Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Power of Kindness // Teen Vogue Fashion U 2015







During Spring Break, I had the opportunity to attend Teen Vogue’s 2015 Fashion University in New York City. In partnership with the CFDA, the conference is hosted for young women and men ages 16-24 who are working towards a career within the fashion industry in business, design, or styling. For two days, I was surrounded by a group of smart, driven, and hard working peers from around the world who I am both honored and lucky enough to be entering the fashion industry with in the next coming years.

 The conference had invaluable networking opportunities with accomplished Teen Vogue staff such as Publisher/Chief Revenue Officer, Jason Wagenheim, and Editor in Chief, Amy Astley, not to mention industry icons including Zac Posen, Jessica Simpson, Rebecca Minkoff, Michelle Phan, and Leandra Medine who provided advice on how to draft a standout resume, to crafting your personal brand, and finding confidence within yourself. Needless to say, I collected many pearls of wisdom from Fashion U, but the most inspiring piece of advice was the power of kindness.

Kindness has been on my radar quite a lot recently. For some reason, I feel as if I have been witness to a lot of unkindness lately. On campus, stress levels have been increasingly high with midterm season, summer internship planning, study abroad applications, and graduation all up in the air. In the city, it seems like everyone has been in a weird funk with this neverending snow. I admit this negative energy floating around has been slowly wearing me down; this conference certainly could not have arrived at a better time...

The minute I set foot in New York City, I felt this wave of kindness set into motion. I was a bit lost taking the subway and asked a young woman for guidance. As fate would have it, we were traveling to the same place and after a few polite moments of chatter, we quickly bonded over our current struggles with jobs and internships. She was struggling as a recent college graduate to find a job she was passionate about while I explained my struggle to secure an internship this summer. She sympathized with my desire to find work I was passionate about and with a company who's values I admired. She gave me some tips on how to search for internship opportunities, but most importantly her kindness, encouragement, and ceaseless positivity boosted my current disposition. While this exchange lasted no more than thirty minutes, I don’t think I will ever forget how her kindness not only saved me from being lost, but brought together two strangers with mirroring stories.

The next morning, I met with an old friend who recently graduated college and now works in the city. It was great to catch up, but it was refreshing to see a fellow peer get out into the real world and thrive. Everyday, I wake up and go to bed worrying about my future career. I don't necessarily worry about being "successful", but finding a future job that makes me feel happy and satisfied. As Millennials, I truly believe my generation is more passionate about working for a company that alines with our career goals and ethical values. Over this past year, I have found myself in situations where I didn't feel my personal values matched the values of my environment. The stars didn't necessarily aline for my friend at first, but after some negative experiences, she found the “right job”. She experienced firsthand how the power of kindness within the office or your environment can make a difference in your sense of worth, work, and overall happiness.

During Fashion U, I gained a lot of knowledge about the business behind fashion that often gets lost behind the swaths of beautiful clothing within our industry; however, the most reoccurring piece of advice was the power of being kind to others. Many of the speakers addressed the importance of working hard and being kind to others to not only “make it in the industry”, but make it with your personal dignity in tact. Any job industry is competitive, but the fashion industry often gets a bad rap for backstabbing and toe stepping. It was refreshing to hear these successful women reaffirm that you don’t need to climb over others and be unkind in order to be successful. If anything you should help be kind enough to support others around you, and powerful women should especially be more mindful to help empower other women.

 My career management class recently learned about building personal brands. My professor discussed how each person's unique characteristics create their individual brand, but he urged us to understand the importance of kindness as a valuable and powerful facet of anyone's brand. Ironically, I went to see Disney’s new Cinderella movie that night (as a Fashion U sponsor I saw a replica of her glass slippers at the conference), and was again reminded by the movie's main theme to "have courage and be kind". While there has been some negative critiques about this mantra in regards to feminism, I think this simple quote is actually quite powerful no matter the gender, time, place, or occasion.

Kindness is powerful, free, and contagious. These small, but powerful acts of kindness I experienced recently were just the kind of boost I needed for my soul. Even when faced with recent episodes of unkindness, I have realized that being kind in spite of the most frustrating, ugly, and hurtful situations requires a lot of courage. Being kind isn't limited to stereotypical warmth and friendliness but finding the power and courage to be nonjudgmental, forgiving, and encouraging to others in spite of everything.

"Have courage and be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." 



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