Blind date – Fashion PR The Guardian, Saturday 27 September
The Guardian Article – Careers section
Nasima Ahmed finished her degree in business with marketing at the University of Westminster this summer and she is now keen to begin a career in fashion PR and marketing. “I wasn’t really too sure what career I wanted to do when I first started my degree”, she explains, “but I did a marketing internship at Disney and realised it was the kind of field I wanted to go into.”
A long-standing interest in fashion pushed her towards pursuing a career in the industry. “I’ve always enjoyed fashion,” she says. “I design and make my own clothes. While I was doing my degree I decided I could bring my passion and my marketing experience together and make it my career.” Ahmed has done work experience and done volunteer work in her spare time. Her ambition is to work for a large fashion brand, “but right now I am just trying to get my foot in the door.”
We asked Sally-Anne Shrimpton, co-founder and director of Boudoir PR, a London-based PR agency specialising in fashion and beauty, to mock-interview Ahmed for an entry-level job. Then we asked her what she thought.
“She was very, very well prepared and it was obvious from her CV and the portfolio of work she brought with her that she has a long-standing passion for fashion and is genuinely interested in marketing and PR.
“That’s so important at an agency like ours. We started Boudoir five year’s ago from a bedroom, hence the name and have grown a lot since then. Our priority is to work with brands we’re ally believe in and to put the people who work with us first.”
Shrimpton emphasises the pace of working in an agency is something that new team members must be able to cope with. “We really throw them in at the deep-end,” she says. “They will be working across accounts, getting really familiar with the media, writing press releases and helping to organise events and fashion shows. The ability to multitask is an absolute must.”
“Fashion,” Shrimpton says, “is an industry where prior knowledge is also a prerequisite. We want an interviewee to come prepared and to have a really keen interest in fashion and an understanding of the industry. We look for key words when they’re talking to show that they pay attention to the latest developments.” She says Ahmed did well on this score. “She impressed me by explaining that she gained entry tickets to London Fashion Week so she would have experience of the shows, be up to date on trends and also use it for networking,” she says.
But it is also important to be able to translate that interest into business. “To work here you’d have to be someone who can show they have innovative and creative thinking, they go above and beyond to prove themselves, to have ideas and follow them through with research and an end result, someone that seizes the opportunity.”
Other key skills include good writing skills, an outgoing personality and being a forward thinker. “You have to be able to overhear your manager say something on the phone and by the time they’ve hung up be able to tell them you’ve already started working on it,” says Shrimpton.
Doing work experience is also almost always expected. “The industry is so competitive it shows you really have the drive,” explains Shrimpton. “It also means that as you work your way up you know how every single level of the organisation works.”
Shrimpton believes Ahmed has these qualities. “She was very clear, very concise,” she says. “She had a lovely manner and was very friendly and warm. I could easily put her in front of a client. She had worked proactively to get experience and knew what career she wanted. I think she will go far.”
“I was a little bit nervous”, says Ahmed. “I wanted to make a good impression”. But the atmosphere at the agency put her at her ease. “It was quite relaxed,” she says, “and I was able to talk about what I’d done.”
• Why do you want to work in PR and which sector most interests you?
• How do you understand the role of PR business support?
• Which fashion designers do you like and why?
• Can you explain examples of your current networking skills?
• What skills do you feel you can bring to this position?
Presentation 9/10, Preparation 10/10, Employability 10/10