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7 Internship Success Tips from a 4-Time Fashion Intern

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After four summer internships in the fashion industry (at Tiffany & Co., Chanel, and Krupp Group, a boutique public relations firm) I have learned more than I could have imagined, and I have plenty of stories about my experiences.

Since now is the time to start thinking about possible summer internships, I thought I’d share some tips to get you inspired. Here are my top tips for scoring a fabulous internship and succeeding once you’re there.

1. Take any internship experience you can get, as soon as you can.

It is hard to break into your first job as a person with no experience, so you have to be willing to take almost anything to build your resume, even without pay.

I first decided I wanted an internship the summer after 11th grade, but no one would hire me because I was in high school. Fortunately, my mom works in the fashion industry and was able to make some introductions for me, helping me land an internship at a fashion PR firm in New York City, Krupp Group. I worked 9 to 5 without pay for the whole summer before senior year.

I went in on my first day knowing nothing about PR and having no idea what I was in for, but I ended up having an incredible experience and even interned there again the next summer. Even though I had to work very hard, for free, I got something priceless in return – fashion-related experience for my resume, which very few other high schoolers are able to get.

2. The first week is always the worst.

The first day of an internship is nerve wracking, of course. But what no one ever told me was that it doesn’t get better right after the first day.

I was ready to quit my first internship after one week, but I stuck it out and ended up loving it. It was difficult because I had never worked in an office before, and I didn’t know office etiquette, the computer programs, and the people. However, after the first week or so, I started to get the hang of things and enjoyed the rest of my time there.

Now, I go into internships knowing that the first week will always be awkward. It is spent meeting new people whose names you can’t remember and trying to do everything right while having no idea what you are doing. But as I now know, after the first week, everything gets better. You get to know the people you work with, and the small tasks that seemed impossibly complicated at first become easy after a while.

3. Asking questions is better than doing something wrong.

After the first week of continuously asking my boss and co-workers around me what to do, I was worried that they would get annoyed. But I quickly learned that no matter how stupid you may feel a question is, you should always just ask it.

When I was interning in the public relations department at Tiffany’s, I had to update the press website with pictures of jewelry pieces and corresponding information. I was unsure which prices and style numbers to include and ended up writing in the wrong numbers for close to a hundred pieces and had to do the tedious work all over again. After realizing that one question would have stopped me from feeling like a complete idiot in front of my supervisor when I sent her the wrong information, I made sure never to make that mistake again!

4. Change your outfits to fit where you are working.

During my internship at Krupp Group, from observing my co-workers, I realized that I could wear Converse sneakers if they were worn with a pretty dress, and jean shorts if they were paired with a blazer and flat sandals. Everyone dressed very fashion-forward, and even though they would wear shorts and summer dresses, they always wore high heels and looked very chic.

Tiffany’s, on the other hand, was a totally different story. As opposed to a boutique public relations firm, Tiffany & Co was a corporate environment and I knew that I would be dressing very differently once I was handed a two-page dress code after my interview. The dress code called for longer skirts and no bare shoulders, even in summer. After my interview, I spent an afternoon shopping with my mom, trying to find outfits that would be conservative, yet still fashion-forward. I ended up spending the summer in brightly colored, silk and chiffon short-sleeved dresses.

During my internship at Chanel, I worked for the managers of the boutique and ended up spending most of my summer assisting the sales associates at the store. Because the stock rooms were spread over four floors and I spent the entire day on my feet in the store, heels over three inches were definitely a no, and I paired my black flats with plain dresses, skirts and blouses of all colors to blend in, always making sure to add a black cardigan on top because the store was freezing.

The moral of the story? There is no right way to dress for an internship; the best thing to do is go for a conservative outfit on the first day and adjust from there, depending on how everyone else dresses. The best thing you can do is fit in with the office environment.

5. The busy work is worth it.

On an incredibly hot August day during my internship at Krupp Group, I had to go back and forth on the subway from the office to the Condé Nast building four times in one afternoon carrying garment bags filled with cashmere sweaters. At Tiffany’s, I had to enter the prices for hundreds of pieces of jewelry onto an excel document in a few hours. These busy work tasks, though tedious, are a part of any internship experience. And in the end, it was worth it to do them, and do them well and quickly, because other experiences made up for them.

When you show that you can do simple tasks well, your supervisors will give you more complicated, and more interesting, tasks. During an event at Tiffany’s, I got to sit at a table to check guests in and was able to peruse the event space, filled with beautiful pieces of jewelry during my free time. Not too bad, right?

6. Everyone makes mistakes… and they are all fixable.

During my internship at Chanel, I was put onto the sales floor to assist the sales associates… without any retail experience. I had to learn quickly, and unsurprisingly, made many mistakes – most happened at the busiest times, when I would try to help the sales associates but ended up making more work for them because they had to fix whatever errors I made.

Of course, during these times, I felt like an idiot, but the people I worked with were never mad. In fact, they were always grateful for my help. I was lucky enough to be working with the nicest people, who taught me so much and allowed me to learn from my mistakes and get better. The lesson here? If you are kind and respectful, everyone wants to help you – and they’ll probably give you the chance to learn and improve.

7. Smile.

This one is pretty straightforward. People like happy people. As a young person entering the industry without experience, the best thing you can do is to be positive, happy and willing to do just about anything.. without complaint. If you can do this, I promise, the sometimes long days of monotonous work will pay off!

Your thoughts?

Internships, though difficult and sometimes not gratifying, are truly great experiences and worth chasing if you want to work in fashion someday.

For more tips on getting an internship, read the series How to Get the Internship of Your Dreams and, as it gets closer to the time when you’re applying for internships, going to interviews, and getting dressed for the first day, check back – I will be here with some tips and tricks!

Did this help calm some nerves? Are you thinking about summer internships already? Ask any questions in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer!

Posted on on January 8, 2012 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , ,

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35 Responses to “7 Internship Success Tips from a 4-Time Fashion Intern”

  1. 1
    January 8th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    I’m okay with starting out with an unpaid internship, but do you have any tips for getting paid internships? How much experience do I need for one of those?

  2. 2
    January 8th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    It really depends on what company you intern for- my internship at Tiffany’s was a paid internship! Usually, internships at smaller companies will be unpaid, but larger companies and corporations have policies where they have to pay interns. Amount of experience for paid and unpaid internships can be the same, it just depends on the policies of the companies you are interning for. If you really want a paid internship, your best bet is to contact the human resources departments of different companies to find out their policies.

  3. 3
    January 8th, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I think it’s so cool that you landed a fashion internship the summer after your junior year! I’m a junior right now in high school is interested in pursuing a career in fashion. I already have my own fashion blog and have already applied for a fashion internship through my school’s work based learning. Do you have any tips for looking for fashion internships in a small town? There are not that many opportunities where I live.

  4. 4
    January 8th, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Hey! I wanna know how do people apply for an internship? I mean to they have to look for ads or simply email some companies they are interested in working and ask them if they have something to offer you?

  5. 5
    January 8th, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Great post! These are really good tips, and now I want to go apply for an internship! :) I will definitely be keeping these tips in mind if I’m ever in an internship.

  6. 6
    January 8th, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    i’m really curious about your tiffany’s internship. how did you come across it, and how would you describe your overall experience?

  7. 7
    January 8th, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    All of these points are true in so many ways…I just finished my first semester of college while trying to become a vet, and needed clinical hours. Now I’ve been trying to work with animals since I was a freshmen in high school, but like you, no one would accept me. It wasn’t until my summer after I had graduated when I had a big determination to find a place to intern/work/etc. So I sent out my resume to numerous animal shops and emailed a handful of vet hospitals. Only one hospital responded to my email and took me on as a volunteer. If wasn’t until my second day when the manager asked if I wanted to become a regular employee. I made the same mistakes after that day as mentioned in the post…and I still have so much to learn even to this day.

  8. 8
    January 8th, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    This post is wonderful! Thank you!

  9. 9
    January 8th, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Camille, its great that you have your own blog! Definitely do whatever you can to gain expereince and things to put on your resume. When I was in high school, one of my friends and I started a fashion column for our high school’s newspaper where we wrote about trends and profiled stylish teachers and students, which I included on my resumes. Try to get a job in a clothing store- if you start out in retail you will get a lot of experience and could put that on a resume when applying for jobs in the fashion industry!

  10. 10
    January 8th, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for the positive comments!

    Luiza, there are many ways such as what you mentioned. There are multiple websites that have ads from different companies. Fashionista.com has a section of their website with only ads from different fashion companies looking for interns and employees. You can also just try to contact the human resources department of companies that you would like to work for and inquire about open positions. The best thing to do is talk to your friends and family and see if anyone has connections in the industry you want to work in. I have friends who got internships through family friends, their friends parents, and even people who they met on the street.

    Lauren, my internship at Tiffany’s was truly a great experience. I really got to learn about how a corporation works, and it was so much fun to able to spend time at the Tiffany’s store on 57th street because it is such an iconic store. I really learned a lot about the history of the brand through research projects that I completed and I got to assist on photoshoots as well. Plus, one of the girls I worked with became one of my best friends- we had cubicles across from each other during our internship!

  11. 11
    January 8th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Another thing to remember is that you’re working for people. Most of my bosses at internships were young – the lower people on the office hierarchy. You have to both relate to them as young adults (you’re probably only 7 to 8 years apart anyway) and respect them as your boss. Don’t be shy. Try to make a friend!

  12. 12
    January 9th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Great article! I was just wondering when the best time is to start applying for summer internships. I’m assuming that January is too early, if you only plan on working once classes are over.

  13. 13
    January 9th, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    OMG can’t believe you interned for Chanel.My fav designer so cool,awesome wow:)

  14. 14
    January 9th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Natasha, great point!

    And Oana, most companies start taking applications for summer interns in February. But you definitely are going to want to get your applications in early, at the beggining of the month or even at the end of January- do not wait until March!

  15. 15
    January 9th, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    I worked last summer in the law firm that shares the CondeNast building ..you could always tell who was going to which side of the building because of the amount of color the fashion folks incorporated into their ensembles… OH THE ENVY!… i wore red one day and the partner on my floor was looking at me like i was the town harlot!!

  16. 16
    January 10th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Hi Emily, Thank you for this post it was really interesting and helpful reading. In regards to your internship at Chanel, how was that experience and how did you get that internship? I want to be an art history major, i think, yet I love fashion and art and it is my dream to work in the fashion industry. To get an internship at a fashion company do you need to be a fashion or design major? Thanks!

  17. 17
    January 10th, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Rebecca, I am an Art History and French major! You don’t need to be a fashion or design major to get an internship at a fashion company, depending on what your job entails. If you want to be a designer, then of course you would need training at a design school, but if you wanted to work in Public Relations, Marketing, Sales, and other departments you don’t need to major in fashion. I have found that it would help if I had majored in Fashion Merchandising, but with enough experience on my resume (and some summer classes at FIT during high school to show that I pursued my love of fashion) majoring in Art History hasn’t hindered me at all. Definitely go for what you love best, and a job or internship will come. I had really wanted to go to FIT or Parsons, but my mom always told me that if I went to fashion school, I could only get a job in fashion, but if I went to a liberal arts school and majored in Art History (which I find applies to everything!) I could get a job anywhere I wanted and I could take summer classes at a fashion school if I found that I was really missing out. I am very glad I took her advice!

  18. 18
    January 13th, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Your internships sound absolutely amazing–I’d die to intern at Chanel or Tiffany’s! Here’s my only problem though. As someone who’s a sophomore in college now and looking for PR internships, finding one at a fashion label is nearly impossible without knowing anyone in the industry. Not to discredit you at all–because even with connections it’s difficult to do the kind of internships you got, but you still seemed to have a foot somewhat in the door with your mom working in fashion/PR.

  19. 19
    January 17th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Hi!!! I was just wondering how would you go about getting an internship after college? Any advice on that? Like you, I was discouraged from pursuing a fashion degree because of the exact same reason. Now I’m left with a political science major but wishing more than anything that I could work in fashion. I currently have a full time job but would be willing to leave it just to start my career in fashion..

  20. 20
    September 1st, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Can you give me some advice on how to break into the fashion industry for someone without any connections? I’d love to intern at a fashion company, but I don’t even know where to start! Thanks (:

  21. 21
    February 16th, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Hey, I am 19 and recently just discovered my passion for fashion. I am willing to do anything, but im not exactly sure how to start. Are there any tips you can give me to get started? i was a pharmacy major and still am, but i am going to change to fashion soon. I would really appreciate it if you could give me some tips on how to get started. I do keep up with all fashion trends, and I recently watched all the fashion shows at NYFW online. I still dont really know what i want to do in fashion, but i do know i want to be in the fashion field. Please please help me out(:

  22. 22
    May 26th, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Hi Emily,

    How long was you internship at Chanel and Tiffany for? I am SO envious of your internships! It sounded like you had an amazing time :)

  23. 23
    September 17th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    If I am looking for an internship Summer 2014, when should I apply?

  24. 24
    September 20th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    “But I quickly learned that no matter how stupid you may feel a question is, you should always just ask it.”

    This, a thousand times this! Better to feel stupid once while asking the question, then repeatedly for messing up because you were too afraid to get an answer. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with asking questions, the purpose of internships is to learn!

    What do you think of the tips we’ve published regarding landing a job in fashion after interning? :)

  25. 25
    January 11th, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Emily! I was wondering do you still keep in touch with people who are still working with these companies?

  26. 26
    January 21st, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Emily, I found this to be super helpful! I was wondering, how did you apply for an internship to Chanel? I want to apply to the Chicago boutique but their website is completely confusing! I’m trying to search for results but nothing comes up but Management positions? Am I in the wrong place? I’d love to apply I just don’t know where to go!

  27. 27
    February 5th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    HI! I loved this post it was extremely helpful. I just have a few questions about starting off with internships. I just recently transferred into a new school to be in a fashion program, so I will be starting off as a sophomore in college with the classes. How did you find your internships? I’ve read so much about internships yet I don’t know where to start looking for one! any advice?!

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