Creative director and president of J.Crew Jenna Lyons is an admirable lady. Her drive, ability to bounce back after struggles, and career savviness make her one of my favorite women in fashion. Outside of these attributes though, she also gives great career advice. This time, Jenna Lyons says she doesn't like e-mail applications and definitely doesn't advocate for asking for raises or promotions. While this may seem like odd advice, Lyons has previously imparted wonderful words of wisdom before, so considering her new bits of knowledge is definitely a good call.
Back in February, Lyons spoke at a Hearst Master Class where she dropped career knowledge. She advocated for making yourself a workaholic, which makes total sense considering her most recent words. Speaking to Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, Lyons explains that demanding raises or promotions is not the best way to move up the career ladder at her fashionable company. In fact, Lyons refers to the need to demand such things as a disease. Instead, she recommends a much more subtle, but important, method. Lyons says:
The person who makes herself indispensable, that's the person you want to promote. But when someone comes in and starts asking—it's such a disease. Demanding, "I've done all this and I want X," doesn't work for me so much. [Instead] ask questions: "I'm ready to take it to the next step. What is it that I can do better?" That, to me, is an engaged, collaborative way to get somebody to the next level. You're not going to get there just because you think you're ready or because someone else got promoted. We don't sit here and create a scale where we carefully ratchet everyone up evenly. Because if that were the case, we'd all be drones. No one is a drone.... You are you.
I love that Jenna evaluates employees on a person by person basis, insisting that not everyone is the same. Making yourself an asset to the team is integral to doing a stellar job no matter where you work, but it's nice to know that Lyons doesn't overlook those who aren't always at the forefront of the office.
That's not the only advice Lyons imparted though. She let us know that e-mails are definitely not her jam. Instead, she wants your cover letter laid out on her desk. Lyons says, "Send me some of your work or a nice letter, and tell me why you're interested in working here. Don't send me an email.... You have to be old-school. Be professional." Basically, if you're looking to not only get a job at J.Crew but excel there, Lyons just gave you the intro class on how to do so.
Though Lyons does discuss career life quite a bit in the interview, she also takes a moment to address the elephant in the room— J.Crew's sliding profits and the infamous Tilly sweater. Of the business's critiques, she says, "While it hurts and it's not fun, you have to remember that everyone's a critic these days. At the end of the day, I'm doing this because I enjoy it.... Whether the articles are good or bad, I get paid to play with sequins and color and cashmere, and that's awesome." Lyons is clearly optimistic, and she's got a great outlook on the Tilly, the sweater that many blame for J.Crew's profit decline. Of the sweater's bad rep, Lyons exclaims, "I know, poor Tilly! It kept getting mentioned over and over again. We had had misses in our sweater business, so it sort of became the beacon for the miss. It took on a life of its own…. The Tilly has to take some responsibility, as we all do in this building."
Lyons's candid approach to J.Crew's troubles, her excellent career advice, and killer style make her a lady to admire. Even if you're not seeking a job at the J. Crew office, the creative director's advice is valid for whatever career you choose. Much like Lyons herself, old school professionalism never goes out of style.