When it came to starting her career after college, Courtney Maddox said she didn’t expect to end up in New York City.
“I went to University of Alabama, and I was studying fashion merchandising and business,” the Oak Mountain High School graduate said. “I never had New York on my mind at all really, except for an internship.”
But after she graduated from Alabama in 2015, New York is where she ended up.
Maddox works as a sales professional for an Italian luxury brand on Madison Avenue. Her company has a strict no-advertising policy, so she could not share the company name.
Maddox’s first working experience in New York was during the fall semester of her senior year. Her college at UA has relationships with several businesses in Birmingham, Atlanta, Tuscaloosa, Nashville and New York City, and students are able to apply and interview for internships in those cities.
Maddox chose to apply for internships in New York because she knew interning with a NYC-based fashion company was a great opportunity.
During her junior year spring break, Maddox traveled to New York and interviewed with multiple companies.
“It was the most nerve-wracking week of my life,” she said, “but it was so exciting just to be there and get a taste of the New York life, more so than I had experienced on previous vacations.”
She received internship offers from each company she interviewed with and ended up selecting an internship with Diane Von Furstenburg.
During her internship, Maddox said she learned more about the fashion industry and helped out with Market Weeks, but when the internship ended, she said she was happy to return to Alabama.
“I was so happy to be there, but I looked forward to returning to school,” she said. “I re-adapted to Alabama and fell back in love with it.”
The job hunt
In the spring of her senior year, Maddox began applying for jobs, and options in New York City were not at the top of her list. Her internship coordinator at UA, however, sent an email about a job at an Italian luxury brand to all of the fashion students.
The company with open positions normally went through Alabama’s business school, but chose to extend applications about its open sales professional positions to the fashion school as well, Maddox said.
After hearing about the company and doing research on its involvement with textiles and clothing, Maddox applied.
“I was doing all this research on the company, just trying to learn about them, and went to a group interview breakfast,” Maddox said. “I think I was just really impressed with the candor of the event.”
The breakfast included a few other girls interviewing for the position, as well as three representatives of the company. Maddox was asked to continue the interview process following the breakfast and completed a personality test and went for an in-person interview in New York City.
“They were so hospitable, and it wasn’t even an interview. It was more so them just spending time with us and observing our character and how we were,” Maddox said.
On the last day of her New York trip, interviewees were asked to be “secret shoppers” for the company and to visit competing stores on Madison Avenue. The girls had to report back on how they were treated, what the store’s layout was like and how sales professionals stood up to those in the company for which they were interviewing.
“That was really interesting because it kind of opened my eyes to that sort of world and how [this company] does things is very above the rest,” Maddox said.
Leap of faith
Two days after returning to Alabama, Maddox got a phone call and a job offer for the company’s store in New York City. She had been applying for other positions while going through the interview process, and the call came after she received a job offer at a Tuscaloosa-based boutique as well, she said.
“It [the decision] took me a really long time because I also had a job offer from a boutique that I was working at in Tuscaloosa that I loved,” she said. “It was just easy
The decision took her two weeks to make, and Maddox said she went back and forth between staying comfortable in Tuscaloosa or taking a leap of faith and moving to New York. In the end, however, she said the choice to move to New York was an easy one.
The opportunity to be part of a prestigious international company was too great to pass up, she said.
As a sales professional, Maddox works to develop client relationships at the store. The position requires her to stay educated on the textiles used by her company as well as have good interpersonal skills.
“At school, I definitely wasn’t expecting to be in a sales job, I guess, but with this particular job, I was learning about textiles, and I was learning about marketing and advertising in school and just the fashion business, so there’s a lot of crossover,” she said.
Clients range from longtime customers to international royalty to new shoppers walking in off Madison Avenue, Maddox said.
“When people come in, that’s why it’s so important for me to know about the product and speak about the product,” she said. “There’s so much to romance about because it’s not just a new sweater to show somebody.”
Building on a foundation
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The job is difficult sometimes, Maddox said, but she has found it easy to be passionate about her company’s product and the work they do. Skills she learned at UA and Oak Mountain High School have also helped her manage her many responsibilities.
“In high school, I was super involved,” she said. “That’s always been my personality, I just want to have responsibility and be part of whatever I can be a part of.”
Maddox also was assistant drum major during her junior year and head drum major during her senior year, which she said taught her the importance of developing trust with the people you work with.
She learned to lead and communicate with her band mates during those years, she said, and she has applied those skills to client relationships in her current job.
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“Being able to do that [drum major] was a huge, huge blessing and opportunity,” she said. “It was probably one of the best experiences of my life so far, and it really taught me to serve and care for people.”
Maddox said she credits the opportunities she has received in school and in life to continuous prayer and God, and she is grateful for the many things she has been blessed with.
“It’s been a really cool journey, and I look forward to seeing where it goes in the future,” she said.