Have you ever oversold your capabilities on something? Promised an employer that you were capable of achieving a task without ever having done it? Or invited your family over for Christmas without ever opening a cookbook? Yes! Of course you have, everyone has at some point in their life…Overselling your capabilities, or punching above your weight is not always a bad thing, as long as you can follow through and learn quickly.
Looking back, I seem to have spent most of my career applying for jobs that were just a little out of my league, and in some cases, I got them. How did I feel? Terrified!
Terrified that I would get discovered as a fraud and then thrown out on my ear. But it never happened because I spent a many hours learning the job on the spot so that I wouldn’t get discovered and thrown into fashion exile.
Here’s the story of when I oversold a little too far:
Around 16 years ago, I applied for a job in apparel production based in Amsterdam. I had never done apparel production before, I had no clue where to start and I had never visited Amsterdam. With my previous experience being mainly in buying and retail where I had worked with garments but never measured or constructed them, I felt it necessary to embellish my experience a ‘little’ in order to stand a chance of getting the job offer. In my naivety it didn’t even cross my mind that when I was offered the position, I would find myself a little out of my depth in some or, in reality, most areas of the role.
On the first day in the job, after having landed in a new country two hours earlier with my life in three suitcases I, along with the other sourcing assistants had to measure the collection to start the production process. It was only at that point that I started to panic. I was in a new country and in a new job that I had no clue about.
With tape measure in hand, the reality of my overselling kicked in. I had never measured a garment before. Feeling the blood rush to my head in panic, I casually observed my colleague starting to measure. Leaning across I asked:
“ So, you measure the chest like that… right, yes – I do the same”
“ And the shoulders, yes, ok, same as well”
And so it went, stage after stage she measured, I copied and memorised.
The nervous panic slowly subsided; I quickly studied the measuring technique and slowly worked my way through the collection. As the weeks and months progressed, I took notes, I learnt quickly, I used my initiative and I asked questions, lots of questions. But they didn’t find out until I left the company of my initial inexperience. I did confessed all but after my two years there, they laughed (some more nervously than others). It was a bold move, but luckily it paid off.
From then on, when applying for a job, I made a point to always understand the role before I applied for it. I may not have been able to do everything, but at least I had an understanding of, or basic level skill at, most of the tasks.
My overselling of myself in that role was irresponsible of me, and could have been a financial disaster for the collection and the company, but I followed through on the job, worked above and beyond to make up for any knowledge shortfall and had a great experience.
So with that experience in mind, here are my tips:
- Overselling your capabilities can have financial implications so never stray too far from your skill set.
- Think on your feet, watch and learn from the experts.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Take notes and learn from them.
- Never make the same mistake twice.
For more information on the industry and about measuring read my book: Blue is the New Black