why would employers want someone who is only interested in one function, division or department. Second, where does this belief come from that you can’t learn anything new in a short or reasonable period of time? Fashion is not rocket science.

When I look at companies outside of the fashion industry, I hear about robust rotation programs. Someone will move from operations to finance to marketing etc. This is how great companies will build their bench strength. There is planning behind future leaders so they know what they are doing when they take the helm. Would you want a leader who understands the challenges in your department? I would. How do you choose where the next CEO will come from if you haven’t cross trained anyone?

On my recent job search, this idea of flexibility was a critical factor for me. On every interview, I spoke of my desire to do something new. I was passed over on a lot of jobs because of this conviction. Most companies want someone who has done that exact job somewhere else. I didn't care about losing on those opportunities. I truly believe that this flexibility and creative thinking is what will make a company successful in today’s tough market. If a company didn't ‘get’ my thinking, it was not going to be a good cultural fit for me. In the end, I landed at an amazing company who understands and practices my philosophy.
How much have you done to map out your career? If you are interested in more than one function, how can you achieve making a change? What companies offer the type of challenge for which you are looking? How can you identify companies who are a good fit to your philosophies?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

No comments:

Post a Comment