Monday, May 7, 2012

Tips on Having the Best Fashion Internship Ever (and other industries)

With the end of the school year around the corner for most people (and already here for people like myself) and many summer internships to follow, I felt it was fitting to do a post about the summer internship, specifically making sure you leave a lasting (a good lasting) impression during that internship. Ever since I had my first internship in 2010, the summer after my sophomore year, I have not stopped interning since in the industries of fashion, advertising and journalism. I have learned a LOT over these past two years from working alongside and networking with CEO's, executives, directors and various professionals and I'd love to share to prepare any others for success!

My experience includes:
NYC: Wieden+Kennedy (advertising agency for Nike, Old Spice, Target, among others) working on the Jordan brand, Intern to the Illustrator for VIBE Magazine & Hill Holliday (another ad agency) working on the Verizon account
DC: Wardrobe Assistant for stylist Daisy Lewellyn on a national TV show & Creative Director for IPO Clothing Company
LONDON: Stylist at Quality Knitwear Vintage Boutique, Wardrobe Assistant at London Fashion Week
(Just in case anyone wanted to know my qualifications)

One of the looks from the S/S 2011 Lookbook at my internship in London with QKW.
So, are you preparing for that big summer internship but don't know where to begin? Not sure what to expect? What is the best way to network or carry yourself in the corporate world? I felt the same way before my first internship so I've compiled a list of tips that have helped me along the way and allowed me to receive an internship this summer with another stylist who has worked for magazines such as Vogue and Elle, as well as a job offer at the headquarters of a major retail company in the Fall. So, take a look, write it down if necessary and utilize the tips because they worked for me =)

1) No headphones in the office:
While it is tempting to blare your favorite artist when the day drags on, it makes you seem uninvolved and unaware. You can be missing important information and you definitely don't want your boss to have to repeat themselves because your headphones are in. Plus, lots of information might be said throughout the day that you just don't want to miss so trust me, ditch the headphones until the work day is over.

At Dame Dash's museum in NYC the summer of my Wieden+Kennedy internship

2) Speak and introduce yourself to EVERYONE in the office that you see:
Now, this doesn't mean to literally go to every one's desk on your first day and say "Hi, I'm Nia" then move on to the person next to them. If you are in the kitchen for a coffee break and see someone you've never met, say hello! You never know who you might meet. The HR coordinator at one of my old internships said she once sat at the receptionist desk before interviews just to see the candidates come in. One candidate came and didn't even acknowledge her, as if she was less important because she was the "secretary". Boy was he surprised when she said "Okay, thanks for waiting. We can go back to my office for the interview." At Wieden+Kennedy, the CEO has been known to sometimes dress as a janitor for the fun of it. You never know who you will encounter so be humble, say hello and network!

Treat everyone the same, from janitor to CEO, and meet everyone that you can! (WK NYC office)

3) Ask for business cards and give out yours:
Whether you wait until the internship is over or when you first meet someone ALWAYS get the business card. The contact is not a true relationship formed if you have no way to reach out to them after the summer is over. Simply say something like "It was great talking to you, is it okay if I have a business card to reach out for further questions?" and most people are more than happy to oblige. Remember if you didn't get their card, you didn't get the contact and make sure to give them yours in return. If you don't have one, make one quick, it is easy and simple from websites such as VistaPrint

4) Always maintain professionalism in the office:
Even if people are cursing, gossiping and being casual with you, remember to be professional with them. It is okay to have fun and joke, but as an intern you are always being watched and you are the newest employee there! Do not get too comfortable because you want them to remember you as a professional so you can be in their minds as a great candidate for a full time position.
It's always cool when your office has toys like this to play with but remember, you are there to work so that comes first! (At the WK Office in Portland)

5) Don't be a lush at office parties:
If you are old enough to drink, you will see that office parties are a fun time for free food, networking and free drinks! However, while there will likely be beer and wine in abundance, drink responsibly and sparingly! No one wants to be the drunk girl or guy at the work party, especially not the intern. It's not classy or appropriate and once again, you're always being watched! If you are not 21, just don't even try it.

6) Get involved with the company's extracurriculars:
I joined my company's softball team as an intern for Hill Holliday and had an amazing time! It was fun, got me out of work an hour early once a week and a way to form a more personal relationship with some of the professionals at the office. If you have the time and your company has any teams, try to join!
Two other interns and myself pose as we prepare for the week's softball game. We mean business! 

7) Be willing to do whatever they need (within boundaries of course)
Getting coffee, printing power points all day, maybe even walking the dog...whatever the boss needs you to do is what your job is! So many people are unable or unwilling to humble themselves for the less luxurious responsibilities like the ones mentioned but for those that do, it shows that you truly want the position and are willing to help in any way that you can. Your small deeds will not go unnoticed.

Preparing looks for QKW's S/S 2011 Lookbook was extremely fun but the tasks will not always be preferable. 
8) Use down time as chances to network and help others
Whenever I had down time in any of my internships, I always went to other departments that I was interested in and introduced myself, like the Art Buying department at Hill Holliday. Then, I would ask if they needed help with any of their projects. It was a way to meet even more people in the office and work on something that I had more of a passion with, like art. From there, I was invited to various events with the head Art Buyer at Hill Holliday, including a party where I had the chance to meet celebrity and entertainment photographers like Kwaku Alston!

Stylist Daisy Lewellyn and I talked and took pictures during down time at the TV show shooting. 

9) Ask Questions:
You can never ask too many questions and no question is a dumb one. Your boss and the others in your department completely understand that you are an intern, and they have all been in your shoes. Ask for further explanation when you are confused and don't be scared to ask questions about their career in general as people love to talk about themselves =)

10) Create something your company will love!
When you have down time, it is cool to think of a project that you can work on and leave with your company as a memory of you and to further inspire them. For example, when I interned at Wieden+Kennedy, another intern and I developed a WK Lookbook in which we featured the fashion styles of the employees. We later expanded the lookbook to include the Portland employees (including the CEO) and ended up having our blog featured on the WK official website! It was yet another way to network and it's something that company will have from us forever.

Here is one of the images from our lookbook that we created! 

Trust me when I say, I have so much advice to give and this just barely touches the list of things that can help  you fulfill your internship to the fullest. Please feel free to shoot me any questions if you want to know more and I'll be happy to answer! If there is anything you want me to add let me know! =)

Best of luck in your internship and wish me luck at mine ;-)



  1. Great post and advice. Girls everywhere working their way towards a career should read this.


    1. Thank you! I hope more people read this because this advice helped me through my internships and I really think it will help more.


  2. Lovely post

  3. Great Tips for interns! I'm printing this up and handing it to some of my interns!

    One small common sense fact but is often over looked, "Try to be punctual and respectful of the company's time." So many of my interns show up when they want to show up. I had a girl just yesterday not show up at ALL. It's really rude.

    They don't understand that an internship is not just an internship.

    1. Wow, how bold (and unprofessional) of that intern to just plain not show up! I appreciated all of my internships so much and understood how important they were to my future. I hope that your interns will benefit from my tips and please let me know if you'd like me to mention any more ;-)

      thanks for reading!


  4. Great tips!!


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