Alysha Caine studied Fashion Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2012. Since then she has been working for Macy’s in New York City as a designer on several of their private brands. At Macy’s she was most recently promoted to Associate Designer for the women’s brand Charter Club.
Part 1: Searching for an internship.
As a fashion student you have probably already been acquainted with the importance of internships. Interning gives you real-world experience in the fashion industry that cannot be matched by any class you take in school. It prepares you for your future career, not only by giving you a better understanding of the way the industry works, but also by increasing your network of industry professionals. Sometimes an internship can even lead to an actual full-time position. Keeping this in mind, it is wise for all fashion students to try to get an internship or two under their belts before they graduate, but that can be easier said then done.
When searching for an Internship DO:
-Talk to your school Career Advisor and follow up regularly. Hopefully, your school has done its due diligence to hire a career advisor that has industry experience and lots of helpful information on internships. They also will know what companies your school has relationships with, and when these companies might be coming to recruit on campus.
-Have a well-written coverletter and resume. Work with your career advisor and professors to figure out exactly what you should include. When you are applying to companies you want to stand out, and your resume will most likely be the first thing they pull up. Make sure it looks professional but still shows your personality (this is Fashion after all). Coverletters can often be a bit of a pain, but I would highly recommend sending unique coverletters to every single company you apply to. A well-written coverletter that includes specific information about the company you are applying to will show your dedication to obtaining that internship, and specific interest in the organization.
-Have a polished portfolio that can be viewed digitally. Again, you should work with your career advisor and professors to figure out exactly what to include. Even if you only have a few projects under your belt you must be able to show some examples of your work to potential employers. Be it a link to a portfolio website (you can join many nice ones for free) or a PDF attachment, make sure every company you apply to will be able to see your work.
-Apply, apply, apply. While seeking an internship you must get your name out to as many companies as possible. Scour the jobsites recommended to you by your school and career advisor. Make a list of every organization you’d be interested in working for and send them an email even if they don’t have a job list posted. If they like your resume they might keep it on file for when they are hiring, or they might be posting job listings on sites you haven’t been looking at. In my experience you only hear back from about 10-20% of companies you apply to, which is why I stress to you to apply to as many possible to increase your likelihood of getting interviewed.
When searching for an Internship DON’T:
-Be picky or narrow minded about what companies you apply to. Even if you have a specific direction in mind for your future career any internship in the industry will give you loads of experience and you shouldn’t be limiting yourself. In fact, interning in an area that you weren’t expecting to like might open your eyes to new possibilities for your future.
-Be scared of New York City. As you might know, many fashion companies are based in NYC, and though it is certainly possible to find internships in other cities, the majority of them are in New York. For those who are not already attending school in NYC, I would highly recommend spending a summer interning there. Though it is not financially possible for everyone, temporary housing is readily available, and the fact that you don’t need a car makes it great for a temporary stay. If you are doing your internship for school credit (which many employers require) you can use financial aid from your school to assist with living costs. Additionally, it will help you become familiar with a city where you have a good chance at getting a full-time job after graduating.
-Limit yourself to New York City. Though the majority of employers are indeed in NYC as mentioned above, there are a lot of great companies in other cities, specifically a few mass-market retailers. Some students might be resistant to intern in these less-glamorous cities, but a lot of these bigger companies actually pay their interns, and the cost of living is cheaper. Additionally, LA is another hub of fashion companies where you might find opportunities to intern.
-Be afraid to follow-up with employers. If you have had an interview you should follow up with a thank you as soon as possible. Sending a hand-written letter in addition to a thank-you email can’t hurt either. If the interviewer hasn’t gotten back to you within the time frame they told you they would, don’t feel like you’re being pushy to follow-up again. Sometimes they just need that extra reminder. Even if they get back to you with bad news, it’s better to know than to keep it hanging in the air.
I got my internship… what now?
With hard work and patience, being hired as an intern is absolutely attainable. However, obtaining the internship is just the beginning. Though the hard part seems to be over, starting your very first experience in the industry can be scary. Having intern experience is so valuable to your future career and many employers consider it a necessity when hiring entry-level employees. It can be very fun meeting new people and learning about the workplace, but of course it can be intimidating, sometimes stressful and un-exciting. In my Part 2 blog post I will speak about the Dos and Don’ts while interning in the field.