I Do Windows

An update from our Visual Merchandiser job-seeker!

Posted in Q and A by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

Here’s a great update from a reader who had actively been seeking a job in our field!  Click on this link to get the back story.

Hi Arcadia,

I wanted to give you an update since you were so kind as to provide advice about a job as a visual merchandiser. I didn’t get the position with Macy’s. Due to lag time with the online job postings the position was already filled when I went in for the interview. I at least felt good that they granted me an interview.

The great news is that I was just hired on at Nordstrom as a Seasonal Visual Stylist!

I’ll share my experience with you and your students since I did not have an educational background in merchandising and still managed to land a job as a visual merchandiser.

My background is in finance, but I have always had a passion for design, fashion and anything creative. I gained “experience” by offering to be on call help for floral event set up. I usually would be called in on a Saturday or a Sunday so it never interfered with my “real job.” Many florists and wedding planners always need day-of help because so much has to be done in such a short amount of time. A good friend of mine is a well-known florist and that is how I was able to help with high end & celebrity weddings. Get to know some of the better known florists in your area and tell them you want to be on-call help. There are many tasks that don’t require huge creative skill and eventually you can work your way into some of the more creative tasks the more events you help with.

This on-call side job was always fun for me and not about the money. It was hard physical work but I loved every moment of it. One of the other things that I had on my “creative” resume is that I worked for a company that flipped homes and I would provide input in the redesign (choosing finishes, redesign kitchen layouts, etc.) I also had a hand in the actual demo and some of the other dirty work. An internship with an interior designer or contractor would provide some of this type experience.

How I got the position. Your best bet is during the holidays. Department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom have a huge store changeover for the holidays. Arcadia has mentioned this before, every year department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom, post seasonal visual positions during the month of October. As you know, I had a couple missed opportunities with Macy’s, but when I saw this posting I was determined to get it. I  basically had to redo my resume and left off most of my financial jobs and highlighted all retail work, event and design work. Resumes are not one size fits all, you have to tweak your resume to the position your are apply for.

One of the key factors that put me at the top of the list was that I called the hiring store’s human resources directly a couple days after I submitted my application and resume.  I asked if they received the application, let them know that I was very interested in the position and most importantly, that I would work through the holidays. Nordstrom loves to see initiative, even in people applying for support positions. The HR manager emailed the Visual manager as I was on the phone with her. I received a call the very next day to come in and chat. Another factor that help me stand out was that I had a little construction experience, this showed that I was not afraid of physical labor or climbing up 8 foot ladders.

Visual merchandising has been something that I have always wanted to do and I showed that I was passionate about it. Another thing about working as a seasonal visual stylist is that it is a requirement to work on Thanksgiving day. This is the day the holiday changeover happens. I am told that we are done at about 2pm still leaving time for Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t care, I wanted the job. At the very least it pays time and half. =)

My passion paired with some decent side job experiences is what landed me the position. I was basically hired on the spot.

Hopefully this provides your students with a little “real world” insight. Thank you again for your advice. I enjoy your blog immensely and have learned a great deal.

Sincerely,

J

There are few things J pointed out in her story that I really want to emphasis for new students:

  1. She gained experienced by working for creative types other than fashion. I can’t stress enough how great this is, as skills are transferable.  If you can design a floral bouquet then you understand balance and symmetry, the very skills you would need for a display case.  Fashion retailers aren’t the only place to gain experience.  You need a broader background for display.
  2. “It was hard physical work but I loved every moment”.  How many times have I said in class, our work may look pretty but there is nothing glamorous about the job!  You can’t work in heels or be afraid to break a nail.
  3. She’s very passionate about her work and her persistence paid off.  You can’t help but succeed when you are doing something you love!

Congratulations J!  And thanks so much for sharing your story and experience, with your initiative and can-do attitude I can see Nordstrom keeping you even after the holidays!

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