Originally published in College Fashionista.
The key to a fruitful career often starts with great internship experience, as it’s what we learn during our first jobs that allow us to thrive later on. Yes, landing an internship—especially one in fashion—can be difficult, but it’s nothing some hard work and fearless networking can’t help us achieve. Over the years, a number of College Fashionista community members have landed internships at standout companies, so I asked them to break down the fundamentals of their success. Read on for essential tips and advice from six students on securing your dream internship in fashion.
NEVER GIVE UP, KEEP WORKING UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR GOAL, AND ALWAYS BE YOURSELF.
“About two months before I moved to New York I started looking for and applying for internships. I read an article somewhere, I think from Man Repeller, that suggested you make a list of companies you want to work for. I went through my Instagram and Vogue and made a list of about 20 fashion companies I really wanted to work for. The Row was my top choice so I searched their website, found an email, and sent my resume. I chose to write an email introducing myself instead of a cover letter, asked if they had any openings for interns, and attached my résumé. I received an email back the next day, interviewed the following week, and landed the position of PR intern. Prior to this internship, I had only done the College Fashionista internship so I didn’t have a lot of experience. Since I go to college in Ohio, it was hard to find internships, so I got involved with on-campus fashion clubs and a student-run fashion magazine. Even if you don’t have a lot of intern experience it is still possible to land your dream internship. I also knew a lot about The Row and had followed the brand for years and that knowledge helped me in my interview. My advice to others looking to land their dream internship is to never give up, keep working until you reach your goal, and always be yourself.”
— Faith Zwicker, Kent State University, former PR Intern at The Row
THINK ABOUT PERSONAL CONTACTS FIRST—YOU NEVER KNOW WHO SOMEONE YOU KNOW MIGHT KNOW.
“I interned at Chanel last summer, and landed the internship through a personal contact of mine. I had been applying online for fashion and marketing internships for around six months, via websites such as Fashionworkie, and generally looking on Instagram for businesses advertising internships. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting very far with these applications, and most of the time not hearing anything back from organizations, which I found massively discouraging. A phrase that I hear coming up time and time again is ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ so I decided to start thinking about any personal contacts I had that might be able to help me. Luckily, through a passing comment to an older sibling who lives in London, he managed to pass on my CV to management at Chanel, and quite quickly after that, an interview was set up. I interviewed at Chanel in London, and I started the internship around a month later. My advice to anyone trying to land a dream internship in fashion would definitely be to think about personal contacts first—you never know who someone you know might know. Over a year onward, I am graduating with an honors degree in marketing, hoping to land a dream job with huge fashion companies through my own personal contacts. For example, I have been speaking with a contact of a friend of mine, from H&M group who has helped re-shape my CV and cover letter and put me forward for a job at COS.”
— Abigail Robb, University of Strathclyde, former intern at Chanel
TO LAND THAT DREAM INTERNSHIP, PUSH YOUR LIMITS.
“When it comes to landing your dream internship, I find that it’s most important to be persistent while working as hard as possible to get your résumé into the hands of an actual person. A lot of the time, internship applications go into a large portal that companies will look through, and typically there are so many applications that it’s exhausting for recruiters. To land that dream internship, push your limits. Connect with recruiters on LinkedIn, search for their direct email addresses and work to cultivate a relationship with them. What kickstarted my relationship with Birchbox, where I have been interning the past two summers, was going to a meet and greet event where the CEO of Birchbox was and giving her a creative rendition of my résumé and cover letter. And after you have the internship, this connective effort isn’t over. If you and your manager hit it off, send them monthly email updates to let them know what you have been up to and what you have accomplished since you left. It’s personal touches and direct interaction that make the most impact and set you up for success in the future.”
— Margo Ghertner, Boston University, PR intern at Birchbox
IF YOU HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE AND THE PASSION AND ARE ABLE TO CONVEY THAT IN YOUR APPLICATION MATERIALS, THAT’S ALL YOU REALLY NEED.
“I landed my beauty internship at Harper’s Bazaar by honestly just emailing them. I reached out completely cold and with no experience in the industry to back me up. My internship advisor gave me the email of their beauty assistant, but the rest I did on my own. I worked really hard perfecting a cover letter and résumé and hoped for the best. I then had two phone interviews, one with the assistant, and then one with the deputy editor. After that, they offered me the position pretty quickly. My advice would be to study the company, your would-be supervisors, and the industry. The majority of my interviews were about who I was following on Instagram, where I got my news, and which products I was loving. They were really trying to gauge how much knowledge and how up to date I was in the beauty industry. You can never know too much about the field you want to go into. And then I guess I would say to simply put yourself out there. I know it sounds cliché, but I reached out completely cold with no contacts and it worked out really well. If you have the knowledge and the passion and are able to convey that in your application materials, that’s all you really need.”
— Kate McGregor, Belmont University, former beauty editorial intern at Harper’s Bazaar
IT ONLY TAKES A FEW MINUTES TO REALLY IMPRESS THE PERSON WHO IS INTERVIEWING YOU, SO YOU HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT.
“Basically, start your search a few months in advance. You need to have time to research prospective companies that you want to intern for, look at potential interview questions that are available online, and have enough time to reach out to people working there. And what I mean by that is not to bombard the HR director with email after email or anyone directly on the team you are interested in working with, but the intern. Contact the interns! Everyone else doesn’t have time for you in the busiest industry possible, but the intern will. Ask them about their experience, the kind of work they do, and what they love most about being there. By knowing things in advance, you’ll avoid asking meaningless questions at your interview later. I also recommend solidifying your resume. Take out irrelevant jobs and really speak to your ability and skills. Sound professional without sounding too perfect, and don’t sound cliché on your résumé either. That can be really obvious. Also, the interview is so crucial. It only takes a few minutes to really impress the person who is interviewing you, so you have to do it right. Dress sharp, show up on time, come prepared with copies of your résumé and business cards if you have. HAVE A REALLY GENUINE REASON WHY YOU WANT TO WORK THERE. Internships are rough because so many people apply and want the same end goal as you—to get the job. But there are very limited spaces. Show them a genuine answer and what a qualified candidate you are, and the job will be yours. Ask your interviewer questions, too, if possible. Don’t sit there at the end with nothing to say. Always end with a ‘thank you for your time,’ and send a follow-up email saying that you look forward to hearing back.”
— Soni Lee Solano, Fashion Institue of Technology, product development and materials intern at Tory Burch
GO FOR EVERYTHING, BUT DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS.
“I began applying for internships last March. I made myself apply for at least five internships a day. There are so many opportunities, especially in fashion, but there is also an overwhelming amount of people applying for them, so I wanted to make sure that I got one. It was always a dream of mine to get an internship in New York City, so I decided to apply for jobs only in that area. At school, I wrote for an all student-run magazine, called VIM, and that was a major factor in landing my internship at CR Fashion Book because I already had some experience in the publishing industry. It was a lot of work getting there, but after receiving an offer from a company like that, it was well worth it. My advice for people trying to land their dream fashion internship is to go for everything but don’t settle for less. Apply for jobs that interest you, even if they’re unpaid—which unfortunately most are in this industry. Sell yourself and what you can do for the company and the rest will work itself out.”
— Courtney Downey, Michigan State University, Intern at CR Fashion Book
Do you have any tips on how to get an internship? Share them with us in the comments below! And if you’re interested in writing articles for College Fashionista like this one, be sure to apply to be a Community Member today!
Opening image by Emily O’Brien.