The Truth About Fashion Internships
So, what is an internship?
The opportunity to work for a company as an 'intern' for a fixed period of time; typically offered to students and undergraduates.
Now, let's look at my history of interning. From what I can remember, I have done three internships.
Social Media and Blogger Outreach Assistant
Utter throwback! Who remembers receiving an email from me regarding blogger reviews for iPhone cases? I landed this internship through an advertisement for interns that Iconemesis posted on social media. I popped them over a short email with a CV and soon found out they wanted to take me on. The position began in the summer so I was on the summer break from Uni. My job role involved creating a database from scratch for the blogger outreach side of things, constantly looking for new bloggers to work with, scanning blogs for coverage, running social media channels and creating graphics for the blog and website. It was initially just a two week placement but it ended up being extended to SIX months! I was over the moon and absolutely loved the placement but it was also not paying me for my time so when I returned to Uni, I found the workload quite a lot to handle.
Fashion PR Assistant
As part of a second year Uni module, I had to carry out a live industry based work placement. Even though I studied photography, I didn't exactly want to "be a photographer", so I managed to bag myself a placement working in a busy fashion PR office which looks after many sports brands including Bench and Puma. The placement was only two weeks long but it was around the time that their press day was happening so it was the perfect time for me to get an insight into the job role. There was a lot of packing samples to magazines, stylists and celebs, returning samples, tiding the showroom, scanning media for coverage and of course, setting up for the two day press day at a huge venue in central London.
Until then, I still had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I had now graduated and was now sitting at home wondering what on earth I could now do with my life. That was then when a brand new model agency followed me on Twitter. We got talking and I ended up landing myself a role which allowed me to really bring what I am all about to the table. I am a menswear photographer so I was given full control at heading the men's division (it was the dream, trust me) and I found myself attending amazing events with my boss. I quit my part time retail job I had (also my only source of income as this was a paid travel expenses plus commission position only) but soon found it difficult to live on next to nothing money. This was when I left the company and made the rash decision to become a full time blogger (something else I will talk about soon).
There appears to be more bad points than good points to interning so here is my little good vs bad list!
- Interning as much as possible makes your CV look amazing - it really does!
- Your confidence will grow - I used to be shy until I did my Fashion PR placement.
- Meet like-minded people - People who are just like you; ahhh-mazing!
- Future opportunities - longer placements, the opportunity to return in the future etc.
- Get a real look in at the job - distinguish whether you would like to do it as a career or not.
- Make contacts - soon enough, you'll have the whole team on LinkedIn...
- Learn new things - things you didn't know before!
- One step closer to your dream job - one step closer than you was before anyway...
- Possible paid position at the end - if you impress, it's possible.
Not so good points:
- Slaving away unpaid - interns are usually unpaid so you are considered 'working for FREE'.
- May end up building a brand from scratch for nothing - especially new companies.
- Sense of being used - as a blogger, I know all about social media engagement so e.g if I get a brand's Twitter following from 150 to 1500 in a week, I am essentially building them for free when most freelance social media engagers would charge.
- Full time job problems - it's hard to commit to full time internships if you work full time already.
- Usually travel expenses only - sometimes not even that is paid!
- Waste of time - I haven't touched Fashion PR since I interned in it. Pointless??
- Easily replaceable - Why would a company employ YOU at the end of it when they can get another intern in after YOU to work for free too?
- YOU are always considered 'the intern' - 'Hello John, this is Ashleigh; my intern'. (My slave, my dog's body, my unpaid working bitch...)
Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that various companies have given me but it's also ME that has gone chasing them. Nothing in life is handed to you on a plate. Whilst I think interning is somewhat essential if you want a job in the fashion industry, there are also a lot of things to consider. The majority of companies will not pay you and it's usually YOU that has to mention about paid travel expenses; and even then you feel like you're taking the piss. However, we shouldn't feel embarrassed to ask. Whilst we are essentially learning the job and getting training, we are also bringing something to the table. It could be customer service skills, blogging experience or social media control so technically we ARE working for free.
There are so many dodgy internships out there so if you're a naive person, then do your research into the company. On the other hand, there are always fantastic opportunities available which could potentially see you in a paid position at the end of your completed internship.
Whilst I don't think internships are completely wrong, I don't think they are completely right either. I would consider interning more in the future, but I would always make sure my travel expenses are covered and that the company is reputable.
Have you interned in fashion before? Would love to read your thoughts below!