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Drapers Next Generation: Embrace every opportunity, big or small

Make the most of every job you are given, big or small, if you want to succeed in the fashion industry, delegates at today’s Drapers Next Generation event have been told.

The first session of the day heard from a panel comprising Coast junior buyer Laura Campbell, Lily Rice, founder of her own brand Lexie Sport, Mike Gomnam, mobile UX designer at Shop Direct and Tara Hill, M&S.com commercial trading manager.

The four – who were featured as Drapers’ 30 Under 30 this year – told the audience at 30 Euston Square their disparate views on building a career within the industry.

Campbell spoke of the challenges of moving from one division to another – in her case merchandising to buying – noting that although it gave her insight into both sides of the business, it was “a difficult jump”.

“I wouldn’t recommend people do it,” she added, saying her experience was “just luck”.

Rice secured investment after appearing on a BBC3 show, and told the audience the time pressure to build a business plan had helped create better structure. “If you set yourself time limits you can get a lot done in a short period of time,” she said. Skills can be learned on the way, Rice added, noting that she often learns how to do something on YouTube.

Hill has progressed through Marks & Spencer from the retailer’s graduate scheme, which she said gave her “a full view of working with every single team on the dotcom floor”.  

“I had exposure to every area of the floor – I don’t know if you would get that with any other first job,” she said.

Although their career paths were very different, each of the four shared the view that self-motivation and grasping every opportunity was the key to success.

“No matter how big or small the job you are given, you should always take it, because it will raise your profile more and more – everything will get recognised and it will help you get where you want to be,” said Campbell. Hill agreed “It’s about being the best you can – that is what gets you recognised – doing the best job you can, whether it’s small or big.”

Rice said: “If you’re not really passionate about whatever sector you go into, I don’t think it will work out.”

Gomnam urged delegates to think ahead. “You need to adapt your skillset– there are no ecommerce or user experience degrees out there – so as mobile and tablet and smart watches get bigger you need to adapt your skills.”

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