My experience these past four months reminds me of a scene from Ryan Phillippe’s Crash. If you’re adventurous enough, crazy things will happen in New York. And I do mean crazy. Viewing my glass half full, I can say with absolute positivity that interning in the fashion industry and living in New York City will prepare a deliciously styled young professional to charge into the professional world like an iron-foot soldier.
As interns, we have the distinct advantage of reliving our first days of school, every day, for months, at our temporary jobs. I say advantage because, despite our cyclical do-I-don’t-I/will-I-get-yelled-at-or-shot mentality, we are sometimes taken in by one or two office superiors who generously spread their wings and induct us into their circle. These mentors are like Dumbledore doppelgängers; they’re there when you need moral support and there to push you headfirst into an elevator to pitch a project to your boss, casually winking before turning on their heels and disappearing. Specific, I know, but clearly I’ve enjoyed my fair share of mentors at my current internship with Pour La Victoire.
I’d like to acknowledge to all present and future interns an element of internships that is very common, if not unavoidable. As an intern, you’re usually brought in to help a specific individual, or a team of individuals. In fashion, there are a lot of egos that need to first be identified and understood. If you consistently interact with an ego that belittles your confidence in your job, there comes a time, and trust me, it does happen, that you will need to endure this experience in one way or another. Conflicting egos should not be perceived as a major issue: these are experiences that will shape you into a graceful professional who will not back down. Instead, you will find a way to renegotiate your surroundings and acclimate to the egos around you. Mentors are especially helpful in advising what the proper course of action—usually a brief and very candid conversation with a challenging ego—that you should take. The benefit of handling this experience is walking away a more articulate, confident, and knowledgeable professional, ready for the next challenge, because there will be more.
Attending young professional events in the city, I’m reminded of conversations that frequently revolve around “doing more.” But that phrase is elusive; there’s no charted path to advise us what “doing more” looks like. Usually, what my compatriots mean by “doing more” is accomplishing their professional goals faster; editorial interns want to make editorial assistant, and design interns want to get their first paying gig with Marc Jacobs or Zac Posen. And I balk at the phrase “wanting too much too soon,” because as interns, we have paid our dues. In these conversations, frustration is often met with helplessness, or fear, that we will forever be unpaid interns. I have a way around this issue that has worked in my favor. I’ll share the short version here in the hope that present and future interns can reinterpret their positions: not from helplessness, but from the power to do.
Instinctively, I know that simply doing one thing, and in this case, interning, is not enough to land my first entry-level gig. An internship takes up 20-45 hours of the week; in my case, around 40, Monday through Friday. Evenings and weekends have been at my disposal. This time translates into opportunities to do more. Most interns would use this time to call it day, go home, watch some Netflix, and most important, relax. In my case, I applied to a digital avant-garde fashion magazine for a writing position. A profile writer by nature and study, I have contributed a handful of stories since June, adding to my resume. My talent and interest is fashion editorial; I have found my “something more,” and the role has expanded into a permanent position editing with the magazine. Each time I have walked into an interview for my next role, my interviewers have consistently commented on my additional roles, “Wow. That’s impressive.” You see, the thing is, the most important way to achieve your professional goals is to do as much as possible while you’re interning. Your schedule allows for that extra something to add to your resume. Opportunities are there for you to benefit from, but you must first pursue them doggedly.
Graduating from my experiences in design, public relations, sales, and editorial, I have been invited to join a leading luxury womenswear label and succeed to fashion editor at Deux Hommes. Perseverance, talent, and conviction of future success is what, ultimately, has taken me to this point. I wish the same results for young professionals reading InternMatch.