How to launch a career when you start with nothing

During lockdown I had time to think. We all did. Think, write, clear cupboards. While clearing one particularly overwhelmed cupboard, I came across a large box filled with photographs, press cuttings, magazine pages of shoots I had styled during my 15 years as a fashion stylist. Seeing the highlights of my fashion career in this box took me back to the beginning; how I entered the fashion industry, how little I knew, how uplifting it was to be so naive and believe that everything was going to work out exactly as I had wanted it to.

My route to success in a career I loved wasn't a standard or structured one, it was a route built on self-belief, hard work and a lot of hustling. I had no creative qualifications, no industry friends or family connections to get me through the door. I just had to find my way in. And there is always a way in. You just have to be persistent and determined enough to find that one opportunity that will change the course of your career.

When I had time, often at night when the house was calm and I could sit quietly at my desk, I wrote a short guide to getting into the fashion industry when you're starting from nothing. Armed with notes and memories, I was transported back to a time when the only thing I had to focus on was realising my goals and ambitions. There was nothing stopping me. And there is nothing stopping you.

The advice and anecdotes perfectly sum up the years I spent attending the most glamourous parties, working with the worlds leading magazines, all while questioning just how I would pay my bills each month.

The - tongue in cheek, but legitimate - advice includes landing the dream roles, rejection, self-belief, image, being fired (multiple times) and why that's ok, confidence, embarrassment, networking, visualisation... The advice could apply to many other industries, but my references are based on the glamourous, brutal, welcoming, rejecting, uplifting, confusing, elating roller coaster that is the world of fashion.

I’ve lived in London, Paris and New York, travelled the world, styled supermodels for the covers of international magazines and all of these experiences were down to some serious hard work and self-belief. What I didn't have were connections or financial assistance - there was no trust fund, no bail out, no back up. I did it all myself and that's how you know you can too. I am living proof that it works.

The rejection and embarrassment anecdotes within the guide are my favourite parts - what feels like a mortified point of no return can often lead to opportunities, friendships, turning points. You only see the hilarity of mortification when you learn to laugh at yourself - and enough time has passed since the moment happened, of course.

I hope you find the information useful, or at the very least my tales of hustling and failing let you see that your own experiences are not so bad after all.

Artwork Tom Montgomery