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No matter your profession, at one point or another you will be faced with the unexpected. In my near twenty years working in fashion, more curveballs have come my way than I can count, but I’ve found that every one has only helped to propel my career forward. Here, I share some specific strategies for transforming a dilemma into an opportunity for growth.
5 Tips For Facing The Unexpected
Don’t try to tackle a problem on your own. Swallow your pride and turn to someone you trust with more experience to help you navigate a trying situation. I have been fortunate enough to turn to some of my mentors, like Marc Jacobs and Diane von Furstenberg, for design advice, while my husband Rodger and my father are my secret weapons for business guidance. I tend to be more creative, so their pragmatic, rational outlook is always a huge help.
Everyone makes mistakes, but how you handle them can set you apart in the workplace. When something goes wrong, find a solution (or twenty) before you present the mistake to your boss or colleagues. Then, use the misstep as a chance to come out on top. As a designer, often times I will conceptualize and sketch something only to have the prototype turn out differently than I expected. Rather than start from scratch, I work with my team to find a middle ground that will work for the customer while not compromising my vision.
Resist at all costs the urge to panic. This is not easily taught and comes with experience, but if you can take control of a potential freak-out and just breathe, you will realize that no problem is as colossal as you think it is in the moment.
When I received my first big styling job in Los Angeles—to dress Jennifer Garner for the Emmy Awards back in 2003—I was so nervous because it was a world with which I was unfamiliar and I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. But rather than pass on the job, I rose to the occasion and trusted my gut instinct throughout the process, even though I was terrified! Keeping your cool (or at least pretending to) helps any client feel more comfortable and confident that they are in good hands.
The final result here was better than I could have imagined; I worked with Narcisco Rodriguez to design a gorgeous halter-neck cream gown that blew everyone away, and Jennifer has been a dear friend and client ever since.
When drama arises, it is tempting to want to set the record straight to everyone within the workplace. In my experience with the media reporting false stories about my company, or me, I have learned that silence is almost always best. If you try to deny or defend yourself, you are ultimately just fueling the fire. On the other hand, when you are quiet, the drama tends to fizzle much more quickly. Bottom line: take the high road and save the venting for when you are at home behind closed doors to people you trust most in your life. Believe me, this is not easy.
Confidence comes from experience, so when you start something new it may not always be there. My advice is to fake it until you make it. Then, in turn, by being confident, you will yield your best work possible. Also, don’t confuse confidence with arrogance! It is possible to be proud of something without flaunting it.