Running in Heels: 15 Things You Should Know About Fashion Journalism Internships

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Two summers ago I was a Marie Clarie fashion intern in New York City.  I obtained the internship by leveraging my semester at London College of Fashion, my blog, and my experience at London Fashion Week.   I had one phone interview with someone from the Marie Claire fashion closet, and boom, I had the internship.  It seemed too good to be true.  And it was.  While the internship was extremely disappointing it was influential in guiding my career path towards merchandising.  Here are a few facts you should know before accepting an unpaid internship in fashion journalism.

1. You will not be the fashion intern.  You will be one of 30 fashion interns. Unpaid internships chronically over-hire due to the high turnover and offers that fall through when candidates get paid offers elsewhere.

2. Don't be fooled by the "glamour" portrayed in the internship posting.  The magazine definitely left out certain daily tasks and roles, such as "unpaid postal-service worker."  It's a business-- you are free labor and you will be leveraged accordingly.

3. Don't expect a "foot in the door" to a post-graduation job offer.  You are one of hundreds of interns hoping for the same result.  Job offers go to candidates who bring outside experience, outside knowledge, and innovative ways of doing things-- not usually someone who can maintain the magazine's status quo. Publishing and media is highly competitive.

4. Network cautiously.  At certain publications (ehem) you're not allowed to make eye contact with certain Editors, celebrity guests, and so on.  If you want to be proactive and personally introduce yourself be prepared for the consequences.

5. Unpaid internships might make you pay.  Many companies justify free slave labor by requiring that unpaid interns receive academic credit in exchange.  You will have to pay for the credits to take a "summer internship class" online.   If you cannot prove your academic credit on paper, you legally cannot intern.

6. Choose your friends wisely.  Interns are highly competitive, and you need to keep your cards close to your chest before you become besties with every single intern.  Friends, however, are important, as you can help each other get through horrible days.  There is something to be said for suffering together.

7. When deciding between internship offers, consider: whether your values match the company's values, the reputation of the company inside and outside of the industry, and the future value of the name on your resume-- is this publication growing or fizzling out?

8. Watch the Devil Wears Prada.  Then factor in the internal competition among dozens of "Anne Hathaway" interns.   Now consider that as a fashion intern you may not be able to sit down or even lean against a counter all day.  On top of that, forget about taking a taxi to showrooms.  You'll be running around the city in your heels in 90-100+ degree temperatures and 80% humidity on dark, dirty asphalt.... for hours.

9. Remind yourself that the internship is an investment.  Just like you pay to work your butt off at school, you're paying to work your butt off at this internship-- it's not easy and it takes a lot of self-discipline to be an A+ intern.

10. Suck up through your actions, not your words.  Talking a big game often screams ingenuity, but playing a big game with a humble attitude will get the recognition that you deserve.

11.  Consider limitations of scale when evaluating opportunities in an internship.  Smaller publishers with fewer interns may lead to more responsibilities and hands-on experiences.  Larger publishers with more interns and established protocol inherently involve more internal restrictions and roadblocks.

12.  Work smarter, not harder.  Fashion, journalism and media are industries where politics and "catty" behavior can easily overshadow your intellect if you allow it.  Use your education and analytical abilities to stand out.

13. Jot down personal accomplishments each week, or even each day.  Track these extremely well so you have something to show on your resume.  Resume value is what you're paying for-- let's be real.

14. Going off the point above-- QUANTIFY every accomplishment, even if you don't think it's possible.  You organize the fashion closet-- how many brands, what is the value of product, and how often do you do this?  You find a faster way to file information-- how much time did you save the company, what larger repercussions does this have?  Use percentages, dollar amounts, and trends.

15. Use the internship to mold your passions and direct your career elsewhere-- 
I would not change the Marie Claire internship experience for anything.  Without such a horrible experience I might still be chasing the wrong career.  So worth it.

**Below are real photos of employees at Marie Claire and a look inside the offices, mostly focusing on the fashion closet, its layout, and the daily tasks you would see or do there.  The main thing missing from these photos are the racks of garment bags and piles of packages with address labels stapled to them that fashion interns are expected to deliver daily to showrooms around the city.

I hope this helps you evaluate internship offers, options, career paths, and so on.  If you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I'd be happy to help!



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