For as long as I can remember, a career in Fashion Marketing is one that I have always worked hard to build. When I made the move from India to Toronto, I was faced with a surge of opportunities, which quite honestly blew me away. But since I was still a couple of months away from getting my Work Permit in order to take up an actual job, I decided that Volunteering was the closest I could get to having a first hand experience of how the industry functions here.
I did what any new entrant to a job market would do – I updated my resume, fine-tuned my LinkedIn profile, registered myself on some of the job portals and the works… Here are a few things I learnt along the way during my search for internship/ volunteering opportunities here:
- Most of the internship/ volunteering positions are reserved for students who require these internships for credits as part of their course.
- Intakes for internships mostly occur twice a year – Summer and Fall.
- Unlike it is in most places (in my experience), the internships here actually pay!
Moving on, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting for an opportunity to apply to, in March I got an e-mail from the Marketing & Communications department of St.Joseph’s Media calling for volunteers for the Toronto Fashion Week Awards. I jumped at the opportunity, partly because I needed a break from the routine household chores and mostly because I was excited to finally go out and experience what ‘working’ in this city felt like! The requirements laid out by them were pretty basic – Volunteers had to be dressed in all black, be ready to do some manual labor and be open to working until the event was wrapped up. Having already read my fair share of articles online about the work involved in volunteering for a Fashion Week event, I was quite prepared for what was about to follow.
Now about the event itself !
The Toronto Fashion Week Awards is an evening that marks the end of the Toronto Fashion Week where some of the designers, designs and the models that essayed them are recognized. As a volunteer my share of the evening was to ensure that the event management company hosting the function had all the extra support they needed to see the evening through. My day began at 4 PM where I had to report to the venue of. I immediately joined the team to undertake my first task of assembling goody bags (read PR kits!) that had to be given to the guests at the end of the night.
Mind you, getting around 500 goody bags with around 10 other volunteers in itself took about three hours of non-stop labor. After this the team was given a generous feast of pizza and diet coke and asked to change out our yoga pants and loose tees into something black and something classy. Once we were all dressed, we were ushered to the main arena.
The venue had a whole range of fun activities planned out for the guests apart from the main event itself. There was a Smashbox counter where the guests could get a makeover, a hair dressing counter, a live photoshoot section, Fashion Mag tattoo counters for temporary tattoos and even a ‘foot selfie’ section!
Our tasks as volunteers ranged from ensuring that the guests were welcomed, making sure the photography equipment and lighting for the photoshoots were in place, manning the ‘Foot-selfie’ counter, getting guests to try out the cosmetic offerings of the sponsors and the like. At the end of the show, we were additionally responsible for disassembling the setup (lots of heavy lifting) and handing over the goody bags to the guests as they left.
At the end of the experience here’s what I learnt and I think would be great pointers for anyone who’s looking to volunteer for an event of this kind:
- Always be open to taking up the tasks that are on offer. It may seem unimportant to you but every little task goes a long way in the learning process. Including the heavy lifting!
- Work at your social skills because you will be presented with the opportunity of dealing with people of different temperaments and styles of working. This is your chance to push yourself to be a team player and learn how to work amicably in any setting.
- Learn to have fun along the way. Amidst all the hustle, you’d probably get the chance to meet some great people who are volunteering with you. For someone like me who was new to the city, this meant a great deal.
- Network, network, network! Every person present in the room is definitely a ‘Somebody’. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that you should spend your night stalking and chatting up people, trying to get an interview. But this is a great opportunity to shake hands with people who are established in your field of interest. These connections can go a long way if dealt with wisely.
As I headed home at 1 AM after the event that night, I knew I would do it all over again given the chance. It was definitely awkward at first when I was thrust into working with a group of people I had never seen before from the moment I stepped in but it didn’t take too long before I eased in and started enjoying it. The connections I made and the people I worked with made the strenuous 8 hours, completely worth it. And did I tell you that all the volunteers were given a goody bag at the end of the night as a thank you from the event management team? Here’s a peek into it!
I must admit, I’m already looking forward to the next season! 🙂