Success in any business requires more than just a curiosity about and a love of the field; it takes patience, it takes drive, it takes coffee, maybe a Percocet, and —undoubtedly—a happy hour or two (not to be paired together of course.) So here it is: a little advice and a quick crash course on entering the corporate world as a new graduate, and tips you can apply to turn any internship into a job.
1. Dress for the job that you want.
While being an intern—fashion or otherwise—is not regarded in the highest light in the social heirarchy, interns often make the mistake of thinking this gives them leeway to dress as if they are attending gym class instead of working in a multi-million dollar corporation. Not that you will be doing a great deal of activities that require you to wear heels, in fact, trainers would probably be the wiser choice in foot wear, but they are not a representation of the industry that you are in. I’ll tell you what my mother told me, “If you want to be editor in chief, you dress as if that’s who you are. If she doesn’t wear jeans to work, you don’t wear jeans to work.” As a young intern, took my mother’s advice and dressed as the people who held positions I was interested in. My supervisor and other editors took notice, and my professionalism and wardrobe benefited me in the long run. Thomas Fuller was right, “Good clothes [really do] open all doors.”
2. Heels in the building, flats on pavement.
When I first moved to New York I started looking into applying for a gym membership. I thought it would be a great way to meet professionals around my age who were interested in health and personal up-keep. “Gyming” also seemed to be a part of the New York culture. In a city so driven by appearance and populated by well-sculpted bodies, getting a gym membership only seemed right, but then I went to work. After my first week, I quickly realized that paying $200 a month for a gym membership would not be necessary. Interning is a work-out all of its own. While editors and assistants are often assigned interns, at some point every intern will be required to go on “runs", a joyous activity in which you brave all elements to pick up garments, props, supplies, and things of various nature that the magazine has requested. Unlike Andrea Sachs, you are not privileged enough to be chauffeured by company car. If you live in New York, will be riding in style….via subway, or you'll be driving yourself. So always bring two pairs of shoes to work, one for looking the part, the other for running.
3. Volunteer for anything and everything.
Traditionally a magazine will have a team of at least 30 interns most of whom are hoping to turn this is into a full time job. It’s a tight knit and highly competitive industry, so doing more than asked goes a long way. On my first day interning, I had little to no work to do because I was being trained; in my down time, I would clean up the supply closet and organize magazine archives. People appreciate those who take initiative. So, whether it’s going to grab coffee or dropping something off for a shoot in Brooklyn at 6 AM the following morning, the more active you are, and the people you impress—the better.
4. Don’t ask twice.
Media and publishing, like New York City, is unforgiving and has very little margin for error. It is a fast-paced industry composed of people who barely have time to get themselves lunch, much less repeat something to you. Carry a small notebook, write everything down, and pay close attention to detail. Once, my boss asked me to scan and e-mail a series of layouts for an issue that we were working on. The layouts were either unmarked or marked incorrectly with the wrong month. I literally had seconds to process as she flashed layouts at me and mumbled their designated months. One layout marked “March” was actually for January. I asked her after copying to clarify that I had marked them correctly, and she replied “this is why I asked you to pay attention.” Organization and attention to detail is key. Asking questions only becomes a problem if it is apparent that you were not paying attention in the first place. In an avant-garde industry such as this, it’s very easy is to fall from grace.
5. Be audacious.
Perhaps you do have the job that “a million girls would kill for,” take pride in that , but do not lose yourself on the road to becoming who you are working so hard to be. Publishing is rough, it’s exhausting, and incredibly egotistical; having a backbone is essential. I was told numerous times not to speak to editors or share a space with them. If a person of importance comes into the restroom, then interns were expected to leave; and were only expected to speak when spoken to. In my opinion, it is important to be mindful of such things, but you should also be aware of the fact that you’re working in an industry in which talent is constantly over looked because of a lack of connections, or a lack of audacity. As an intern you should make yourself available to both. An internship is the perfect opportunity to network, take advantage of it. As for being audacious, I am not recommending that you stroll into the EIC’s office, sit down and strike up a conversation about Ashish’s new collection of sequined jumpers, but you should smile and—when appropriate—greet those people who fill the positions that you find interesting. Offer to get them water and make yourself known—with tact.
6. Be a team player.
While most interns work for free (or rather for credit,) they often form a hierarchy amongst one another. Older interns often instruct newer interns and as a result, they deem themselves superior. Remember that each intern on your team is a valuable asset, and while it’s important to network with authority figures, it is equally as important to network with your peers. It is not unlikely that one day that girl or guy, you interned with once upon a time and considered to be subordinate to you, will serve a point of contact for you. As I mentioned earlier, most industries, no matter how seemingly vast, are very small, very tightly knit communities. Everyone knows everyone.
7. Do your research.
As corporations invest more and more dollars into Millenial outreach, your voice is becoming increasingly more important in the conversation. Keep your ear to the streets and the news so that you can remain as up to speed with current events a possible. Your employer will be relying on your to offer a fresh, youthful perspective. Start your mornings with the news, stay on top of social media trends and occurrences. You are the voice of the consumer, and you thoughts and input (if well backed) will always be valued.
Internships in any field will either make or break your interest in that industry. I think the most important lesson that I have learned as an intern is that those who are successful have the audacity to ask for what they want. If you are lucky, your internship will challenge you— you will work for someone who is the epitome of the industry–ego and all, and there will be times that you’ll wonder why you did this to yourself in the first place. So, be audacious, be sensible and be fearless—you have a chance to get the job that a million girls would kill for, but more importantly, you have real shot at testing and realizing your true potential.
Virginia Lowman is the Assistant Digital Beauty Editor for ESSENCE.com. you can follow her on Twitter and Intstagram at @voici_virignie.