Wisdom Wednesday seeks to explore the realities of working in the industry and providing career advice. An intern position allows a variety of opportunities, including building a network of professionals, gaining career experiences, and making life-changing memories. Many industry professionals credit their success to their time as an intern, but what exactly is it like to start from the bottom? Especially when that bottom position is typically unpaid. The first Wisdom Wednesday topic seeks to explore the realities of working in the industry and providing career advice and is about the position that became the foundation of many careers: The intern.
There are many positions available to gain experience behind the scenes, from marketing and public relations to editorial and beauty. There are also opportunities in fashion merchandising, buying, and design. In my personal experience, I have been able to work as an editorial intern, a beauty closet intern, and a PR intern. These are my tips for successfully finding an internship and the realities of being one.
Fashion Features/Editorial Intern: As a features intern, responsibilities can range from pitching and writing articles, conducting research, and transcribing interviews. It's a great experience if you are interested in working for a publication or have a desire to pursue journalism.
Beauty Intern: Being a beauty intern allows you to see products before they launch and know what products are worth the Sephora splurge. As a beauty intern, you're responsible for opening all packages, maintaining the beauty closet, and doing a variety of tasks for editors. Though beauty internships are not editorial, some will offer opportunities to write. One of the benefits of being a beauty intern is that you can take any duplicate makeup products home.
Fashion PR: If you love scrolling through Instagram, looking at campaigns, or staying up to date with fashion news, this is a great internship for you. As a PR intern, the responsibilities are vast—from working with samples, maintaining inventory, collecting brand news clippings, and writing press pitches and media alerts. Public Relations and fashion PR have been impacted by social media, so some PR internships are more social media focused vs traditional PR. This is also a great option if you are someone who loves to stay busy. Time moves quickly when you're on the PR side of the industry, especially during fashion month. Your days will be filled with picking up fashion samples, updating contact lists, and writing media alerts and press pitches.
Q: How to find an internship?
Finding an internship can feel competitive and at some times feel impossible, but in a digital age, there is now an overwhelming amount of search engines and social media platforms meant to make the process easier. My three recommendations are to use Linkedin, Internships.com and your school career services office. Linkedin is a social media platform for business professionals, job postings, and networking. Internships.com is an internship database run by the popular textbook site Chegg. The site allows you to keep your resume on file and easily apply to internship opportunities within your preferred area of interest.
Q: What if I got my dream internship but it’s unpaid?
One of the drawbacks of taking on an unpaid internship is the lack of income. Many internships are for academic credit and can require interns to work 2 to 5 full work days which can make it difficult to balance an unpaid internship, academics, extracurriculars, and a possible part-time job. Though the loss of pay can make it difficult for many students to intern, there are resources for unpaid interns available at most colleges that can cover travel expenses, lunch, and depending on need, can overcompensate for the loss of income. Many colleges have grants available for unpaid interns who are already receiving some form of financial aid. However, these resources aren’t always publicized on campus, and students might not be aware of the available financial assistance. The best way to find out if there are resources available for unpaid interns is to contact both the career services department and financial aid.
Q: Is it like the Devil Wears Prada?
Though art can often imitate life, the short answer is no. Typically work environments within the fashion industry are fast-paced and require a certain level of flexibility and willingness to work.
I have had tasks as easy as checking inventory, to running around New York City carrying garment bags while listening to GPS in my AirPods. In my personal experience, most of the professionals you will work under are supportive and willing to share information about their position as editors, PR executives, stylists, designers, etc. Every internship has truly offered a learning experience and a wonderful network of professionals within the fashion industry.
Q: Is interning worth it?
In the words of Drake: “Started from the bottom now I’m here.” Though very few of us will be able to relate to the Canadian rapper and Degrassi alum, it is important to note that everyone starts somewhere and entry-level positions can be the building blocks for a successful career. Interning allows an opportunity to gain insight into an industry you’ve dreamt of, helps build career connections, and for many fashion professionals such as Elaine Welteroth (former editor and chief to teen vogue) and Lindsay Peoples Wagner (her successor), it led to their post-grad jobs. The experience has proven to be worth it for many industry professionals.
Deciding on whether or not you are interested in interning can be a difficult choice for many students to make because of busy schedules, academics, and work-study jobs, but it can be of great benefit to you and your career. Exploring the world of interning can be difficult but hopefully, these words of wisdom and insight can ease the process and anxiety surrounding finding the right internship.