To stand out in the fast-paced and competitive fashion industry, people need more than just talent and a can-do attitude – the leading lights of tomorrow need to be proactive in building their own profile.
That might sound like marketing hyperbole, but in today’s digital environment, we each have our own personal brand and managing it well could help give you a leg up the career ladder.
For those working in recruitment, experts believe creating a visible and engaging social media presence is crucial when building your professional reputation.
Jamie Homer, director of European HR and talent for Urban Outfitters, says people can leverage social media to help build their professional profile to their own benefit.
“The beautiful thing about social media is that you can use it however you like,” he says. “You can create awareness about your own brand to help build a network. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, whether you have a certain strategy, you can help fulfil this whenyou tweet or when using LinkedIn.”
SuperGroup resourcing manager Simon Amesbury says working on your profile shouldn’t just be limited to when you’re hunting for a new job: “Many companies use social media sites to proactively search for people for new jobs, and whether those people are active job seekers is immaterial. Companies identify good people and go after them, so in order to make yourself an attractive target for those recruiters hiring for those juicy jobs, you have to look good at all times.”
He adds: “If you come across as unprofessional, unreliable, underachieving, apathetic, of dubious character or just downright dodgy, you’ll struggle to make the impression you want.”
The CV isn’t the only way to research potential candidates. LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook are often used as part of the recruitment process. This is supported by research from specialist recruiter Robert Walters, which found that almost two-thirds (64%) of employers have used professional social media sites to help them make a decision in the hiring process.
Mark Ashton, chief executive of young fashion brand Little Mistress, is one of them. “Potential recruits can look and act one way along the interview process, so taking a social media ‘helicopter view’ can pay off. I remember one potential recruit appeared perfect until we looked on their Facebook page, which they had linked to their LinkedIn page and to say it was x-rated is an understatement.”
Recruitment experts agree that everyone in the industry should use LinkedIn, which they consider to be the top professional social network. Harveen Gill, managing director of retail recruitment agency HGA Group, says the site is an “extension of a CV”. She adds: “In fact, some would say the CV is obsolete and it’s LinkedIn that takes precedence.”
Users should use the site as carefully as they would creating a CV. For example, pictures should be a headshot photograph with a white background – Gill says she’s amazed by how many pictures there are of people “a bit tipsy and holding a big glass of wine” – profiles should list all work experience, include recommendations from peers and be spellchecked.
“I like to see as much information on a person’s skills, successes and qualities on their profile as on a CV,” says Amesbury. “It’s also interesting to look at their interests – who they are following, what groups are they part of, what original content they post, what they like and recommend to their network. LinkedIn is full of interesting and informative opinion pieces, so it’s worth seeing what people post and what they read.”
He adds that this information helps to build a picture of whether the person in question could be Super- Group’s next designer, marketer or finance analyst. “A profile that contains nothing beyond a name and an employer name makes it look like you can’t be bothered and aren’t interested in presenting yourself enthusiastically and professionally. So why would I pick up the phone or drop you an email about this great role I’m recruiting for?”
Homer does warn that a LinkedIn profile shouldn’t always be taken at face value: “I find LinkedIn can add a good researching perspective when you’re trying to find out what particular function someone did in a certain company. But the caveat you need to remember is that the person presenting that information can say whatever they want. The information you see is only as factual as the person wants it to be.”
Twitter is not only a place to connect with friends and celebrities but many believe tweeting is a great way to deepen business relationships and connect with potential future employers.
Gill says Twitter users should use the micro-blogging site to keep abreast of the industry and engage in conversations as they would at a networking event. “This will enable candidates to stand in good stead when there are potential jobs and HR managers can see their passion for the industry,” she says.
Denise Taylor, a career coach and author of books including How to Get a Job in a Recession and Now You’ve Been Shortlisted, says rather than juggling lots of social media sites to help raise your online profile, it may be more effective to use LinkedIn and one other and update them regularly.
“In fashion it might work for someone to focus on Pinterest and make mood boards for spring 14. If you get a repin off a brand like Burberry then it could help you get noticed.”
While LinkedIn is referred to as a professional site, Facebook is used as a more personal social network. Here people should still consider how future potential employees might see them and may wish to limit connecting with colleagues and managers. Think about limiting privacy settings so any uncomfortable content is not in the public sphere.
As well as online, reputations can still be nurtured effectively offline too by networking. “As an industry we are social, yet networking is sadly ignored,” says Gill. “People get in an organisation and their head goes down. Very few lift their head above the parapet even in the same corporation let alone other organisations.”
For those building their reputation and career, there are many ways of boosting professional mojo. Attending events, networking and always carrying business cards, asking to speak at conferences, writing columns, contributing to articles and meeting up with headhunters can all help give you professional kudos.
“These all have the benefit of improving your knowledge, experience and means you’re engaging with the right people,” says Deepak Saluja, digital and marketing director of Success Appointments.
Taylor recommends people think outside the box when it comes to raising their professional profile by joining professional bodies and writing for magazines that aren’t necessarily just in the industry.
She also says if you want to build your brand it’s helpful to differentiate yourself: “You need to stand out and have something about you that people notice. That could be anything from having your hair in a certain way, always wearing a particular jacket or having particular behaviour. It makes people remember you.”
Ashton adds that highlighting the credibility of your competition and anyone who has helped you along the way will enhance your integrity: “It is important to acknowledge others who have had a part in your development and achievements. Reputable professionals understand that they never lose credit when they share the glory of their accomplishments with those who have helped along the way.”
Neither brand nor individual reputations are built overnight. Investing time and energy into creating an interesting profile – online and offline – is crucial for climbing the ladder and being held in high regard by peers. It’s all down to your own ambitions. Gill says: “If you can’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?”