Beginning your first fashion internship is a nerve wracking experience. It was the first taste I got of the industry outside of a classroom. I felt an immense amount of pressure to succeed at the beginning of my internship, and wanted to accomplish everything perfectly. Through all of my internships I have gained an understanding of certain practices that help me perform better in my work. From soft skills to time management tricks, here are eight do’s and don'ts of interning in the world of fashion and design.
Do: Research your company and your role before your first day.
Learning as much as you possibly can about your company is extremely important. Having an understanding of their mission statement and company goals will give you an interpretation of the environment you will be working in. Upon investigating 440 Industries, I learned that their goal was to educate start-up fashion brands and designers a basic foundation of the various business and creative components in the industry. Extending this knowledge and making fashion accessible to anyone who chooses to participate in it is a passion of mine. Because of this, working at 440 industries has been a very fruitful experience. Working for a company who’s morals and goals align with your own will make you more productive and passionate about your future job.
After accepting your position, I also recommend conducting research on the role you will be playing at your company. Reach out to those who have heard the same title as yourself, and ask them about various strategies they have used in that job, and inquire about their experience as a whole working at that company. It will provide you with insight onto what to expect for your first day and an opportunity to ask for advice before your first day on the job.
Don’t: Be late.
To be early is to be on time. To be one time is to be late, and being late is unacceptable. This phrase stays true in fashion as well. Show up at least five minutes early to every meeting. If an unexpected turn of events occurs, notify your superiors of your dilemma and give an estimated time of arrival. Showing up on time to events and meetings is a sign of respect. If others are going out of their way to honor your time, you should reciprocate the same respect.
This philosophy also applies to project deadlines and assignment due dates. Try to submit your task on time or early if possible. If need be, ask for an extension well in advance.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions.
Internships are learning opportunities. They’re your first taste of what it is like working in fashion. Your employers will not expect you to know everything, or to get everything right on your first try. I am a perfectionist, and wanted to complete all of my internship tasks correctly the first time. This put a ton of pressure on myself and created a lot of stress. The more I asked questions and inquired about certain tasks, the more comfortable I felt in my day to day work. I was able to complete assignments with full confidence that they were done the right way. Asking for questions or clarification also shows your employer how dedicated you are to your work.
Do: take lots of notes and write down all the details.
Staying organized is an important part of successfully completing your internship. It is important to take notes on every phone call, meeting, and email. This will help you keep track of current events at your company as well as remind you of all of the tasks assigned to you.
At my previous internship, I was in charge of managing the schedule of the CEO and assisting in the organization of our spring collection production timeline. Writing down production and shipment dates on a calendar, organizing various contacts, writing down task descriptions, and project due dates were vital to making that process run smoothly. It helped myself and the CEO stay informed throughout the creating process.
Don’t: Have a poor attitude throughout the work day or complain often.
As I have said before, you are here to learn about the fashion industry. You should feel grateful for this educational experience and the opportunity to work in this field. Having a poor attitude and complaining about doing your work does not reflect that. It will come across as abrasive, ungrateful, and uninterested. This will lead to a poor performance review, and could compromise your employment as an intern. It will also destroy your opportunity to use your company as a positive reference on your resume or future applications, as well as throw away any chance of receiving a letter of recommendation in the future. These things will be required on any future job/internship application.
Do: Take the initiative.
Being proactive in your work will make you stand out as a worker in an already rather competitive industry. Going the extra mile on assignments, being one step ahead of schedule, completing simple tasks without having to be asked will reflect your commitment to your work. Upon doing this, you will show your employer how passionate you are about this industry.
Don’t: Give Unsolicited Advice.
One of the most inappropriate things to do is to butt in on conversations where you do not belong. As an intern, you are working to learn. Giving the impression you know better than those who have worked in this field longer than yourself is unprofessional. At the beginning of your internship, sit back and take notes of all the information you learn. Over time as you become more knowledgeable and experienced in the field, then is it appropriate to give your input.
While interning is an opportunity to learn about the fashion industry, it is also a great outlet to begin networking your field. Establishing relationships between yourself and your superiors and co-workers will help you secure a job in the future. These people will help recommend you for a specific position, and can use you as a positive reference for future applications.
When applying for your first internship, there is a lot to learn. Not only are you being educated on different components of the fashion industry, you are also learning how to become a more professional employee. Adapting soft skills such as time management and job organization, as well as professional skills such as how to articulate your opinion in a formal manner are all things I learned during my first year as an intern. The most important thing you need to do throughout this experience is to enjoy it. Take time to see if working in fashion you can truly see yourself doing as a career. Explore the different job opportunities offered to you and see what one is the best fit. Learning and growing in your professional career is what interning is about. It should be a fun experience. I hope my advice to you will help make interning a more enjoyable experience.