Okay, don’t get me wrong, there is actually no direct way to buy your way into the industry. However, the power of coffee is extremely underestimated.
This idea was first brought to my attention last fall, when Ithaca’s College chapter of NYWICI sat down to Skype with Stefanie Cedro Mohr. “Take a day in the city and make three or four coffee dates,” she advised. I remember envying her tenacity. She knew exactly what she wanted out of her career and made it clear that the moment a job feels too repetitive, she’s on to the next challenge. At the time, Cedro Mohr was at Condé Nast serving as the director of Public Relations for Glamour Magazine. Fast forward a year, and she’s now the assistant vice president of Integrated Marketing Communications at L’Oréal Paris. I was excited to learn upon my arrival at NYWICI’s annual Student Career Conference that Stefanie was serving as moderator for the Fashion & Beauty panel.
Interestingly, it wasn’t Cedro Mohr who suggested coffee this time around, but rather Lifestyle & Luxury Director at Observer Media (you’ve paged through the New York Observer once or twice, right?) and beauty blogger, Vanessa Santos, who first touched on the topic. She used her assistant as an example, who made her initial connection with Santos via LinkedIn. “She sent a note to the office about a week later saying, ‘Here’s my resume. I sent you a LinkedIn request a week ago. I know you’re really busy, but I’d love to grab coffee.’ Just that extra step made me think, ‘Okay, this girl is really invested and really interested in wanting to understand what I do.’”
Here’s the bottom line: People are typically eager to talk about their career path and share what they’ve learned along the way. Few will ever deny that opportunity. Offer to meet them for a cup of joe at their convenience. You will have the opportunity to gain some insight into the industry. Research their company, have questions, and show your genuine interest. The worst case scenario is that they don’t have the time; best case scenario is that they hire you. Even in between those two scenarios, there is an immense amount to be learned.
So where do you go from here? There are a million different directions to go when finding a mentor or someone you’d like to sit down with. The major platform stressed throughout the panel, however, was LinkedIn. Think about the brands you admire and why you admire them. Once you have that in mind, LinkedIn is an incredible resource for finding people associated with your interests and reaching out to them as potential mentors. Do not be afraid to interact with those people. “Never underestimate the power of connections,” panelist Lauren Larkin, vice president of the Beauty Division at Alison Brod Public Relations said. “It’s very important to take advantage and cultivate those relationships.”
The fashion industry is intricate and largely based on networking. So, as long as you’re hardworking and sincere in your ambitions, people will want to help you. A cup of coffee just might be your first step in the right direction.