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The Fashion Internship Guide - Part Two - How to get an internship

I have now wrote a book on fashion interning, containing  75 pages of my top tips and insider advice for aspiring fashion interns!
As your manicured helping hand, The Fashion Internship Guide offers all the advice on how you can gain valuable experience to build your CV, cultivate your USP, create a fantastic application, and excel in an interview; propelling yourself towards the working woman or man you wish to be. 

Download it here now!

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Hi dolls! I hope you liked Part One of my internship guide and it was clear to read! I don't want to confuse anyone or bombard you with stuff, and if you asked a question I'll address it in a future post or reply to you personally! I feel like I've worked loads recently as the sale was in full swing and ended up probably spending more then I earned anyway! I always buy things from my wish lists rather than impulsing and it feels like I haven't bought any new clothes in ages! From watching hauls, I can see how other girls will pick up basics and go on sprees, but everything I buy tends to have  huge purpose or is quite poignant so I always seem to have a full wardrobe but nothing to wear! Also everything I'm buying right now is reserved to be worn in the Autumn as there's no point buying into Spring/Summer trends right now. The new Elle Collections isn't as good as the last but has given me lots of ideas and I'm going through all the catwalk pics saving my favourites. 

Today I had a little sort out of my room but I'm feeling really weighed down by the stuff I like but don't need anymore. My sister and I want to do a carboot sale or something; maybe I should do a flash sale on here? Everything £1? Coincidentally, the Guardian ran a front page article in the Work section today called Fashion Victims, debating whether interns should be paid, and if not, are they being exploited for their labour? You can read the article here, what do you think? I believe if a company expects you to become a long term member of the team with your own tasks, rather than working with and helping out existing employees, then you have a proper role rather than the role of a intern, and should be an employee too. But if you love the industry, the pleasure of the opportunity will well outweigh any stresses on your part so you won't walk away feeling like you were taken advantage of. Anyway, hope you enjoy the second part to this guide! Good luck!


 

The first hurdle is of course: how are you going to get your internship? As I said before, finding an internship to apply for will already demonstrate your sourcing skills and show that you truly like the company because you have searched them out. Every unique company is looking for their ideal person, and every aspiring intern will be looking for the placement to suit them best, so I cannot point you towards vacancies or provide lists of hiring companies. If I can find them, you can too! The perils of being the oldest child means I've always had to find things out for myself!

How do I find an internship?

First think about what sort of placement would suit you and when you have the time to commit to one. Are you doing a year in industry as part of your degree? Are you still in school? Do you have the whole summer holidays? Have you just graduated? You may want an internship with a view of being hired by the company, or just a two week taster of the place. Most companies will tell you on their website if they offer placements in their careers section, so first make a list of the top places you'd LOVE to work at. These will most likely be scratching the surface of the fashion industry if they're well known brands, shops and designers. Check their sites and see what their work experience policies are. If they have established them, their length and requirements may or may not suit you. Some places will only offer placements for a whole year and you have to be studying, some will only offer government-assessed work experience where you can go if you're 16. Keep thinking outside the box and flick through magazines to be reminded of brands and labels out there. If you don't live near London, you might be surprised that some companies have head offices situated all around the country. Check out the top businesses in your town, you'll usually find a list through a search engine.

There are sites out there where companies list their internship vacancies, and they're extremely useful as they have to fill in all the questions you want to ask like how long their minimum requirement of working is and if they offer any payments. These sites can be easily found by searching online and it's essential to keep checking them daily.

Also think of your friends and family, friends of family, and the family of friends. Someone may know someone who works in a relevant company, or if you're looking outside your home town, they may have a room to rent. Start looking outside the box and think of the other companies that make up the fashion industry. Check out Drapers or Women's Wear Daily to have a vast knowledge of industry players. If you want to work in the industry, these are things you must know already. I found one of my placements first through researching my dream places, and the second through a site listing vacancies.

When do I apply for an internship?

As soon as possible!! Some of the more well known publications are flooded with applicants and are booked a year in advance. I found mine for May in February, but many places I applied to were already fully booked. It's still worth applying at short notice though because people may drop out or they hire and recruit quickly.

Consider the day and time you send off your application too. If sent on Saturday or Sunday, they will be part of the flood of emails viewed on a Monday morning, and the employer may not be interested in hiring interns when they have the height of their normal tasks to deal with.

How do I apply for an internship?

Especially if you are searching online, most require online applications. Some companies that must receive masses of applicants may set out strict rules for application, such as certain information needed and certain presentation of your CV. These are the first test of your ability to follow direction, so make absolutely sure you satisfy their requirements. I would always send a CV with a covering letter, as there you can really tell them why you especially want to work for their company. Make sure your email address isn't sexy_gurrrl1988@hotmail.com, and make sure your spam filter isn't blocking replies. If emailing, send the email to yourself first and reread and then reread it again. Get someone else to read it too. The receiver may be viewing it differently and you might have made a fatal error in addressing the right company. Take your time and don't apply for twenty in one day, as guaranteed you'll slip up somewhere. 

Tips for your application...

  • In the subject line of the email, state it is an internship application and put the dates from and to when you are available. At one of my placements, the lady who employed me said sometimes people will cancel their spot on short notice so they must quickly look back at previous applicants. If your availability is clear, they will make a beeline for your email.
  • Take your CV and covering letter to the careers adviser of your school/college/university, or have an educated or experienced friend or colleague read over yours. They will not only be able to spot mistakes or errors in them, but will also tell you things that aren't clear and ways to improve. I took my CV to the careers advisory department of my University and they were amazingly helpful.
  • One of the tips the careers service gave me was to backup your experiences will your skills, and your skills with your experiences. For example, don't write a personal profile saying 'I'm hard-working, creative, bright and a team player', because everyone writes those key words that they think employers want to hear. You should be writing 'I'm hard-working because ...' or 'I showed hard work through...'. Give examples that demonstrate your skills and talents to prove you have had unique opportunities and that you actually are what you say you are! Don't write 'My responsibilities at my Saturday retail job included working on the till, replenishing stock, and tidying,' you should be writing 'My responsibilities included working on the till, showing my mature attitude to handling money and my confidence in talking to customers, etc' for example. You must show the reader why exactly you are organised, and what skills are needed when putting out stock.
  • Hopefully you will really want to work for the company that you are applying to, if not, what's the point? Make sure you state in your email or covering letter what you like about the company, how working there could benefit you, and what you could bring to the company because you know about/admire them so much. If you owned a company, you'd be much more inclined to employ someone who really knew what it was all about and had a passion for making it better and contributing to it, rather than someone who was just keen to work anywhere. Even when people email me things for this blog, my name is right by my email address so if it's just a press release with 'Dear Ms' or not even a hi, I have no desire to read it. But if someone says 'Hi Selina, I like your blog!' then I'm more keen to read the rest of it. If people actually show they've read my blog, like 'Hi Selina, I like your blog because .... Therefore I think you might want to know about....' then I have more of a responsibility and a want to consider what they've emailed about. Put yourself in the employer's position and consider if you would want to hire yourself, and who you would apply before you. Always address the email recipient. 
  • Hopefully the fashion industry is a bit more personal and fun, so you don't have to go as far as ending your emails with kisses, but remember you are emailing a real person who was once in your shoes. You don't need to be overly formal and matter-of-fact, especially if it's a place that encourages personality, such as a magazine. Tailor your approach to the formality of the company.
  • Keep things short and sweet, with quality points rather than a high quantity. A magazine may not wish to see the results of every exam you've ever taken, whereas a fashion business agency might be more interested. You should not be sending the same CV and covering letter to each place and just inserting different names, it should always be tweaked. As you improve your CV, make sure relevant things jump off the page and you don't say things that are too obvious. If you've been a sales assistant in a shop, generally it's quite obvious what tasks had to do, so don't take up page space with huge lists.
  • As I'm working in a high-street store at the moment, for the past few weeks loads of teens have been coming in asking about jobs. This is a little off topic but there are so many people who run in (like actually jog in looking really rushed) eating food (yeah, in a clothes shop?! why would you do that anyway!), with some rolled up CVs already in their hand and say 'do you have any vacancies?', and they're not doing themselves any favours! By being like that, they're showing that they're asking in just about every shop and will apply for any vacancy anywhere, and if you don't have any then they'll quickly go to the shop next door. Most places only take online applications anyway, but I thought a good approach was a girl who came nicely dressed to the counter with some CVs in her bag in plastic wallets, and said 'Could I give you a CV to keep just encase any job openings become available?'. This showed that she was interested in the store especially and was keen to work there in the coming future, rather than looking for any job, anywhere at that time. Well, maybe she was, but that was a nice approach. 

What is I have little/no experiences to put in my CV?

If you believe you'd be good in the fashion industry, you must already have a passion for it. If you've never worked before, you should try getting involved in school/uni newspapers or local fashion charity events or try making a website. There were people on my course at Uni who didn't even buy magazines, and if you're serious about working in the fashion industry, you have to respect that you will get hired only if you have something to offer and if you are an asset to the company. Sure your Mom and friends might think you're great, but what can you offer an employer over everyone else? What can you do to really move the fashion industry, as fashion is a continuously evolving and adapting sector? Imagine you already have a job in fashion. You'd have to keep up with fashion news and the news in general. Start reading the business pages of the newspaper and watching the business news. A lecturer once told my class this and said it was on at 5.30am and pm. One exchange student didn't understand too well and thought it was compulsory to watch the 5.30am news!

There are so many books out there on fashion and business and media that you can read, and there are so many blogs too! Social media is huge and if you work in the fashion industry, you must be aware of everything, as you essentially are making the news. If you are part of the fashion industry, you are the news! You can use your CV to demonstrate how you've been to fashion fairs and art exhibitions, how you have an extensive library of relevant and cult fashion books, how you can mention your favourite designer and show how you've studied their history, know all their muses, and what their high impact collections were. This all seems like a lot but if you have the drive, you must remember you will need to have this knowledge anyway for your job. Fashionista.com is a good place to start to really familiarise yourself with the goings on of the fashion world. I'll talk about interviews in another posts, but for one of my placements in the interview I was asked what magazines I read, and I said my favourites and said how I'm really not a fan of UK Vogue because I don't feel it's aimed at people like me, i.e. students who have no interest in going to a spa, etc. The interviewer said that was a good thing to hear because I can view magazines in the way of considering their target audience, I didn't just give off a reel of titles that I liked with no explanation.

Also show things that you have done that may not be aimed towards fashion, but you can show how you have had enthusiasm and drive in other areas and that you are now keen to direct them towards a job in fashion. Like I said above, for all the experiences and qualifications that you state, you must put why it's relevant. Even if you've done a course in learning Swahili, you can say how it shows you have drive to complete tasks you begin, and could bring your dedication to your internship. For every point you write about yourself, you should follow it with a statement saying either how you demonstrated it or what skill it required, and then follow that with a statement saying how it can be used at an internship with their company.

If you have no experience, hobbies or plans for the summer, volunteer! Volunteer in a charity shop to get some retail experience, volunteer with children or people with disabilities or older people or animals to show you are practical and responsible, and you are active and spend your time productively. I read a really funny article yesterday about a guy who had no joy finding a job after being a carer for years, so he stood by a main road for hours in the rain with a sign saying 'Please give me a job!'. A businessman stopped and drove him to his company to give him an interview, saying he was impressed that he was being active and determined! He said, "I thought if someone could stand there in that deluge - and it was absolutely torrential rain - then they must be determined to find a job. My attitude was the he would be an asset to any company." You need to be that determined!

What if I don't hear anything from my application?

Many places will not send you an email saying you were unsuccessful, so you can't count on any application. Keep researching your options and expanding your application genre, and keep carefully applying. Don't assume you have any place, even if they offer you an interview or say they are considering you. If you don't get it in the end, you will be back to square one with no options on the cards.

When talking to the lady who gave me the placement at the national newspaper fashion desk, she said she did get loads and loads of applications and it was a bit annoying if people emailed again a few days later saying 'did you get my email?????'. You must respect that the people you are applying to have jobs and tasks that need to be fulfilled over addressing emails from internship applicants, and not be mad or disheartened if you don't get acknowledged. My feelings were that if I applied and didn't hear anything, I didn't get the placement. If it was a more formal opening where they were definitely recruiting people for a certain place, it might be worth inquiring if they received your application OK in a few weeks time, but if the placement opening is ongoing and quite a big company where many people will apply, you should apply elsewhere or reconsider your application if you really love the place. Show your CV and covering letter to different people, get more advice, get more experience. Change your approach or time of day that you email. Just leave it at least two-three weeks before inquiring again, as my placements took at least a week to initially reply to my applications.

Don't be disheartened as your job is just round the corner and places will be looking for their ideal person, maybe you just aren't it at this time. There are so many people in your race that you can't dwell on each application, just keep going and you will be matched with your fateful placement soon enough!

I hope that was useful! As always, I'd be happy to answer any questions! Please keep in mind that you have to hunt out your own internship, but if you're stuck on something or if you are wondering about something, drop a comment below.

Blythe Picture from Kid Crayola Flickr

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