by Pete Forester
So you want to get a job in sneakers? You've been following all these cool people on Instagram and Twitter and for some reason the whole idea of working in footwear appeals to you. Couldn't be that hard, right? Wrong. "Working in Sneakers" is something of a misnomer, especially to those interested, because "Sneakers" is the smallest part of it. For most jobs in sneakers, it doesn't matter what you're wearing, only what your job is.
But you don’t have to take our word for it. We spoke to some folks in the industry that have been around for a minute. These are the people that will be reviewing your application when you apply for a job, so if anyone’s opinion matters, it’s these guys.
When it comes to sneakers, or just business in general, Nike is a giant. Not only is Nike the number sportswear company in the world, but it also employees nearly 57,000 employees and counting. What does it take to make it on the Swoosh's payroll? Here, a former employee lays it all out.
How to Get a Job at Nike
The rumor goes that Jordan Brand gets something like 30,000 applications a month. And Jordan is just one part of the Nike umbrella. Thousands of people apply every day, so sticking out isn't even a question— it's a necessity. And don’t rely on friends to help you secure a position. “Nike is one company that I can say where it doesn’t matter who you know, really," explains Jeff Harris who worked at Nike in Portland and now owns a sneaker boutique in Brooklyn. "If your skill set isn’t there, they won’t hire you. That’s the bare, honest to God truth. If you are a 22-year-old fresh out of college and your experience is nannying and as a cafeteria worker and you’re looking to do product presentation merchandising specialist, it’s not happening.”
They don't even need to entertain anyone who isn't the best at what they do, so if you apply without some level of mastery, or even incredible experience, you're just wasting their time. And you don't want to be the guy who wasted Nike's time if you’re going to apply later with more serious credentials. If you're looking to grow as a person, that's awesome, and you can do that at Nike. But don't expect them to take a chance. They're already operating at the top of the industry and can choose who they want. Apply for a job when it'll be a perfect fit, a job you already know how to do and be able to prove it, or don't bother putting together the resume. Wait until it's right.
Nike is in Portland. They have jobs all over the world, but people who are looking for real careers within this brand have to go through campus in Nike. The same goes for any other major brand. If you want to be taken seriously over the long term, you have to be willing to commit to the brand where the brand lives. Nike doesn't need to come to you, so they won't. You have to go to them. "There’s going to be a lot more opportunities in Beaverton than there are in New York or LA," Harris said. "If you’re really looking to get your passion dream job at Nike, then you’ve got to find a way to get to Portland and make it work."
The best way to get your dream job at Nike is to start getting any job at Nike that you'd like to work. They prefer to hire from the inside, so better to get in and then worry about securing the job you've dreamt about. The structure at Nike is already so insular and has its own complexities. You'll need your first chunk of time there learning how to navigate the culture, you cannot spend the time learning how to do your job. And they'll leave you at that job until you are a master at both your position and the brand. Only then can you seek out growth within the company. And then you're fighting the 30,000 applicants again. It's a struggle. Hard work. And requires an endlessly tough attitude. "Stay in your lane of experience," Harris said. "And once you get in you’ll be able to apply your skill set to a different kind of job.”