Anyone who works in fashion will tell you that internships are an invaluable part of any resumé. It's probably the number one piece of advice given to anyone looking to break into this industry. And truly, internships are amazing--if you know how to find them, that is!
If you're still in college (lucky!), finding an internship can be infinitely easier; since most internships require an ability to receive school credit, the options are vast. Depending on your school, there will be a number of traditional resources available to you, such as job fairs, career resources centers, and alumni networks. These are the places you should check with first, as you may not have to go any further.
But what if your school is lacking in the connections you need? Or, even more challenging, what if you aren't enrolled in college? This is where you have to get crafty. No worries - we're here to help! Read on for our advice on jumping over the roadblocks to score the internship of your dreams.
Five Steps to Finding an Internship: The Conventional Way
1. Finding the Internship There are plenty of websites out there with insider scoop on internship openings. Our favorites are Ed2010, MediaBistro, Free Fashion Internships, and Intern Queen; check these out to see what's open and know the qualifications. Many of them will state very plainly whether or not you have to be eligible for credit, but even if you don't exactly fit into the eligible category, it never hurts to reach out to open opportunities, as they may be able to refer you to something that fits for you. Don't just rely on these websites, however; many great opportunities are filled before they even get listed. Reach out to places you'd like to work just to introduce yourself. If nothing else, they'll have you on file for future jobs.
2. Target the Right People This involves a little bit of research. If you want to work at a magazine or a website, check out the masthead. Familiarize yourself with the work of editors in the department you'd like to work in. Though not always publicized, their work emails are not hard to dig up (most publications have a basic formula for email addresses). Don't get carried away - seriously, don't fire off an email to Anna Wintour! - as not all editors will be open to random contact. If you're shooting for someone rather high on the masthead, try reaching out to the assistant. And don't just email one or two people; hedge your bets by picking multiple departments at multiple places. For every 50 emails you send, you might get 10 responses.
3. Keep Your Options Open Apply to well-known institutions but also consider branching into smaller, growing operations. Interning for a small designer or for a digital publication (like Fashionista!) can often give you a richer experience than being with a big organization because you can get your hands in more pots. And just because you think you want to work in, say, beauty doesn't mean you should limit yourself to that department; internships are an opportunity to learn and you might find that you love working in PR or that you're passionate about digital. It's all about getting your foot in the door!
4. Know Where You're Applying If you manage to score an interview, do your research on the person who is interviewing you and the company they work for: what have they written recently, who is an up-and-coming model they've just signed, what was the theme of the last runway presentation? The last thing you want is to look clueless in an interview after you've done all the hard work of getting through the door.
5. Reach Out You've done all the leg work, you're an expert about where you want to work, and you're ready to apply. Get your resumé in good shape by having someone you respect look over it and give you feedback. (Pro Tip: there is no reason a resumé should ever be longer than a page. Keep it tight and concise!) Sit down with a list of people you want to get in touch with, and take the time to write an individual email to each person. No mass emails! They should feel personal without being unprofessional. Mention something that shows you know the company - a recent article you liked or a campaign that stands out for you. They should want to read your email and it should make them open your resumé.
With luck, you'll start getting responses. Oftentimes people will reply that there isn't anything available, and instead will offer an informational interview or ask to keep your resumé on file. The best thing that can come of your work is nailing an internship, obviously, but this is an industry that's all about making connections, so any response is a good one!
If you're feeling particularly bold, read on for some tips on applying in a way that's guaranteed to help you stand out (These tips are not for wallflowers!)
Five Steps to Getting the Internship: The Unconventional Way
Sometimes you want to make a splash, and you have to bend the rules a bit. Here are five steps to formulating a cool/crazy plan of how to get your dream internship - the unconventional way.
1. Research for Personalities within the Company Not being a college student can really suck in the internship business sometimes. We recommend doing some intense research on companies that allow underage/overage students to intern. Focus on one person or a small group of people. Make sure that company/person has a reputation of being laid back and fun; Google them until your heart is content. Most importantly, know your audience, because though making a splash can be a great way to get noticed, you can also receive negative feedback if executed the wrong way. We suggest reaching out to people known for their outsize personalities like Mickey Boardman or Robert Verdi, and staying far (far) away from Cathy Horyn and any one who works at Vogue.
2. Investigate Their Interests The internet is a gift from the gods to those who are researching for an internship. Find out what those aforementioned personalities like to eat, what music they listen to, what hobbies they have, how they dress, what they did before they worked there, where they grew up, where they went to college, etc. Look at their Instagram/Twitter/Viddy accounts. Find out absolutely everything you can. The more information gathered, the less likely you are to completely screw up when finally making your move.
3. Formulate a Killer Plan Take what you've learned so far about your target and brainstorm ideas. If they went to Northwestern for college, buy a Northwestern t-shirt, ombre dye/stud/rhinestone it and then iron on letters that say: 'Can I be your Intern?' Make it cool and something they would want to keep or remember. I know someone who created four intricate hand-made Valentine's Day cards with a full poem, cover letter and resume inside to send to the editors of her favorite magazine requesting an internship. The feedback was positive because the time spent on the project was apparent. Here's a hint: If they have Instagramed/tweeted/blogged about something kitschy someone has made them in the past, they are a good choice to reach out to.
4. Limit the Flash Yes, you always risk the chance that your favorite stylist might think you are a creepy weirdo, but that's only if you take it too far. We don't suggest you mail things to anyone's home address, don't add them on Facebook, and don't wait outside their building. Always keep it professional, because in the end, you want to be seen in a professional light.
5. Follow Up Two weeks later if you haven't received a response, shoot them a quick email that should go along the lines of this:
I just wanted to follow up on my ___________. I would love to be considered for an internship with you this ____________, for I am passionate about working in the _____________ field. Your work has inspired me because of its __________________ and an internship with you would be a ___________ opportunity in my eyes.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to being in contact, ___________________
Re-attach your original resume and cover letter.
Now that you have most definitely made yourself stand out, it either could be very good or very bad. If executed well, the latter is unlikely.
How We Got Our Internships at Fashionista! Find out first-hand from real-life interns on how we managed to score the job.
Tyler: I've been an avid reader of Fashionista since my senior year of college, not long after the website launched (please no one do the math on that!). I don't remember how I found the site, but I knew I was addicted when I went to Old Navy to buy a pair of wedges that Britt recommended. I'd check in several times a day, and eventually started commenting with regularity - some of you might even recognize me more for my comments than my work for the site! I'd only had one internship with WWD in Paris (that I found through my school) but it was the most I'd ever enjoyed a job, and I knew from that moment I wanted to work in fashion. When I finally decided to make the leap after a brief stint living in Alabama, Fashionista was at the top of my list of people to contact. I reached out to Leah, who recognized me from my frequent comments and input to the website, and who allowed me to work for the site long distance. Now I'm in office in New York City working with the loveliest, funniest group of ladies in fashion right now, and I couldn't be happier!
Morgan: I, also, have been an avid reader since the website's launch when I was eleven. In middle school I formed the habit coming home everyday to catch up on posts. During fashion week, I would spend my lunch in the library reading Fashionista. After five years of following along, I pitched my first article to Leah about covering Teen Vogue Fashion U last October, which eventually helped her recognize my name when applying for an internship. When Leah sent me the edit test, I was so determined to get the position (I still have an un-sent letter in my room begging them to take me on when I was 13) that I spent three days working on it non-stop after school. This included one epic scene of me listening to Tupac radio on Pandora for seven hours while I vigorously Photoshopped a graphic until midnight, making sure it was exactly the way I wanted it to be. (You can see it here.) I believe that going above and beyond is the only way to go. Without working my hardest, I wouldn't be writing for a website that I attribute to being an integral part of my development as the fashion obsessed 16-year-old that I am today.