Yesterday I turned 19. Meaning today it has officially been one year since I claimed the title of intern. That’s one year of intern knowledge, and then some, that I would like to share with you.
Let’s begin with a bit of background. I lost my intern virginity last summer. I started applying in spring and, to my surprise, heard back from all the magazines I applied to - bar one. But their Twitter pic hasn’t changed in a year so I’m not quite sure what’s going on there. I ended up becoming an editorial intern at two magazines. Both of different genres - I figured it’d be beneficial to get a diversity of experience. The first was a fashion magazine and I absolutely loved it. It was the first magazine I set eyes on and I even modelled my entire CV around one of its covers (more on that later.) I enjoyed it so much that I re-arranged the dates of my next internship just so I could stay longer. I woke up every morning last summer looking forward to what my day had to offer. Even though I struggled to afford travelling into London everyday, and got achey eyes from hours in front of a laptop screen, I began each day with a flurry of butterflies in my stomach because I loved writing for them so much. It felt like the right fit from day one. Despite arriving 2 hours late on day one that is.
I was given so much freedom to write exactly how I wanted to — much different to my next internship, where despite the fact it was a much younger magazine, had a more traditional approach with its interns. Everything would get sent back with highlighted notes and once it was finally published, lost all remnants of its initial vitality, but in turn gained the slick and polished voice of an edited feature. I did learn a lot from all that editing. Things they’d usually teach you in journalism school like “numbers under ten are expressed in words.” Not only did I learn a lot but met some really wonderful people.
Despite each internship’s differences, both editors seemed happy with my work and expressed they wished I could stay longer! I now write for the first magazine, which is beyond what I could’ve imagined when I began applying last year (have a read of my elated response to first-time publication here.) I’d like to stress that I had no contacts nor family members who have a clue about this industry. If I can do it, you most definitely can too! So from me to you, here’s how to become an intern.
Find Your Own Experience.
High-key every intern’s #goals
Before writing your CV you need relevant things to fill it with. Instead of waiting for opportunity to knock on your door, why not make your own? With the Internet at your fingertips there is no excuse. Gaining experience and building a portfolio is as simple as e-mailing your favourite blog and asking to contribute an article. Starting your own blog and making sure it’s in tip-top shape when future employers decide to Google you, and sincerely reaching out to growing online platforms asking to write for them. In the beginning I built my portfolio through Twitter search. I would search key phrases like “bloggers wanted” or “writers wanted” and volunteer my services (@UKFashionIntern is fab for this). You’d be surprised how far a well-composed e-mail can get you! Experience wise, you really don’t need anything fancy, you just need to show employers that you’re competent in the basics. So e-mail the editor of your local paper and ask to shadow someone for a week, or get down to your local radio and volunteer your time for a few days. If you’re at school or university make use of all the opportunities to write for the magazine or paper. This is all classed as experience, will build your portfolio and get you suited for an internship.
I think this is most important. Especially if you’re lacking in the experience department. It’s imperative to set yourself apart from all the other candidates who have the same or more experience than you. Two ways to get your application an eyebrow raise are your e-mail subject line and the aesthetic of your CV. Editors’ inboxes are filled with hundreds of e-mails a day so use your subject line to stand out from all the other intern e-mails. Make it short, concise but interesting so they have to read it. I’m not sure where I came up with mine, but I definitely did a ton of research, looked at lots of examples and steered away from the conventional. Think of it like a headline, but always ensure it’s appropriate.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your CV. Fashion and media are industries where creativity is celebrated after all, so you can afford to push boundaries with your application (although as was suggested to me by Heat’s Senior Editor, simplicity is often better). It’ll make you memorable and give you a chance to show your personality and how badly you want that internship. Think of the dozens of black and white word documents an editor receives then *boom* in comes your creative piece of curriculum vitae. At one of my internships, the editor showed my CV to the entire office and asked how I created it. I used photoshop (good way to showcase photoshop skills) in order to create an infographic CV. Infographics are a succinct means of getting your experience across, way more visual and fun to look at, and a great way to play on human psychology (psych student coming thru). Who wants to read through dozens of identical applications when you could present the same information through image, colour and an attractive aesthetic. Chances are they won’t be glossing over your CV. It’s different to the usual application so they’ll take note. If you dont know how to use photoshop - like me pre-CV - just google everything. Google is your friend.
Be as modest or as extra as you please
For infographic inspo I did a Google and Pinterest search for creative CVs. I saved my favourites and used them for inspiration on how to design my own. As mentioned in the intro, I based the colour scheme of my CV on the cover of the first magazine I applied to. Partly because the colours were soo beautiful, and because I wanted to impress them. I literally used a colour code finder to find the exact colours. If that doesn’t show how bad you want that internship I don’t know what could! A strong subject line and a pretty CV are bound to give you a good footing in the application process.
Here’s a buzzfeed link to CV ideas you could use for any job, not just creative ones
Use your Initiative/Be a Ninja.
Once you’ve got through the prelims and finally land that internship, it’s time to be on your A-game and stay on that A-game. Bring a notebook so you can take note of instructions, feedback and stay on track. It also makes you look like an eager beaver who’s ready to work. It’s important not just to do what you’re told, but to go beyond that. Do things that your editor didnt even ask or expect you to do. Make everyone’s life as easy as possible by doing more than you have to. So if you’re asked to write an article for online, write the tags and social media posts for it too. If you’re asked to research an interviewee organise your research in an easy-to-read format and suggest interview questions - even if you weren’t asked to. You must always be one step ahead. It’s important to be quick but not to sacrifice quality. So edit, edit, edit. You better be the most helpful and competent ninja that office has ever seen.
Carrie started as an intern. Who wouldn’t want to be Carrie?
Don’t be scared to contribute to discussions. An intern is still a part of the team so offer your ideas and when asked - dont be a neutral party - give your opinion. Be sure to make the most of your time at a publication and get to know people. A good conversation starter is to ask them questions about themselves. Like how they came to work there or any advice they could give you. Dont be a silent voice in the background, you’ve got to be a helping hand and a smiling face. Remember, these are the people giving you references and everyone seems to know each other in fashion, so they could recommend you to someone or even offer you a job based on how lovely you were during your stay.
Be a Nice Human.
UAL produced McQueen and Phoebe Philo. Their word is golden.
This is integral in any field. Be nice and respectful to any and everyone you meet. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met and googled when I got home only to realise how major they were. These are the people you could be working with one day or the key to your next opportunity. You need to be remembered as a pleasant and competent person because in order to advance, it really can be about who you know. So greet and say hello to everyone. Even if you’re shy and really awkward, you have to do it! Try to get as many contacts as you can and keep in touch. Whether that be e-mailing them for advice once, thanking them for your experience or offering your time to help them (I recently did this and ended up working at Topshop’s flagship for a few days - score!) This includes fellow interns. A lot of people in the industry started as interns - look at where they are now? Who’s to say that intern on the Mac next you won’t go on to work at a PR firm that might just be hiring, or recommend you when a last minute stylist assistant is needed? Just leave a good impression on everyone you meet, k?
In summary, get off your bottom and seek experience whether that be online or in your local area, get creative with your e-mail, cover letter and CV, always be one step ahead of your editor’s needs and treat everyone with upmost respect. Fashion and the media aren’t as mean as TV and film make them out to be. People tend to be very helpful. The opportunity is there you just have to be willing to go for it!