How to propel your fashion career forward
Since the inception of Polychrome, there has been a vital skill that I have been building upon that has done more to benefit my business than anything else. I'm here to let you in on what I have figured out, and the best part of it is that the benefits start as soon as you take the first steps.
here I am presenting the Polychrome trend forecast to the Apparel Designers Network at Boston University's BUild Lab
I'm talking about Networking
I know, you're probably groaning right now because I would have been right there with you a few years ago. For some reason the word networking was always a turn off for me; I hated the feeling that I had to 'work a room' and approach people I didn't even know and <gasp> actually TALK to them. I have always been good at keeping in touch with people and truly do derive some special joy from connecting people (really!), but the prospect of having to venture out and mingle after a long day of work had all the appeal of flying coach to Hong Kong. After I started Polychrome I had no choice though; I had to go out and mingle, and make those phonecalls, and talk to people. I wasn't exactly thrilled.
I started out by meeting people through business workshops and going to networking events. Most people I met were nice, even supportive, but still I was dreading going to these things. So much so that any little blip might make me flake out on going and just stay comfortably at home for the evening. But staying comfortable is not the way to grow - we all know this. I decided that the only way to force myself to go to events was if I planned them myself. Then I couldn't back out, right?
click through the images to see descriptions of some of the past events of the Apparel Designers Network
I founded the Apparel Designers Network because I knew I needed to get out and meet more of my peers, but also because during my early forays into networking I really hadn't found a group comprised of designers and other professionals working at established fashion brands. Those were the people I had the most in common with and that was the audience I needed for Polychrome as well. Apparently I wasn't alone, because something unexpected happened: I kept hearing from people who attended these early gatherings that they were filling a void for them, too. Another unexpected bonus was that I started to get more comfortable with the prospect of networking.
The ADN started out initially just meeting over some drinks and asking about one another's projects, referring contacts, and sharing advice. We've had visits to members' studios and seen some great fashion exhibits. We've had several events at Rhode Island School of Design and have held events specifically to reach out to students - the next crop of professionals. Other gatherings have included lectures and trend presentations, and most recently a visit to a marvelous domestic factory that can do everything from patternmaking and production to order fulfillment. At each and every function networking is always the common element and it has been great to see how some of our members have been able to assist one another.
the easy to navigate ADN site shows you a number of options to participate in the group no matter where you are located
I'm here to tell you that I have drunk the Kool-Aid and believe there is no better way to grow your career than to grow and nurture your network. Doing this means not only coming to events when you have lost a job, or need help, or started a new business (oops); nurturing your network means continuous care. It means coming out when you have a great job, when you have a great new tip or lead to share, or you have a growing business and want to connect with the perfect hire. It means coming out even if you're a bit tired from a long day because your community needs you and you need to foster a relationship with them. Here's the secret - it is so much easier to network from a position of confidence and security than when you feel like you are asking a favor. Likewise it's so much easier to ask for a favor when you do need a hand if you have already established yourself as someone who has always been a contributor. Believe me, those phonecalls are so much more comfortable when you have already have a warm rapport with the person on the other line. So, are you ready to take the plunge and invest in yourself?
Check out what our group has to offer on the ADN site!
Are you excited to contribute from the get-go? Contact us about opportunities to lead a talk, host an event, or present on a panel. We would love to hear your ideas!