Looking to land your dream job in the fashion industry? Of course you are. But as with most things worth pursuing, the road ahead can be challenging. While there’s no set path to the top, there are some universal tips that anyone can use to help take their career to the next level, whether they want to be an editor, a buyer, or even an artist. To this end, SOREL has closed out the first chapter of its annual #SORELstyle program, where it paired a hopeful artist with a successful fashion illustrator—one by the name of Katie Rodgers, renowned painter at Paper Fashion.
The mentee was Riley Sheehey, a 27-year-old freelance illustrator and elementary school art teacher from Arlington, Virginia, who hopes to turn her love of art into a full-time career. Rodgers not only shared invaluable tips on how to break into this niche field, she also proffered wisdom on how to keep a personal passion alive, how to be an entrepreneur, and even how to best utilize social marketing.
Ready to jump-start your own creative pursuits? Keep reading for five tips on taking your career to the next level.
While you should always focus on doing what you love, you’ll grow that much more as a professional (and as a person!) if you venture out of the norm and try new things. “It’s essential that you make a point to branch out of your comfort zone,” says Rodgers. “It’s the best way to keep the inspiration and love for what you do alive!"
As a naturally shy person, Sheehey finds networking daunting, but she made it her personal mission to speak up. “I’ve learned that it’s so important, no matter what field you’re in, to put yourself out there, whether that means attending a networking event or speaking in front of a group of people you don’t know,” says Sheehey. “Otherwise you end up missing out on opportunities that could have been both personally and professionally meaningful.”
The next step from stepping out of your comfort zone? Not letting fear hold you back by saying yes. “Say yes to every opportunity, no matter how big or small, regardless of whether or not you think you are ready for it,” says Sheehey. “I’m not much of a risk taker in most areas, but I’ve never regretted saying yes to an illustration opportunity before I thought I was ready. I’m excited that I still have a lot to learn, and as long as I feel that way, I think I’m moving in the right direction.”
“I’ve always loved illustration, but I think the first time I realized it could be more than a hobby was when my friend asked me to make her wedding invitation. I was so nervous when she asked me, and I didn’t know if I could do it, so when I finally received the invite in the mail, it was a really big moment for me. I think if anything, I’ve learned that age really isn’t as important as being passionate about something and sticking with it,” explains Sheehey.
Rodgers adds, “Riley is so driven. I know how tough it can be to put in work outside of your day job, but she seems to always be working. That shows her passion. On top of that, she has a unique style, something you can recognize within a group of paintings, which is an amazing quality to have.”
“Posting my artwork on Instagram has definitely helped me grow; it’s allowed me to connect with individuals and companies, creating many opportunities for freelance work that I wouldn't have without the help of social media,” says Sheehey.
Rodgers agrees: “I think using social media takes creativity in the same way creating a painting does. Finding new ways to get people’s attention can grow your career immensely.”
“At the end of the day, if you want to make it in this industry, you need to think creatively,” says Rodgers. “Why is the fashion industry important to you? What can you offer that isn’t already being done? How can you put your own spin on things? There is never just one way to succeed in a particular industry—the game changers will find new ways.”
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received? Tell us in the comments below.