Top 10 Entry-Level Jobs in the Fashion Industry (plus one)

by Greg Gargs Allard

originally published in Silent Charm

Salaries are based on average starter pay in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

11. Internship: (Salary: Experience)

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Right when you’re ending school you’re probably going to have to go back to kindergarten again as a intern if you want to get a leg-up in the fashion world. And most likely, you’re not going to get paid anything that resembles money for it, so prepare yourself for a life of rice and beans for a while.

If you’re working for free you better be learning something valuable about the industry and make sure you’re not being taken advantage of to just make copies and get coffee.

While that should be a given, becoming a college intern can have many benefits, such as getting college credit and having valuable experience after you get a degree. That will give you a big-time advantage on those you are competing with for a job later but who only have a degree.

There are good internships and bad internships. Either way, keep a watchful eye on how the company works and learn from the best employees while you’re there. On top of that, you will get to know people in the industry and have a much larger base to network in if you hadn’t interned. If you work hard and impress people, you may prove yourself so valuable that you may even be offered a real job by the company that’s interning you, but this time for real money.

10. Assistant Stylist/ Merchandise Coordinator: (Salary: $27,000)

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Both of these duties are rungs for climbing up the corporate fashion ladder because they give you valuable experience. As merchandise coordinator you will be responsible for all the merchandise coming and going out of the store, so you should know it inside and out and be able to give an inventory on any item at any time. If a customer asks for something, you should be able to tell them very quickly whether it is in stock or not.

You may be asked to organize samples and racks for photo shoots, to verify that all events are ready for the day of shooting, and to check out all merchandise for location shoots and verify that everything is returned correctly at its conclusion.

As an assistant stylist, you should get valuable knowledge from the stylist or boss how to dress a person who comes in — what colors work together, what skirt, shirt or blazer to recommend, etc. Your duties will probably also include helping to dress and give clothes to models and reattach all tags on clothing after shooting. It will be important to keep the clothes and prop racks and/or closets organized for maximum efficiency.

9. Personal Assistant ($27,000)

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If you don’t like the personality or the character of the person you’re assisting, you’ll probably be miserable in your position and so will your boss. In order to do this job well, you have to be totally attentive to the needs of said boss by thinking ahead and sometimes make anticipatory arrangements so you are ready for what your job entails.

You will have to be able to multi-task and remember the likes and dislikes of the person you are assisting or you may come off as incompetent, which is no way to springboard into a bigger position later on.

If you are assisting a person whose work you admire, this can be a great platform to learn from him or her and you will feel like you are actually helping with their work. Be careful not to find yourself assisting an abusive or selfish boss, or someone who expects sexual favors to be part of the job description — because even in these days of sexual harassment lawsuits, such personalities still exist.

8. Editorial Assistant  ($28,000)

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If working for a fashion publication sounds appealing to you, having an eye for grammar and punctuation is an excellent way in. A journalism or English degree can help also but it is not always necessary, although an internship or three might be — depending how well you convince a potential boss come interview time. It also helps to have a few bylines under your belt in the realm of fashion. Write for free if you have to, just build up that portfolio. If nothing else, start your own blog. Somebody could discover you and give you a call and a chance.

Make sure to be up on every fashion site and magazine known to the fashion world. Know your stuff and you might not only find yourself hired but you might get a few writing projects assigned to you after some time. If that happens, make sure you deliver and you’ll be well on your way.

7. Marketing and Social Media Assistant ($30,500)

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Today marketing and social media go hand and hand, so if you want to do marketing, you really have to know Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram, etc. Sharing new activities and developments in your company via social media pages can reach friends and friends of friends exponentially and it’s free.

When you do have some budget to work with, it will help to be a good researcher to know what kinds of advertisement will be the most effective and reach the demographic who will find your content to be the most appealing. While older people may not understand how social media works, if they’re in business they better hire someone who does or they will fall far short of their potential.

6. Junior Visual Merchandiser/Sample Coordinator ($31,000)

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Back in Rhoda’s day (see The Mary Tyler Moore Show), they called this position window dresser but now there are fancier and more politically correct names for everything. You will spruce up the windows, set up displays, dress mannequins and just generally use your sense of art to make your company’s products more appealing to customers in general. You will also set up samples of some product for people to try like makeup, etc.

This job is generally done before the doors open in the morning or after the doors close at night. So, if you don’t mind the odd hours, this position may be for you.

5. Public relations and Account Coordinator ($39,000)

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Essential to both these positions, which can be simultaneously one and different, is being pleasantly pushy and genuinely nice at the same time. You’ve got to get your company’s name out there and after you help to land clients, you have to work as ambassadors to them on behalf of your employer.

You must aggressively advertise and network with potential clients or those who might refer them via social media and marketing. You also have to do everything you can to make things between your clients and your bosses go smoothly by coordinating meetings, taking memos and being as pleasing as the perks you give to your clients to keep them happy and as a way of saying thanks.

4. Store Manager ($41,500)

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This is exactly like owning your own boutique but using someone else’s store as your guinea pig, but first you have to convince that someone else that your fit to run their store.If you have a degree of some kind that should help put you above most of the the rest of the applicants.

One of the most important things to do is appear responsible and trustworthy come interview time. They will probably be giving you the keys to their store, expecting you to make sure it is properly opened and closed. more importantly, they’ll be giving you the keys to their cash register and let you handle their money — maybe even make deposits.

You will gain valuable experience managing a store — making sure employees actually do their jobs and possibly even hiring them. Make sure you don’t get young people who are going to stand around and flirt with each other while customers are waiting.

If you work at it for a few years, you will see clothes come in and out of fashion and get a much better feel for the industry — somewhere in-between the designers and the streets where fashion walks in real life.

You will learn when to close something out to make room for new stuff and how to keep your store stay interesting for newcomers.

3. Design Assistant ($43,000)

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This can be a very demanding job but remember you are doing it for the experience. If a loved one sarcastically refers to you as your boss’s slave, remember you are doing it also for the golden opportunities that will come alter if you are good enough. The cream always rises to the top.

You will be learning about fabrics and colors and what works on different body types. You will also learn to make deadlines under very stressful conditions. You will be doing someone else’s work, so be humble and make friends with everyone you meet. You never know when they may be able to help you when you want to become a designer yourself.

And oh yeah — this is a highly competitive field. Get a fashion degree and intern as often as you can. If this is the kind of work you love, you might as well make it your lover because you might not have time for love much outside of the fashion world.

2. Assistant Buyers ($48,000)

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You can make pretty good dough buying clothes for both brick and mortar as well as Internet storeowners, providing you sell yourself sufficiently first that you have a keen sense of what is hot and what will sell.

You will have to be able to see trends ahead of time and watch the buying public as if they’re are predictable mice in a maze. That takes special talent and it’s not that easy, but if you’ve got a feel for it then don’t be shy to let potential employers know because that is very valuable to them.

Store owners are going to have the last say on matters, so you’ll be an “assistant buyer’ even if your title says buyer. If you work for a major chain, however, an assistant buyer means just that: assisting the buyer — and they need lots of help with so much to buy and many decisions to make.

No matter what your ambitions, remember your place. You are not spending your money (although you may be given a budget). Don’t be insubordinate or ungrateful and be careful with the budget you’re given. If you make some poor buying choices, you may be quickly out of a job.

Don’t forget, you are gaining valuable experience that will help you and those you pass your know-how along to later.

1. Brand Rep/Sales

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iI you have the gift of gab, are quick on your feet, know how to study your product, compare it with others, and make a good presentation, you may not only have great potential in sales but you may have the ability to sell fire to the devil.

That kind of ability is invaluable to any brand name or store that seriously wants to move product.

If you can charm people and be personable and give them the knowledge they’re looking for in a palatable way while shining a favorable light on your product, you might be on the verge of making bundles of cash.

No matter how much work designers put into their clothes or how much money companies sink into them, if you don’t have good sales people, you don’t have a business and the great wheels of the fashion industry come to a grinding halt with such a sound that would even hurt the ears of the most shabbily-dressed slob on the planet.

You just better dress well and flash that charm during your interview because if you can’t sell yourself to your potential employer, you won’t be able to sell a truckload of clothes to the fashion masses.

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