I was recently invited to participate in Webucator‘s “Most Marketable Skill” Campaign in honor of this year’s college graduates. I remember when I was in that position 2 years ago. I had just graduated from UC Berkeley, moved back home to LA, and was on the job hunt. Luckily, I landed a position in the early fall in the field that I wanted: the fashion industry.
I think most people outside the industry think it’s all glam and easy work, but it was far from it. Of course, all the customers see are the beautiful finished products, but a ton of work goes on behind the scenes, whether it’s online or in stores. It’s such a fast-paced industry that employees deal with working ungodly hours (me), having no time to eat (me), and dealing with low pay starting out (me). You need a lot of soft and hard skills to succeed in this challenging industry, but there is one that I think is most marketable and can transition to any industry: adaptability.
Since graduating college, I’ve worked in the fashion “flash sale ” e-commerce business. This was just a relatively new concept in the industry a few years ago. I started out assisting a buyer for an Australian flash sale site that had recently opened an LA satellite office. The office very much acted like a startup. Everyone was still learning how do their jobs and how to work as a team to produce the sale events everyday. One of the downsides of an online business is that it never closes. Things are constantly happening and the head office back in Sydney was always communicating changes to us. There was a lot of back and forth in testing the waters to see which procedures worked best for the site and the offices. This is where the importance of being adaptable comes into play. With constant changes and new tasks being mandated, it was very easy to become negative and overwhelmed. I was that person for a little bit, until I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere and would be noticed for the wrong reasons. I wanted to succeed in my job, so I thought of creative ways to get my work done and meet the ever-changing deadlines for my superiors. This definitely got me noticed, and for the right reasons too. Staying positive and adapting to the changes shows qualities of leadership and perseverance, which translates into being a valuable employee.
In my next position at a US-based flash sale site, I started out as an inventory assistant, with the hopes of working my way up on the buying side. On that team, whenever software or deadline changes arose, I could tell which ones adapted positively and negatively. After a year in that position, I can tell you that those positive team members who rose to the challenges have moved up in their roles and taken greater responsibility, including myself. I am now on the buying team and deal with constant changes everyday. The site had merged with another fashion retailer a couple years ago, so we’re in still a bit of a transitional phase. Tasks are being taken away as well as delegated to us. I have been learning to adapt to the changes that this fast-paced business requires. I not only do internal tasks, but communicate with outside wholesalers everyday, mainly through email and phone, but also in person occasionally. Each vendor is different and I’ve been learning to communicate effectively to each. This is very similar to college classes and having to adapt to each professor’s teaching style and curriculum. See, college does teach real world skills.
I think this essential skill can be used within any industry, not just fashion. For example, doctors. In the ER you never know what to expect. They must adapt to whichever injury they come across and treat according to a variety of factors. Also, journalists. They never know when they’re going to get the call to cover a major news event that just happened within the last 24 hours on the other side of the world. Teachers, athletes, the list can go on. The world is constantly changing and you just got to change with it.