So you’ve landed your dream internship in fashion and now comes the real challenge: acing it. In an industry that values working your way to the top, your performance will pave the path for your future career, so it’s important not to let any opportunity go to waste. Below, 10 do’s and don’ts for any intern entering the fashion industry.
1) DO research before your first day.
Before you arrive to your first day of interning, it’s important to prepare in any and every way possible. Do as much research about your company, its employees and most importantly, the supervisors you’ll be directly interning with. You should know the names of everyone from the founder to the CEO to the people you’ll be reporting to, etc. It’s also good to do a quick search to see if your brand or company has been in the news recently, so you’re informed and ahead of the curve. Google, LinkedIn and social media are your friends here, take advantage of them before you arrive.
2) DON’T go overboard with your outfits.
You love fashion, everyone can already tell this because you’re there for the internship, so please don’t think you need to show up looking like you just stepped off the runway at Paris Couture Week. Dressing well and showing off your personal style is a good thing, but keep in mind you’re at an office and there to intern which can include some not-so-glamorous tasks and running around. Case in point: you might not want to show up in teetering 6-inch heels if you can’t run around in them. You’re here to learn and do the behind-the-scenes work right now, not sit front row at Fashion Week. The best way to approach dressing for your internship is to dress like the brand and take note of how its employees show up. If everyone is is corporate appropriate gear, you shouldn’t be wearing fishnet socks and sneakers—even if it is fashion.
3) DO take initiative.
There should never be a moment at your internship when you’re sitting around doing nothing: there’s always something to be done. If you weren’t assigned any tasks, find something that needs to be done whether that’s organizing a rack of clothes, samples, magazines or even cleaning up your work area. For example, when I interned in PR if there was ever a lull and nothing for me to do, I would reorganize the closet and sweep all the floors. No, my job wasn’t to act as the custodian, but I wanted to prove that I was a hard-worker and able to take initiative to do whatever needed to be done, even if that meant getting rid of the dust bunnies in the fashion closet.
4) DON’T be afraid to ask questions.
You’re there to learn, you shouldn’t already have all the answers on your own. It’s better to ask a question than to try to do something and end up doing it very wrong. Your bosses will appreciate you taking the time to make sure you execute your tasks the right way, instead of just trying to get them done.
5) DO every task with enthusiasm.
No task is too small. If you’re going into this internship expecting to be sent to Paris like Lauren Conrad on The Hills or sit front row at New York Fashion Week, I’m just going to break this to you gently now: these things are not going to happen. As an intern you have the opportunity to learn everything from the ground up, that means you’re putting in hard work—it’s not your time to reap all the glamorous fashion perks just yet. If you want it, you’ve got to work for it and that means accepting every single task with enthusiasm and treating every single task, whether it’s getting coffee or assisting on a photo shoot, like it’s the most important task—because it is. Having a good attitude will make you stand out along the way.
6) DON’T think you are living out the role of a stereotypical fashion character.
We’ve all seen The Devil Wears Prada, The Hills, Project Runway, Ugly Betty, etc. etc. Those are great sources of entertainment but this is not your breakout movie role, so don’t let it get to your head. Regardless of whether people you work for act like a Miranda Priestly (they exist in every industry), being nice and humble goes a long way. A bad attitude will get you nowhere, it’s so important to be friendly to everyone you encounter. Leave the bitchy, snobby role to the reality TV characters.
7) DO pay attention and mimic the office culture.
When you’re assigned a task or given feedback, make sure you really pay attention and take notes. Not only will this help you, it will also let your bosses know you’re serious about learning and improving. That being said, this is also probably one of your first tastes of working in an office environment, so make sure you pay attention to the office culture—you can learn a lot from the way your bosses dress, work, interact and organize ideas.
8) DON’T spend the day scrolling on your phone.
If you want to spend your time obsessively scrolling Instagram or texting your friends, you can do that at home. Be professional. If one of your bosses or someone senior walks by and you’re scrolling your phone mindlessly, that’s not a good look. Unless you were assigned something to research on Instagram, keep your phone use to a minimum while at the office.
9) DO treat your internship like it’s a job and network.
If you look around at the people working in the fashion industry, you’ll see that many got their start through an internship. So it’s essential to treat every internship (the good and the bad) like it’s a real job—arrive early and stay late if necessary. Don’t feel like you can call out whenever because “it’s not a real job” and always take it seriously. The more you treat it like a job, the more you’ll be treated as a valued employee—and that’s always a good thing.
10) DON’T leave your internship without asking for feedback, advice and a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.
Although it’s true for most industries, networking in the fashion industry is very important. An internship is one of your first opportunities to form good professional connections with your supervisors, don’t let the opportunity go to waste. A couple of weeks before your last day, ask your supervisor to sit down with you for 15 minutes for an informational interview. Use that time to ask for feedback on your performance, career advice and any questions about the industry in general you may have. Don’t forget to send a hand-written thank you card at the end of your internship and stay in touch via email or LinkedIn, every connection is a good connection to foster.