So we’ve been through all of the previous processes (hours of writing cover letters, searching for jobs/internships, prepping for the interview, doing your research and impressing on the day) and now the big day is fast approaching, everything you’ve worked hard for has finally paid off. But in reality it’s just the beginning.
I’ve had my fair share of internships (both good, and bad), interning alongside other girls (both good and bad) and now here’s my advice on how to aim to be thememorable intern, to make an impression (sometimes biting your lip) and improving your chances of getting that permanent job at the end of it.
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1. Looking good – We want to make a great first impression, give across whom we are and our personal style (we are working in fashion after all!) but ‘looking good’ isn’t always the top of the list on your first day of interning.
Example: One girl I interned with wore high heels on her first day. I love a heel. In fact I wear them most days (I’m talking the standard 3inch not a night out 6), but not on the first day of interning.
We were asked to do a lot of running around and she was lovely, but looked kind of ridiculous plodding along, trying to keep up with the pace in her ‘favourite heels’.
Tip: On your first day wear a great but appropriate outfit that shouts you, with shoes you know you’ll be able to walk miles in, carry heavy stuff in and your feet won’t hurt in (if this happens to be your 6inches – then all I can say is I envy you!). Get a feel for the kind of jobs you’re going to do – ask in advance. If you know on Tuesday you’ll be running around but on Thursday you’ll be at a desk you can plan your outfits ahead.
2. Work Hard – It’s a fact that in a lot of internships you end up doing jobs that you probably would rather not. At the end of the day you should expect this. If you work hard and do what you’re asked with a smile and enthusiasm, I promise you’ll reap the benefits.
Example: One of my internships involved steaming a lot of clothes. The other intern that was there made it quite obvious that she didn’t like that job. Even if you don’t say it – your facial expressions and body language speaks a thousand words trust me. I ended up doing a lot of the leg work, but reaped the benefits when the stylist noticed I was doing everything she ask with a smile, and I ended up being able to work with her more because ‘I didn’t complain about anything, am easier to work with, and just get on with it!’
Tip: Obviously there are times when you’re going to say to yourself ‘god I really don’t want to unpack all of these clothes today’. When I was doing a job I didn’t particularly enjoy I thought about the future. Most of the successful people you meet in the fashion industry had to also do all of the jobs you were doing at some point. Had to work harder, and longer hours than the other people getting to do amazing work. But you start at the bottom (like any industry/job) and eventually you’ll get there! I’d look at the beautiful clothes and shoes I’m unpacking and think to myself ‘If I keep working hard and show I’m keen, I’ll be able to afford all of this one day!’
3. Be Consistent – So the first couple of days we all arrive early, we all leave a little later and do whatever is asked of us without hesitation. Some of us may let this flack a little come our second/third week, but don’t! The average internship probably lasts about a month- 6 months. This compared to your whole working life is not a lot. You’ve got this time to prove yourself when it comes to working hard, and potentially getting that job (especially if you’re not the only intern). So don’t ruin your chances by arriving late the whole of your last week, or slacking when it comes to the work – you might just ruin your chance of getting that job!
Tip: When it’s time to leave don’t just grab your coat and go. Say goodbye to everyone and ask if there is anything you can do before you leave – seeing that you’re willing to put in extra work even after the other employees have gone home, will only be a plus in there books (and it’s not forever!)
4. Be Nice – This sounds so so obvious, but I’ve seen and heard about some girls completely ruining there chances by not be nice and polite. You may be working with other interns (I did with all of my work experiences/internships) and yes, you may be in slight competition to get that job at the end of it, but honestly, there is no need to be nasty/directly competitive. Not getting on with the other intern/employees will just make the job harder for yourself.
Example: When I finished my internship at ASOS, myself and the other intern got praise for being nice and being able to work together so well, as it made everyone else’s jobs easier. The fashion editor told us about how previous interns had actually made other interns cry because they were so nasty/competitive. At the end of the day the people you’re interning for want to see that you can work with other people (as they could be your future colleagues), not that you’re so competitive that you just annoy/upset people. Trust me, it will not get you anywhere. I now have a job with ASOS, because they saw I was polite and made the effort to get on with everyone.
5. If worse comes to worse… - You may find you start an internship and really do not enjoy it. You may be doing jobs that have nothing to do with the advertised internship. The person your interning for may completely take the mickey when it comes to what you’re doing for them. I’ve experienced all three of these myself, and I know how frustrating it can be, but here’s what I did when I was in an internship that wasn't right for me.
Don’t just up and leave: Give it a couple of weeks, no one does amazing interesting jobs when they start, it might just improve. If it doesn’t improve, make sure you let the person know you’re not returning. Explain honestly that it’s not the direction you want to work towards; they can only respect you for letting them know.
Don’t let them take the mickey: None of us can afford to work for free, but unfortunately that’s the way the fashion industry is. But there are limits.
Example: One Internship sounded like an amazing opportunity. However when I got there I spent two weeks carrying heavy suitcases around London, without my travel or lunch being paid. Now as previously stated, I know that everyone has to do jobs like this, but not having my lunch or travel (even just zones 1-2 paid for) was verging on slave labor.
You have a right to ask for lunch and travel money, and most companies have to reimburse you this money. Know your rights, and don’t let anyone take the mickey.
Just Ask: If you find that you’re not doing anything like the advertised internship, just ask. It may be that they have none of the work advertised lined up straight away, or in fact you won’t be doing those jobs at all…
Example: On one of my internships I was just doing PA work for the first couple of weeks. I eventually asked politely if I would be doing any of the experience that the internship originally advertised. The person I was interning for explained that they only needed someone to help with their mail, research and social media. Because I asked, (and they weren’t paying my travel or lunch) I explained that I thought the internship would involve other experiences as advertised, and explained why I wouldn’t be returning. This enabled them to find someone more appropriate for the internship, and for myself to start the search for another internship I would gain experience in the area I wanted to work in.
An internship is a two way street. It’s important that you’re treated fairly; but that you also work hard and efficiently for the company you have your internship with. Before you start interning, don’t be afraid to ask about travel and food allowance (I know I was to begin with) but it’s your right as you are working for free. If you are on an internship that you enjoy, and you know will benefit your career, do work hard and be polite! These little details may just land you that job!
Have you been on an internship that didn’t turn out to be quite what you expected? Or have you any tips that might help someone land that dream job? Let us know!
Look out for my next creative industry advice post: Fashion Job Do's and Don'ts which will be on my blog very soon!