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Image / Editorial

Career Lessons From Anna Wintour


By Jeanne Sutton
02nd Mar 2015
Career Lessons From Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour is the uncrowned queen of the fashion world. After nearly 30 years in the role of editor of American Vogue, she knows a thing of two about surviving in one of the toughest industries.

She’s famously the alleged inspiration for Miranda Priestly’s fearsome character in The Devil Wears Prada, and can make or break a designer’s career. She’s one of many professional success stories that Alistair Campbell is profiling in his new book, Winners and How They Succeed, which was extracted in yesterday’s Sunday Times Style.

Here’s some of the career lessons she’s shared.

Get fired

Wintour was a fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar in 1976. She was let go after a few months, a biographical fact she’s never hidden. In fact she embraces this decisive footnote.

“I think everyone should get sacked at least once. It forces you to look at yourself. It didn’t feel it at the time, but it was definitely a good thing for what it taught me. It is important to have setbacks, because that is the reality of life. Perfection doesn’t exist.”

After this embarassing career blip she got a job with British Vogue, and the rest, dear readers, is publishing history.

Be sure of yourself, even if you’re not

Imposter syndrome and that whole self-doubting thing? There’s no place for it in Anna Wintour’s life. The 65-year-old says fake it until you’ve got things done.

“Even if you aren’t sure of yourself, pretend that you are. It makes it clearer for everyone else. Most people prevaricate. I decide fast. I think it’s helpful to the people who work for you.”

Know your strengths

You can’t do it all. Anna is even reluctant to call herself a journalist. We’re going to be honest, this humility surprised us a little bit?

“I can’t make anything. I don’t know how to make a dress. I couldn’t go on a shoot and create an image. I can’t write a script. I have so much admiration for people who can do these things, because I would have no idea where to start. I am always responding to other people’s talents. I am not the talent … I don’t write, I am not a writer. I see myself as someone who responds to the times and the culture, to a moment. Is that a journalist? I don’t know.”

Give people responsibility

Following on from the admission that she can’t do the jobs most of her staff carry out on a daily basis, Wintour says her management style is giving staff responsibility.

“People work better when they have responsibility,” she says. We’re dedicating this paragraph to anyone who has a boss looking over their shoulder at every appointment. Anna feels for you, and has a to-do list waiting.

Wake up early, and take the weekend off

Anna rises early, 5am early. After all, she has a pretty important job getting the world’s most famous magazine on shelves every month, and she doesn’t work weekends. She claims that “turning off” is vital. We like to imagine her grabbing a bottle of cheap prosecco every Friday evening while tackling the commute home although she’s probably scheduling a tennis match with her pal Roger Federer.

“I don’t have a high-powered life out of work. I like to go to the country for the weekend with the kids and the dog and play tennis. I am very good at turning off.”

Next time you want to tell your boss that it’s 5:30 on a Friday and you’d rather not deal, just switch you’re out office answer to a gif of Anna Wintour acting frosty at a fashion show with the subject line “Approach me on Monday.”

Do you think Anna makes sense? See the woman in action at Vogue’s offices in the snappy 73 Questions interview below.

Daily Mail and?Page Six

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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