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Molly Langenstein, General Business Manager for Ready-To-Wear at Macy’s Inc., came to my university, Kent State, on Saturday, October 28th, to receive this year’s “Distinguished Alumni Award.”

But more than just receiving the award, she shared valuable work experience in an exclusive conference of 25 fashion students, and lucky me among them!

Here’s what I learned.

Molly Langenstein

Why it was important that I met Molly Langenstein

As mentioned, Molly Langenstein is currently General Business Manager for Ready-To-Wear at Macy’s Inc. which is a considerable goal to set if you are pursuing a career in fashion business, and Langenstein’s experience speaks for itself.

  • Langenstein has had a 30 year merchandising career
  • She previously served as an executive vice president for fashion & new business development for millennials at Macy’s
  • Langenstein was the general merchandising manager for mens and kids at Macy’s (Florida)
  • She was the general merchandising manager for millennials at Macy’s (San Francisco)
  • She was the general merchandising manager for ready to wear at Macy’s (Minneapolis)

Langenstein’s current position took some building up over time, but sitting down with Langenstein to discuss the qualities that can help college students looking for careers in fashion merchandising get an extra step ahead by knowing how to enter into large apparel corporations like Macy’s at a faster pace.

Langenstein’s #1 tip: “Become a better entry level person”

The first thing Molly Langenstein discussed was being a better entry person.

Langenstein says it is important to “listen, and understand the company culture” because this will help develop an employee as a leader within the company.

Obviously understanding how your company works can help out a ton in working your way up and working better with other areas within the company. Langenstein emphasized how important it is to use the resources within the company in order to better understand how the company works.

As a General Business Manager, Langenstein still asks questions to better understand other positions within her company, and this is helpful because things tend to change often in such a large company like Macy’s ,where Langenstein works, and learning the different things from different positions can make transitions much easier.

One curriculum course Langenstein says she wish all colleges had was “learning how to navigate a workforce” because entering into your career for the first time and working with a team of people can be very overwhelming at first, but coming into a career with even the very basic essential skills of how to navigate a workforce can cause the first few years to seem less frustrating.

Diversity at Macy’s

Discrimination in the workforces of today is a relevant topic. Langenstein discussed diversity from the perspective of working at Macy’s Inc. Langenstein said that Macy’s specifically does really well with diversity, and the company consist of a vast amount of women workers from different ethnicities as well as men. It is important to create comfort within the workforce because it can affect the production of the company.

Although Langenstein can’t speak for other companies, it was reassuring for students in the discussion who are thinking about pursuing a career at Macy’s to hear that there aren’t problems with diversity at Macy’s Inc. 

The importance of having digital skills

When a student asked a question about marketing at Macy’s and marketing in general, Langenstein responded with certainty expressing that “if you want to enter the marketing world, you must have something digital.”

This makes sense with nearly everything being run digitally in today’s world; it is a huge advantage to have any type of digital background on a resume. Being able to work with digital marketing or social media is essentially like speaking a different language to most companies in the sense that most companies consider this a very unique and valuable skill.

Things Molly Langenstein said we probably shouldn’t do…

  • Don’t make assumptions. Learn first. Observe.” Langenstein said the first time she moved into a different position she was excited because she wanted to change everything about that specific area. What she didn’t realize is that there were specific reasons that specific area ran the way it did, so she tried to change everything at once and things began to fall apart. What she learned to do, and taught the rest of us students listening, was the importance of asking questions first and observing before changing anything. Langenstein described that now when she enters within a new department, she asks the different people within the department why they do certain things at random just to get a better understanding. She waits a few months to a year in order to see if progress has been made or declined then she begins to make changes based off of what she has seen over a long period of time.
  • Don’t turn yourself down.” It is important to go into your career with confidence because confidence plays an essential role in the success of getting the job done right. If there are things that you are unsure about, Langenstein says it is ok to ask questions because coming into company as a newbie is like “coming into a part of machine”, and everyone has to work together to ensure success.

The final and most important tips I learned from Molly Langenstein

  • It is really important to have role models within the company in which I work. I can learn how to work my way up within the company from these role models, and observe these people to learn how to do my job better.
  • Knowing how people listen is important in getting certain tasks done. People listen differently, and it is important to know how each person on your team listens to different things. Essentially it’s like when my old football coach use to say “…some people need to be yelled at, and some people just need to pat on the back.”
  • Understand that good companies will listen to their entry level position employees. Listening to the entry level employees’ feedback is actually how some companies learn to improve the overall production of the company, so entry level employees are more valuable than some people may believe.

I was fortunate enough to obtain first-hand advice from a 30-year professional in the fashion merchandising business, and I will put the advice that was given to use in the future.

Thank you, Molly Langenstein!