So you’ve been thrown in the deep end of a fashion internship – what now?
I landed in New York at 8 pm Sunday night and was scheduled to knock on Zanita’s door ready to get cracking at 8 am Monday morning. Jet lag wasn’t an option. Indulging my stomach-churning nerves wasn’t an option. I had no way of knowing how my time with the Zanita Studio team would pan out – I’d never even met any of them properly. Anxious much? When I walked out the door that morning into the freezing NYC winter I felt like there were just too many changing variables and unknown figures.
So what did I have control over?
Having a baby, moving house, divorce, and (you guessed it) a new job, all come in high on the how-do-I-even-deal list of life events. Internships are a special kind of super-duper pressure test. You’re new to the workplace, you’re under the pump to impress your boss, you have a ticking time limit, and you’re almost always the youngest and most inexperienced person in the room.
During my three weeks with Zanita in New York for Fashion Week I tried my best to turn those stressors into opportunities. (For the record: I had it easy because Zanita is the best boss ever.) There were definitely tough moments and I made a bunch of cringe-worthy mistakes, but I managed to convert my internship into an ongoing contributor role. So without further rambling, here are my top 5 recommendations for nailing your internship:
1. Communicate your expertise.
Everybody is good at something! (And most of us are bad at a whole lot of things too!) Make sure your boss and the team you’re working with know what your strengths are. Remind them of the kinds of tasks you can do quickly and well, and chances are that’s what you’ll get to do – that means you have fun and get the opportunity to prove your worth. (Bonus points: Try to show your strengths without drawing attention to your weaknesses… easier said than done.) I wouldn’t have been able to shoot Zanita’s incredible Zimmermann look or interview Baby Slice if I didn’t communicate my expertise, and I’m sure those two jobs were my best opportunities to shine.
2. Put your hand up!
Learn what your boss wants and needs, and the way your team works, and you’ll be able to offer help with tasks before you’re asked. I learnt this best in my previous life/career when I was an assistant to a judge. It’s the sign of a great intern. It’s also a great way to cement your place in the system and make people wonder how they ever worked without you.
That way when your internship ends, they’re going to really want you to stay.
3. Be flexible.
So the work you’re asked to do wasn’t exactly in the role description? Now isn’t the time to complain. You need to be prepared to meet people in odd locations, work odd hours, and maybe even eat odd food at odd break times. Sometimes I was sitting in incredible runway shows, sometimes I was returning garments across town in the rain and ice. It’s all good! There’s also a tricky balance to aim for between being flexible with your attitude and staying true to yourself. You need to adapt to the new team environment but don’t be a wet-rag butt-kissing suck-up. It’s a fine line to tread, but don’t worry girl, you’ve got this.
4. Eat well and sleep well at every opportunity.
This one is kind of a personal extension to the ‘flexibility’ recommendation and depends on the length of your internship. If your gig is only for a week or two then maybe you can afford to hit the ground running and sleep when you’re dead. If it’s for a few months though, play the long-term game and invest in your own well-being. A couple of times in NYC, I made stupid mistakes because I was just so exhausted. When I was super tired in the morning I was more likely to run late, too. You’re smarter than that. Remember you’re #1. J
5. Enjoy it!
This is SO important! Remember that an internship is also a process for you to audition your boss and the company. How do you know you actually want an ongoing job at the end if you haven’t enjoyed your internship with them?
It doesn’t mean every single day is rainbows-and-unicorns fun, but look out for that feeling that you’re engaging with what you’re doing. That the work means something to you.
So there we go! I didn’t nail everything I listed here but I did well enough. Learn from my mistakes and you’ll blitz it.