A guide to interning and why it’s totally worth it

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We pour blood, sweat and tears into carefully crafting the most kick-ass CV we possibly can. We stay up all hours writing those wonderfully personalised cover letters they tell us about in career ed., and we bite our finger nails to within an inch of their lives as we wait for responses. More upsetting than all of that is, usually, you don’t even get so much as a reply from the companies you’ve begged to take you on for a month (or week, or day… whatever they can offer, really).

What I described wouldn’t be such a gruelling process if we heard back, even if it had to be a no (god dammit). Entering the world of interning is a seriously scary thing to do, but considering that to bag our all-singing-all-dancing dream job we need a portfolio of experience longer than our arm, we don’t really have much choice. Eighteen months ago I’d most definitely have declared myself a victim of the whole “dream employers ignoring us ambitious undergrads” thing (and it was starting to get a tad infuriating). That was, until, this time last year, when I actually heard back from one of my favourite magazines.

Seven hours of travelling and a surprisingly un-scary interview later, I’d managed to bag myself a three week long editorial internship. Another two internships followed; all of them have been more useful than I ever could’ve imagined. That’s why I decided it only fair to share my positive interning experience with you and let you know that all your hard work will eventually get you somewhere. And it will be completely and utterly worth it.

For me, arriving on the first day of my first internship was petrifying. Legs shaking, palms sweating, heart racing kind of petrified. Looking back, I probably didn’t have reason to be as nervous as I was. Everyone was totally friendly – I guess getting myself into such a state was the only way I knew how to deal with being pushed head first out of my comfort zone. Things tended to get worse before they got better; having to ask how to turn a mac on was right up there with my most embarrassing moments. (Oh, and having my pronunciation of Louis Vuitton corrected by the courier. The COURIER.) Soon enough, though, I had been set off on my first task, and the rest is history. With the first magazine in question having a small team, I was able to really get stuck in to working on features; I wasn’t just the resident tea maker. That takes me nicely onto my first tip of interning.

Don’t expect to get a three month placement at *insert name of super famous, super swish national fashion mag here* the first time you ever try. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom with smaller publications, and work your way up. Working at a magazine that, despite having an impressive circulation in London, hasn’t really been heard of outside the capital, turned out to be the best thing I could have done. There’s more chance to get to know the team, play a hands on role and even get your own work published when you’re working somewhere smaller. This meant that by the time I started to apply for internships at bigger places, I had more experience and a better portfolio to show them.

Tip number two: you have to be super enthusiastic with every. Single. Job. Even if that’s just making the editor a cup of tea. Make it seem like you’ve been waiting your whole life to find out how many sugars she takes. Yes, your blood might boil at the thought of pushing aside that fashion feature to go and stand awkwardly in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil, but please don’t let it show. Do everything with a smile. Being super enthusiastic also means asking lots of questions. You will probably have more questions than are socially acceptable, but that’s okay. They won’t be annoyed, just flattered; let’s face it: you know nothing and they’re there to help.

Tip three is don’t be afraid to step outside of your insular home town to find the experience you need – just do it as cheaply as you can. Having grown up in a small place where the sheep to human ratio is verging on worrying, I knew I had to look further afield to get a taste of what future me wants to be doing. That’s why I headed to London. We all have a fantasy of what that’s going to be like. We smile as we wake up in a plush hotel room, slip into our uber stylish work wear and head into the office with the perfect catwalk strut. In reality, you’re more likely to be rolling, bewildered, off your friends couch and rocking up a hot mess after a traumatising commute. It just has to be done. Apply for internships in places where you have friends and family. Kip on their sofa, pay a little board (which will be more than marginally cheaper than a hotel room, trust) and claim back any expenses you can. I know that it seems unfair that you’re working for free whilst paying to live in a city that’s not your own, but do it, because it’s competitive out there.

Besides all this, it all comes down to being nice, professional, and keeping the contacts you make safe. Keep the door open and make sure they love you enough to let you back. I learnt so much during my internships and it showed me that working at a fashion magazine is, without a doubt, what I want to do when I graduate. Nothing worth having ever comes to us without a huge amount of seriously hard work, so pester and nag until you get that internship you want. Then be ready to start all over again in your quest to find the next one.

Words: Sophie Cockett

Lauren and Flora are your fashion editors

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