I’m not a big believer in “luck” – especially when it comes to career success. Maybe 1% can be attributed to it but not much more. The celebrated people I know have earned every minute of their success the hard way – by working for it. Sure, they may have an advantage – a creative talent (a photographer’s artistic eye) or physical qualities (a model’s height) but it’s what they do with it that counts.
“She’s so lucky” is a cop-out, an easy way to pretend that someone else had an unfair advantage. The reality is that person likely got ahead by being well-prepared and focused. In fashion (well, really any business), it’s all about the hustle. Here are some first steps to making it happen:
Search out opportunities. If you wait to see a posting online, or for someone to approach you first, chances are you will miss out. Follow industry associations, companies and leaders on social media. Subscribe to relevant newsletters. Attend industry-related events. Research companies that you want to work for. If you hear of something interesting, you’ll be ready to jump forward with your hand up.
Network. Plain and simple, go meet people. Social media has flipped networking on its head. I’ve expanded my group of professional contacts and even friends through Instagram. And yes, “I follow you on Instagram” is perfectly ok as a conversation ice-breaker at an industry event. You’ll start to see the same people repeatedly – and that’s a good time to ask for introductions or a connection on LinkedIn. While I value LinkedIn, I’m hesitant to accept an invitation to connect unless I’ve met you or know of you through an industry event.
Hustle hard. More than a decade ago, I met a young guy who absolutely adored fashion. He sidled up to me at a fashion show in Toronto’s Hazelton Lanes to snap a photo of my Chanel handbag. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion – he knew the season and collection my quilted tote was from. And he had an artistic approach to photography. He wasn’t interested in taking a photo of head-to-toe standard pose, but more the detail of a handbag or cut of a jacket. His name was Tommy Ton and he lived in Oakville, a Toronto suburb. He was struggling to find a way to combine his love for fashion and photographing people into a viable career that wasn’t based in a traditional fashion photographer’s studio.
That first conversation with Tommy was the beginning of a long relationship with me and the Flare team. Others in the local industry also recognized his passion and helped him get ahead. I would write letters of support to get him into the runway shows in Paris, like the Chanel show above in 2007.
Tommy is now recognized as one of the pioneers in street style photography. His work has been featured in publications and sites around the globe including (the former) Style.com, GQ, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. I always use Tommy as the perfect example of someone so passionate, prepared and single-minded about his work. It wasn’t “fate” or “luck” that earned him international recognition – his radar was always up, he had a fresh approach with a great attitude to match, and people enjoyed working with him. Plus, he takes amazing photos and what street style star editor doesn’t love that?
Put yourself in the right place at the right time. Oprah really said it best – “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” If you’re observant and take the initiative, you will find that crack in the door and squeeze in.