This question about the value of fashion short courses is part of my Ask Alexandra advice column series. Have a question you want to ask me? Fill out the form here.
I am trying to change career (being a lawyer) and I hope to land a job in the fashion industry (events planner/art director etc…) I have a law degree and now I am considering a masters degree in fashion management as I understand and appreciate (following many unsuccessful job applications) that a special education on the subject is required by companies. However I am struggling as the tuition fees of many such schools are quite high and for me impossible to do. I wanted your opinion whether online short courses (similar to the ones offered by St Martins) are a good start for a career change and whether it assists with the job search? Do you think prospective employers value such courses as an additional skill? Thank you in advance.
First of all, you need to look at the job descriptions. Do most of the jobs you want to apply for require a degree in fashion? If so, then you might want to consider doing one. However in my experience, most job requirements in this field have some flexibility, and employers will look at the big picture, not simply a certificate. So think of yourself in the big picture – if you only have law experience, then fashion companies will most likely not want to hire you unless they need a lawyer. Fashion short courses will definitely add to your CV, but if you are applying alongside someone with a related degree and job experience, you might be out of luck.
If you are currently working as a lawyer, you will probably hate the idea of doing an internship, but this might be a great way to get some industry experience and show off your skills so that you have good references when you want to apply for some jobs. A law degree combined with some great industry experience (even if it was unpaid) could make for a strong job application, even if you don’t have any formal fashion education.
Fashion short courses, for example the ones offered by St. Martins, are excellent ways to learn some new skills and get a good school on your CV, but most employers will know that a one week summer school course is not quite a degree. If you approach these courses as a way to show your motivation to get into the field, and try and use them as networking opportunities (schmooze with the instructors, if you can!) then they can certainly be beneficial. But don’t expect to walk into a job because you were at a top school for a week.
When I first read your email, I immediately wondered why you wanted to leave law. You have a very valuable professional skill, one that many fashion companies need. Why not start looking for legal positions in fashion companies? Not only will this be a way into the industry, but you will also get a chance to see what the inner workings are like, and reflect on the exact path you want to take. A lawyer position with an exciting fashion brand could be interesting and fun, and will pay way more than an event planner.