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The Reality of Interning: Managing Expectations - Part 1

By Hannah Rafter


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For so many students and graduates, securing an internship is regarded as essential in order to gain that all important experience needed to land a job in the competitive fashion industry. But as most of us know, getting your dream internship is just as competitive as getting a job and often your dream doesn’t match the reality of the role.

CVs are carefully prepared and sent out everywhere, often with zero response – I’ve been there myself. It’s an understandable approach, but one that is often evident to the person receiving it. It is one which could end up in you wasting a lot of time, soul searching as well as not expenses, such as travelling to interviews. On the other hand, others seeking internships are often so selective; it’s the dream job or nothing, resulting in some interesting opportunities being missed. Fashion doesn't start and end at Zara (Ok, not quite.) In the first part of this three part series, I will be sharing some of my key insights in how to land the internship of your dreams - but also how to manage your expectations when it comes to interning.

So what are some key things you should consider before hitting Google and casting your net far and wide? Certainly you need to have some rational thought to your search. It could be by having your dream job in mind, yes I know (Editor-in-Chief at Vogue is not an unreasonable place to start), but by being more realistic and remaining open minded to a wider range of possibilities will ultimately mean that you are less likely to be disappointed.

Managing expectations as a fashion intern

Fashion gives us more choices than we think and while it’s important to focus on the areas within fashion that interest you, the less picky and more wide ranging you are within your area of interest, the better. Are you creative? Do you like writing? Are you into maths? Are you into design? Consider all of these areas. If you're interested in Marketing and PR don’t just concentrate on the creative roles. Who knows what you could be asked to be involved in once you start your internship. After all one of the benefits of interning is to figure out what career path you might follow, but it’s also a useful tool to help realise what roles are not for you. You don't need to have that fashion career path fixed just yet. I certainly didn't.

The same applies to the type of company you want to work for. Will it be a start-up? Small designer? Big brand? U.K. Company? US company? Agency? In house? Menswear? Womenswear? Don’t rule anything out and don’t be a fashion snob about this when applying. Some of my “dream" internships were with organisations I'd never heard of, but who provided me with great and worthwhile experiences.

Doing some research on the company you wish to intern for and trying to weave this into your CV is ideal. Another tip is checking out to see if they are on RateMyPlacement.com (the trip advisor of interning). Even though this may feel like a long winded process to carry out beforehand it will be beneficial to you, especially if you get invited to an interview, you’ve already done some homework.

Make sure when submitting your CV as you complete it in their preferred method. Don't make them search for your CV, because they won't. Make the process as smooth and easy for them as possible. If you don't hear back from the company it’s ok to send a follow up email or phone call letting them know you submitted your CV. But be prepared, as most companies won't reply, which may be a disheartening experience, but realistic nonetheless.

Ultimately you want an internship that will enhance your skills and depth of experience. However, it is also important to ask yourself questions about what you would enjoy doing and what you would be good at. Admittedly some of the job information given in some internship advertisements is pretty basic, but looking carefully at what the company is looking for and what they are offering will help you answer some of those questions. Do the details refer to an internship programme, or do they make you feel they are doing you a favour by even considering you? There are plenty of those.

Often we are so grateful to be offered one, particularly if it’s with a well-known brand or company, that when we find out we are sorting the post and making the tea, we might remember the vague job profile and feel aggrieved (quite rightly) a point we will explore in the second part of the series. Unless you're applying for an internship undertaken by friends who have told you it was dreamy, be prepared to be flexible and resilient.

If you have a broad idea of what you’d like to do, where you’d like to be, you have done your homework, polished your CV, then now comes the hart part.... seizing the right opportunity! Here are my top sites for seeking an internship. Don't ignore social media - it's often the quickest way to find out who is hiring.

FashionUnited (of course), U.K. Fashion jobs, Fashion Workie, Twitter, LinkedIn.

By contributing guest editor Hannah Rafter, founder and Editor In Chief of The Intern 247, a website dedicated to giving real insights into the world of fashion. @theintern247 theintern247.com

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The Reality of Interning