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Modern Languages & Its Unexpected Career Paths

By Weronika Z Benning, on 8 February 2016

By Andrew Scott – Head Fashion Buyer

I had never given much thought to modern languages until high school, but then why would I when it was never something which had been included in my curriculum? That soon changed the moment I sat down in my first French lesson. The whole concept had me gripped from that moment, as I started to enjoy learning in a way which I never had before. Language combines the theory of traditional core subjects with a hint of personal expression which you only get through art based subjects providing the middle ground I unknowingly required.

Needless to say I excelled in language and it was a natural step for me to carry this on through to college and then university.

For me, the novelty of studying modern languages and the sense of accomplishment which came with it never wore off, so I guess I was one of the lucky ones who came out of university with a clear sense of direction.

Immediately out of university I explored the typical avenues of employment such as translating and interpreting, although I knew this wasn’t a long term career path and I soon moved on to a role within an international company. Whilst I enjoyed this fast paced environment, I couldn’t ignore the pull to get involved in the world of fashion, which was the industry my parents both operated in.

I was surprised how strongly the industry demanded my language skills in many different areas, which gave me a much wider choice of career than I had ever thought. I am now the head fashion buyer of Infinities Menswear, a role which constantly demands my language skills and takes me all over Europe. On a daily basis I speak on the phone with our global suppliers and regularly attend international fashion shows and buying meetings. The ability to communicate with people in their own dialect goes a long way in terms of building relationships and it is personally enjoyable to use my languages in practice.

Thinking back to my university days, I never would have predicted that I would have the career I have today and I feel very fortunate to think that I have been able to combine my two passions in life in such a way.

I fear that many people believe modern languages commands a very narrow career path, which is a misconception I am keen to correct for anyone considering or currently studying modern languages. In reality, a modern languages qualification provides you with an edge over the competition in a wide range of roles within a multitude of different industries.

The world is your oyster, learn how to communicate in it!

Fashion PR Manager: Inspire Me

By UCL Careers, on 5 June 2015

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series,Melissa Collins, PR Manager at River Island, talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into Fashion PR.  Melissa Collins PR Manager River Island

How did you get into your role?

Before obtaining my current position at River Island, I gained a lot of experience working for other brands. I started my work experience at different magazines such as Bliss and Cosmo before I decided to pursue a career in PR. Then I secured an internship at Boxfresh for a year before going on to work for a range of brands such as Ralph Lauren, Warehouse and Arcadia where I moved from being a showroom assistant to a press assistant to press officer. In 2012, a senior press officer position came up at River Island and I jumped at the chance as I loved the brand and everything it stood for. After a year and a half, I was promoted to PR Manager and I’ve never looked back.

How important is it to have a degree in fashion to secure a job in the field?

A degree in fashion will start you off in a great position – if a CV was placed on my desk, one of the first things I look for is the candidate’s degree and the course they studied. However, work experience is also crucial when applying for jobs in PR and journalism, alongside having confidence, great presentation skills and knowing the industry you want to work in inside and out. If you’ve worked within the industry already and have that insider experience, it isn’t as essential to have a fashion-related degree but it certainly helps!

What are the best things about working in your role?

The best thing about working in fashion PR is that no two days are ever the same! I could be on a photo shoot one day, a breakfast meeting with journalists or in the press showroom the next. I love this industry, the buzz you get when you see your brand featured in the likes of Vogue, Sunday Times Style and other prestigious magazines is incredible. Also, the creativity is great, you get to put on some fantastic events, press days, product launches and many more. On a whole, the fast fashion industry is constantly changing and I’m excited to see where it goes in the next ten years.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Time! There are never enough hours in the day. The world of PR has changed a lot of the last few years. When I first started I was working with just magazine/paper/broadcast journalists, but now online plays a huge part, as well as bloggers. I feel like I have to spread myself more thinly across all the areas.

What advice do you have for students wanting to pursue a career in PR?

Fashion PR is fun, creative and very fast paced. It’s really important to gain as much experience as possible; I had to do a lot of work experience and internships to get that first break, but it will come, you just have to be patient. Communicate with as many people as you can, if you meet a lot of people along the way and make a good impression, chances are that they will remember you. During a work placement role, make sure you stand out from the other students and graduates by going above and beyond what is asked of you. That will make you first in mind when that dream role comes up!

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