Career Code: An Inside Look at the Life of a Trend Forecaster
In honor of Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s new book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($17), we’re running an interview series featuring 17 questions (in honor of the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of the most inspirational female leaders in the fashion industry. So far, we’ve tapped Rebecca Minkoff, Sally Singer, Rachel Zoe, and more. Up next? Jane Buckingham.
Something Hillary and Katherine emphasize in The Career Code is being the “CEO of your own career.” In other words, the only person you should truly rely on in terms of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it—what determines the amount of happiness in your work life and the steps necessary to get you there—is you. Jane Buckingham is a prime example of this mantra, as she took her career into her own hands at the ripe age of 16.
Ever since, Jane has built a career that focuses on consumer insights, generational trends, and much more. Now, as an author, mother, and founder of Trendera, Jane has ample experience as a trend forecaster and for over 20 years has helped companies better understand their customers, products, and overall services, all while maintaining a well-balanced life. Color us intrigued.
Keep reading to learn more about what the life of a trend forecaster really looks like!
“Technically, I am a trend forecaster, researcher, and generational expert. But even my family doesn’t really know what that means! Basically, I study pop culture and the generations—how they shift, what is changing—and then help companies understand and interpret that information so that they can make better products, marketing, and services. We also help parents, educators, and public service organizations. For example, if a company is having a hard time selling clothes to teenage girls, we might do a big study with focus groups, quantitative research, interviewing editors, shopping at stores, searching online, and more, and then give them recommendations on how they should change their product, their PR, their advertising, their social media, and what celebrities or spokespeople they should use moving forward.”
“I think that it’s actually a lot of WORK. People tend to think I just go to stores, meet cool people and ‘make up trends.’ But we crunch numbers, do tons of research, travel to not so sexy places, and write report after report after report. We analyze data and have to make sure that what we are predicting is actually right!”
“It was a long time ago but I remember it well because I wore it to death! It was a red Tahari dress I bought at Nordstrom. I was (and am) really loyal to Nordstrom because when I was in college, I was visiting a boyfriend who was in the working world who forgot to tell me we had a black-tie function to go to. I went to Nordstrom (which we didn’t have on the East Coast). I couldn’t afford much, and the saleslady helped me find a simple black dress and fabulous earrings. I couldn’t really afford both. She quietly told me to wear the earrings and bring them back the next day. When I protested, she told me that when I did have money I should come spend it at Nordstrom. And I’ve been doing just that ever since.”
“Not sure if this counts but I would have to say my mom. She passed away when I was 21, so I would love her advice on what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong. I really admired her and her career. She had been a writer and the features editor at Glamour, and when I was 8, she decided to go to law school (which was not common in the early ’80s). She commuted from New York to Yale for three years. I always wonder how she juggled life as a single mom while working so hard.”
“There are a lot. It’s really an amalgam. First, it’s people themselves. I love talking to people about how they feel, why they do something, or why they buy something. But in terms of media, I read a little bit of everything. I read fashion, news, pop culture, politics. Who What Wear (of course, but really), The Atlantic, Teen Vogue, Glamour, tons of blogs, and Snapchat stories, but mostly I just see where things lead me. It’s rarely the usual places that I find something interesting.”
“I think my biggest regret was staying in a job too long. I did it twice and instead of leaving feeling good about myself, and the company, I waited until I really hated the jobs, the places, and looking back, didn’t do as good of a job as I probably should have. It’s like staying in a bad relationship—once you know it’s over, it’s over and it’s time to move on. More money and more perks won’t fix what’s wrong if the love and passion are gone. Don’t stay if you know it’s not right. You—and they—will only suffer.”
“Honesty. Resourcefulness. Kindness. Self-awareness. Interest in helping more than interest in being helped.”
“Heels. And usually something black.”
“Well, I asked her. She said I was really funny, knowledgeable, connected, I cater to my dog too much, and that it’s really fun to work for me. And then I wrote her a BIG check.”
“I bring in my team and ask them what they’ve seen that’s new and interesting. My job is about staying connected to youth culture. I take my job very seriously. When I started at age 16, it was because I felt older people were misrepresenting young people, so if I can’t do it accurately, it’s time for me to hang up my shingle. I always listen to what people are thinking or doing. I also go out and try to walk in a new part of town, or a new area, or even an old area that has new shops or new places to see what has changed and understand why it has changed. And sometimes I just drive around and think.”
“With a lot of notice. Never leave your boss or your colleagues in the lurch. You’re not an indentured servant and you don’t have to stay anywhere forever, but if you leave with unfinished business and you dump everything on your colleagues’ plates, any good work you’ve done will quickly be forgotten. Tell your boss before your colleagues, and never tell your clients before your boss. You can quickly undo great work by having a bad ending. Also, if you are thinking of leaving, you may want to talk to your boss about it; think about why you want to leave. No one likes to be left, whether it’s a job or a relationship. Perhaps you should have the discussion before you start looking.”
“We love to order in at the office, and we are terrible at deciding! So we play 5-3-1: Someone names five restaurants, another person narrows that to three, and another person picks the one. I will do 5 or 3, NOT 1. I would probably skip lunch every day if I could. I HATE going out to lunch, and I don’t like eating big lunches. I would probably eat a spicy tuna roll every day if I could. The five places we usually pick from are Joan’s on Third, Sweetgreen, Urth Caffé, Simplethings, and sushi. Unfortunately, our sushi place just closed, so we are hunting for a new go-to spot!”
“I think a lot of young people think that entry-level jobs are about THEM. Them learning and them growing. That their boss ‘owes’ it to them to mentor them and teach them and promote them. Yet the reality is they were probably hired because there was a need—work to be done! Young people should focus more on what THEY can do for the company than what the company can do for them. In turn, then the company will see that, and their bosses will see that. But employers are tired of new employees who ‘expect’ everything quickly and feel they deserve it.
“Then again, among my peers, I see a lot of resentment of young people, and it’s because they’re trying to ‘fit a square peg into a round hole.’ The fact is young people ARE different. They ARE better at technology and they aren’t going to work the same hours or do things the way we did. So we have to stop griping about it and figure out how to work together and maximize both of our efforts.”
- “My son (@JackBuckiingham) and daughter (@LiliaBuckingham)—but I will count that as one—because they are so different and I get to see their personalities come out. My daughter wound up with 186K followers—long story—and has really started to use that as a platform to help young people feel really good about themselves. My son is a teenage boy who would prefer I NEVER even mention his name (sorry, Jack).
- “@WhoWhatWear (of course) for all of the latest fashion news and trends.
- “@OhJoy: I love her, I love Ruby, I love her creativity, and it always puts a smile on my face.
- “@SaraHappInc: Her lip products are AMAZING, her feed is the way I want my life to look, and I always relax a little when I look at them.
- “@MndFlMeditation: My baby brother created a meditation ‘space to breathe’ in NYC and it’s a huge success! It’s crazy to think your baby bro could be this ‘guru’ helping all these people. It’s amazing and every time I see it I’m so proud—and it reminds me I should be meditating!”
“I have two teenagers, so my morning ritual is a little bit more like a fire drill. I take a 30-second shower, wake them both up, start breakfast, wake my son up AGAIN, get dressed, and get everyone out the door. I try to exercise (Pilates Plus and SLT are my go-tos) at least three times a week and SoulCycle two times a week. My daughter and I go to SoulCycle together on the weekend, and she is in way better shape than I am, so that’s pretty motivating.
“Thank goodness for Drybar, or I would look like a mess. I go two, sometimes three times a week. Not only do I come out looking together, but I get my emails sorted for the day and I shave an hour off of my routine. It makes me feel more confident and more together (god bless Ali Webb). In the evening, I really am more of a homebody. I try to go to events that end by 8 if I can so that I can be home with my kids. I love to snuggle in bed with them and watch TV and finish emails or work. I grew up in a small apartment and would be very happy living in one room.
“I am terrible about beauty. I only recently stopped using Sea Breeze as my face cleanser (okay, I haven’t totally stopped) and started using night cream under my eyes. I’m pretty sure one day I’m just going to wake up and my entire face will look 20 years older. I think I’m just lucky because I had TERRIBLE skin as a teen, and this is my payback.”
“Don’t expect anyone to ever think about your career or your future as much as you. Not your boss, not your mentor, not your mom, no one. Only you can be in charge of your future and the choices that you make. I think I often thought someone else would ‘help’ or ‘take charge,’ but the reality is no one will be able to do it for you but YOU.”
“I’m always excited about what we are doing at Trendera. We are working on a new Trend product that will help us better track where trends emerge and why. I’m also working on a book about Gen V (Some people call them Gen Z) and a TV show that is an extension of the Modern Girl brand. But as ever, my children are my most exciting ‘project’ in development.”
Is there someone you would like us to interview? Let us know in the comments below!