10 Things I Learned From My First Styling Job

I started my first job when I was 13, babysitting for family friends or people that lived in our neighborhood.  By the time I was 16 I had my first official job at Quizno’s Subs. (I’m pretty sure everything I owned smelled like oregano while I was working there.) There were a string of other jobs between sandwich maker and where I am today, but wardrobe styling was the first job that I knew could be my forever job. After my first day I remember thinking, “That was totally insane… and I think I want to keep doing it!”  Styling may not be the most conventional of jobs or happen in the most traditional of workspaces, but it taught me more than I ever could have imagined. Here are 10 things I learned from my first styling job that I’ve taken with me ever since:

(Images via Jacquelyn Clark)

1. To be early is to be on time. To be early and arrive with your boss’s choice coffee in hand will cover a multitude of sins. If your call time is 7am, it doesn’t mean that you’re pulling in the parking lot at 7am. It means that at 7am, you’ve already parked, gathered your belongings, run to the bathroom, possibly eaten breakfast on set already and are ready to work.

2. Be resourceful. Everybody has a lot on their plates. It’s not their job to figure out how to get your job done, it’s your job.  Find a way to figure it out. Before you ask a question, ask yourself, “Could I google this instead?”

3. Own your mistakes. Don’t throw other people under the bus. People do this so often and everyone knows who the people are that are doing it! You’re not fooling anyone.  Total respect for people who can say, “That’s actually completely my fault and it won’t happen again.”

4. There’s a lot more to style than clothes.  Real style always seems to come from inner confidence, from owning your own personal style and what makes you feel good. It often has little to do with the latest designer name or trend. It’s why some people look so comfortable strolling a red carpet and others look like a fish out of water. I had a young client once and a half a dozen people in thought they knew what this person should be wearing, but if it’s not authentic to that person you’ll be able to tell. Trust your gut and wear what makes you feel your best, not necessarily what is trending.

5. Write everything down.  I have three journals full of scribbled notes that I took during my first year as a styling assistant. They were always with me so that I could refer back to them. What size in Dolce again? Which fabric blend fits best in this pant? Everything from a client’s gate code to helpful hints that my boss would drop during our time together would be in the book. On the last few pages, keep a running list of your wins– times you really nailed it. You’re going to make mistakes and have bad days and it’s nice to be able to read them back and know that tomorrow is a new day. 

6. Checklists are not overrated.  They’re essential!  Whether it was packing my kit for set or packing a suitcase for a work trip in another city, I had a printed list of everything I might need. It’s so easy to forget really simple things when you have a lot going on. By going over my list the day before a job I saved myself the stress of realizing on set that I was sans shoe horn or double stick tape.

7. Dress for the job you want.  It shouldn’t matter, but especially if you’re working with clothes and want people to think you know what you’re doing, you should look like you know what you’re doing. Like it or not, it’s the first impression people get of you.

8. Always look for ways to take on more responsibility.  I have watched so many people come into a job and then balk at the things their bosses were asking of them. “That’s not my job, ” they would say. If you want to keep moving up, take on additional roles when they’re given to. It’ll give you more experience when higher positions become available.

9. Be kind. It’s so easy to be short and snappy when things are stressful, but just be kind. Especially if you’re in an industry where it’s not the standard, it really makes you stand out and people will generally be more likely to go out of their way for you.

10. Always leave on a positive note.  The time comes when we all outgrow our current positions and are ready to move on to the next challenge.  Giving your notice isn’t the time to tell your boss how unappreciated you have been or how hard her job is going to be without you. It’s the time to be so grateful for what everyone has poured into you and for the tremendous experience it has given you.  It’s a really small world. You never know when you’ll meet again or need a reference.  Plus, there are truly so many positives to take away from nearly every job experience.

What have you learned from your past jobs?

Images via Jacquelyn Clark

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  3. I love every single thing on this list, especially owning up to your mistakes. That is just the mature and responsible thing to do and it makes less headaches for everyone.

    • Jen Pinkston


      Agreed!I feel like it’s something that is daunting at first, but becomes second nature when you practice it.

  4. I came here disappointed the pin I’d seen linked to Pinterest and not this blog post despite having the website title in the caption – and I’m so glad I did! I replaced the pin and will be following you.

    • Jen Pinkston


      Thank you so much, Lix! Pinterest can be totally frustrating in that way! :/

  5. Savannah


    Thanks for sharing these tips! I’m starting an internship on Monday and these will definitely come in handy! x http://www.justsavxnnah.com

    • Jen Pinkston


      So exciting! What kind of internship is it?

  6. Nikoleta


    Great tips! Thank you for sharing.
    Definitely be kind and always on time I’ ve learned from my past job!

    • Jen Pinkston


      Yes, both so important and relatively easy things to pick up!

  7. Katie H.


    This is great advice for any position in any industry. But I have a daily struggle with # 1!

    • Jen Pinkston


      Number one can be so hard! I have this innate stress about being late, though. I don’t know where it comes from, but it makes me crazy even if I’m just a minute behind!

  8. I definitely know some of those things. I’ve been a stylist assistant for 2 years now. I really want something more but it’s really hard to find styling jobs around me. I was told that Hour was going to give me own little photo shoot but that was before the creative director’s husband got transferred and a new one came in, so now I don’t know if it’s going to happen. Maybe someday.

    xx Jennifer

    • Jen Pinkston


      It’s true. So much of styling does tend to be centered in LA or NYC. Where do you live? Have you tried pitching yourself to local brands? It doesn’t hurt!

  9. Wonderful post Jen! Great advice and everything here applies, from working on your own, doing something in a more alternative environment, or working somewhere corporate. Bookmarking for future reference.

    • Jen Pinkston


      Thank you so much, Libby! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

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