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What Not to Do at the Beginning of Your Career

BoF shares insider tips from industry experts including Lucinda Chambers and Drew Elliott.
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  • BoF Team

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LONDON, United Kingdom — The adage "we learn from our mistakes" is never truer than at the beginning of your career. But BoF is here to help, sharing insights and insider tips from industry experts on what not to do when you're starting out.

Legendary stylist Lucinda Chambers spent 36 years at the forefront of magazine publishing as fashion director of British Elle and British Vogue. Chambers provides her insight on what not to do on a photo shoot, and how to adjust accordingly:

“[It is] a good thing not to hold onto your first idea, not to assume that the first idea you’ve had about a shoot is necessarily going to be the best idea. Don’t hold onto something out of fear, let your head give space for better ideas to come in. When you’ve had the idea, leave room and gaps for different things to float in. I think that comes with time as well. Leave those gaps, leave those rooms, and don’t hang on.”

Musa Tariq, one of a highly select group appointed to the C-Suite under the age of 35, has previously held directorial roles at Burberry, Nike, Apple and Ford, which led to his current position as head of marketing at Airbnb. Tariq explains what not to do while building your network and how to change your approach:

“The best time to build your network is when you don't need something. It's obvious when you're the type of person who reaches out only when you need something. When things are going well in your career, take the time then to reach out to people and foster that relationship. When you do need something, those people are more likely to help than if you just reached out to them when you need help.”

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Susanne Tide-Frater, fashion consultant and brand and strategy director at Farfetch, began her career working in trend development and has since worked for Selfridges, Harrods and Victoria Beckham. Tide-Frater explains what is not conducive to a successful career in buying and merchandising, and how to overcome it:

“Look at your experiences, do not be too adventurous right away, but maybe be led more by the numbers to start with. Add a bit of spice [with] your intuition, see how it performs, get a bit gutsier and build it from there. It is an amazing profession, but it is not learned overnight.”

Co-owner and creative director of Paper Communications, Drew Elliott, built his career from an internship to heading up the renowned New York publishing and marketing company. Elliott describes how not to start a career in digital marketing, and what you should do instead:

“If you want to reach out to someone, it's never going to happen if you don't ask. It's so important to have the confidence to know that someone's going to pick it up. At the end of the day, everyone's rooting for you. You just have to figure out the right route for you. Everyone asks me, ‘How should I get started?’ Just get started.”

During his career, fashion writer, journalist and academic Colin McDowell MBE has published several books, curated exhibitions and acted as chief fashion writer of The Sunday Times Style Magazine for over 20 years. McDowell discusses the fleetingness of fashion moments:

"Fashion moments don't come [around] very frequently and they really come from people who are at the top of the tree creatively. Nowadays, a designer has to be someone very special to have a real impact — somebody like Alexander McQueen or Miuccia Prada. It's much harder for [designers] to make any moment their real moment."

For more advice on how to excel in your career, access the portfolio of online courses as part of a BoF Professional membership.

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