These days, making it into any part of the media industry requires skill, drive and determination. Fashion, in particular, is a saturated market, so you have to be prepared to start at the bottom of the pile. Interning is the best way to break into the industry, and having done plenty of internships myself, I can tell you that you really do have to take the rough with the smooth. Luckily, it’s not all The Devil Wears Prada moments – tick all the right boxes and you’ll discover that it certainly pays to be in fashion.
The DO’s and DON’Ts of being an intern:
DO: Have a killer CV
Magazines, PR Agency and Fashion houses get hundreds of e-mails per day, asking for internships. Your CV needs to stand out from the teetering pile on the editor’s desk.
DO: Show Off. They say that nobody likes a show-off, but in these circumstances, feel free. Be sure to include any internships you have done in the past and what you learned from each one of them. Even if your only experience in working in fashion is your Saturday job at Topshop, talk about it and show that you have an interest.
DO: Have some good references. Most people in fashion are very busy and don’t have time for interns who aren’t going to do the job properly. If your CV can reassure them that you have a brain in your head, it’s a definite bonus.
DO: Start a blog, to perfect and showcase your writing skills. This will show that you’re pro-active and have a passion for fashion.
DO: Be a social media butterfly. Your social networking profile can work wonders for making contacts in the fashion world. Follow industry-related Twitter accounts to get on their radar. Make sure your Tweets are topical and interesting; your fashion followers are going to be more concerned with your Outfit of the Day or links to your blog than what you’re eating for lunch.
DO: Look in the right places
DO: Know that interning at magazines and PR Agencies are the best ways to make contacts in the fashion industry.
DO: Remember that it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. DON’T be afraid to use and abuse anyone you know you could put in a good word for you.
DO: Choose a few companies who you’d like to intern for. A quick Google search will tell you if any placements are available, but be aware of the fact that most big companies don’t advertise for interns, they wait for interns to come to them. So, look on the websites of places where you’d be interested in interning for relevant e-mail addresses and send your CV with a covering letter, asking for a placement.
DON’T: Send generic e-mails. Make sure you tailor each one to include why you’d like to work there and why you think you’d be a worthy candidate.
DO: Know the names of the editors like the back of your hand.
DO: Take what you can get. Due to high demand, most companies can only accommodate interns for a few weeks at a time, but even a week’s experience will improve your CV beyond measure.
DO: Go where you can. You can’t expect to get a placement as the Cosmo editor’s assistant straight away. Smaller companies are often better to intern for, as they can give you more responsibility and have more time to spend with you.
DON’T: Give up. If at first you don’t succeed, keep e-mailing! Following e-mails up with a phone call adds a personal touch and helps to build relationships.
DO: Make the most of your Internship
DO: InTERN Up! Make sure you’re punctual, well dressed and enthusiastic – you don’t get a second first impression.
DON’T: Be afraid to get your hands dirty, because if you won’t do the job, there are a hundred other girls who will fill your Jimmy Choos in a heartbeat.
DO: Make yourself indispensible. Offer to help wherever you’re needed.
DON’T: Expect to be writing articles or directing shoots. As an intern, you’ll be given small but necessary tasks such as returning fashion items, writing captions, researching and carrying bags.
DO: Make plenty of coffee. Offer to make people drinks throughout the day or do the Starbucks run (especially for the boss). Doing things like this may seem menial, but they do go a long way (and you’d be surprised how much fashionistas drink in a day!)
DON’T: Hover. It’s a well known fact that people in the industry hate interns who hover around them whilst they’re trying to work. If you’re given a task, get your head down and get on with it. If you have a question, choose a time when they’re not busy to ask it and if you’re at a loose end, write something (look-for-less articles are an editorial favourite) or, make more coffee!
DON’T: Expect to be raiding Selfridges with your paycheque. Most internships are unpaid, although some bigger companies may offer to cover your travel or food expenses.
DON’T: Be forgotten
DO: Send a card or e-mail to whoever you were working for, to thank them for giving you the opportunity. It’ll leave an impression after you’ve gone and make you more memorable in the sea of fashion interns.
DO: Call or e-mail occasionally to ask if any assistant’s jobs have come up.
DO: Keep interning! The more experience you have on your CV, the better.