Before Cal State Fullerton would issue my diploma I had to complete an internship. Like any student with two part time jobs and a full course load this feat seemed rather unappealing and next to impossible. As a Journalism major I was expected to complete this requirement somewhere like the OC Register or some other respectable organization with journalistic integrity. The thought of writing for a newspaper sounded worse than not graduating at all, a mind numbing, soul suffocating experience that I could not bear. Since there were no fashion journalism internships available (that would satisfy graduation requirements) in Orange County I chose the only Fashion Industry internship was seemed acceptable; a modeling agency. I like to think that had I chosen to follow the path of lemmings on staff at the Daily Titan I would not be where I am today. No better, no worse, I just wouldn’t have found my passion and purpose. We all have to start somewhere and sometimes that means putting in your time as an intern before proving yourself worthy of a higher rank. There’s no shame in it. Take Tom Ford for example. After graduating from Parson’s, the former YSL and Gucci visionary interned in Chloe’s press office. Or Sylvia Plath (my favorite author). In 1953, Plath interned at Mademoiselle, an experience which she fictionalized in her novel “The Bell Jar.” At 16, Stella McCartney took an apprenticeship with Christian LaCroix.
Internships can dramatically impact your future career. Choosing an internship that’s right for you is decision I don’t recommend taking lightly nor procrastinating, such as my 23 year old mind instructed.
Consider your future.
Five years from now is your internship the type of place where you would like to be employed? Look at your internship as a first job. Choose your market segment and choose wisely. Want to work in Fashion? Don’t apply at Columbia Sportswear. Your first employer or internship can pigeon hole your resume into the types of companies who will even consider your candidacy for future employment. And the next, and so on. It’s a domino effect.
What are the benefits?
Beyond the name on your resume and school credit what other benefits does this internship offer? What’s in it for you? Can you utilize their network and contacts to find a full time job following the completion of a successful internship? Is there an opportunity to have your work published? If you select a smaller to medium sized company you’ll likely have an opportunity to take on larger projects that can be included on your resume to enhance your experience.
Paid vs. Unpaid
The great debate, should interns be paid? While you can find internships that offer compensation most will not. Consider Lauren Indvik, co-editor-in-chief of Fashionista who fondly remembers her internship at Vogue as worth every sacrifice. Should you dismiss these golden opportunities? It depends on what you’re looking to achieve. Remember, you can get a summer job at Dairy Queen. Can you get the experience you need serving Dilly Bars? You decide.
When choosing an internship, choose wisely. Just like a job search it’s better to be strategic and wait for the right fit as opposed to checking the box.
So how’s that internship search going?
Photo Credit: Fashionista