In case you’ve been living under a rock, Conde Nast (the mega publishing house of Vogue, Lucky, GQ, WWD just to name a few) has recently announced the discontinuation of its million-girls-to-die-for internship program starting in 2014. Cue the awws.
Ever since WWD reported the news, many online websites like Fashionista and Refinery 29 have expressed their views on the situation with number of comments exploding online sharing both positive and negative views on the great-unpaid internship debate. While some may release a sigh of relief, it does beg the question, “How does one find one’s way into the industry now?” I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
So what side am I on? As a fellow unpaid intern myself, I am not sure if I can “speak as a completely third party objective with absolutely no personal interest in the matter” (She’s The Man anyone?). But when a friend linked me to a recent piece on Man Repeller where the contributor posted quite the intriguing view on this whole debate, I felt compelled to also voice my opinion. I do want to point out that I’m still “paying my dues” as an intern, so I’m still currently learning and striving to achieve my dream career. So to contribute to this conversation, I’m only sharing my thoughts and feelings on what I’ve learned as an intern, which I think can apply to any type of internship.
1. As long as I’ve known, it’s kind of common knowledge that internships are unpaid (for now at least). So if you’re not okay with it, maybe you’re not cut out for this industry.
2. You need to have the heart and the drive to overcome all obstacles that come your way. Not saying it’s an easy industry, but you have to understand that anyone can do your job. It’s unlike professional careers (lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc.) where you build your foundation in a classroom. For many of the positions in fashion, you develop skills and experience on the job. So if you don’t have the passion for it, maybe it’s best to find something that better suits your lifestyle.
3. Many believe that unpaid internships are only left for those who can afford to not have a paying job, in other words, left for the “elite.” But many unpaid internships are not five days a week. No one is stopping you to find a paying job on the side (some even encourage it!). If you really want to make it in the industry, sacrifice your evenings and weekends of partying and find a part-time job. No one says this path was easy.
4. It’s so easy to learn so much about the industry with everyone on Twitter and Instagram. If you aspire to be an editor-in-chief like Eva Chen or Amy Astley,
stalk follow them. You get a little tidbit on what life is like inside the industry. But I recommend you to take it with a grain of salt. While your idols post fabulous pictures of them getting invited to runway shows, exclusive parties and given endless free stuff, it’s not all fun and games. So instead, see it as great motivational tools to inspire you to work hard and achieve your dream job.
5. It’s all about getting experience and networking. Everyone needs to go through this process, especially if you’re new in the industry. It’s no simple task to get your foot in the door of the fashion industry, but apparently once you’re in, you’re kind of “in”. So take advantage of parties and events. Get the courage to introduce yourself to people in the fashion world because you never know if they might be just the person to help you land your first job.
6. Treat your unpaid internship like a full time job because don’t forget a million girls would kill for this job. In other words, you’re always replaceable. So work hard and show your boss how much of an asset you are to the team to prove how badly you want this as your career.
7. Besides learning on the job, interns are also helping things run smoothly on the ship. While you may think you’re doing insignificant tasks, in actuality, you’re making your boss’s life a lot easier, so they can put their full and undivided attention on more important tasks like writing a final draft of a feature for a magazine. So although you may be replaceable, interns themselves are pretty crucial in the office.
8. Your boss in essence is like a teacher. Don’t ever forget the fact that you have the opportunity to learn from some of the most-respected editors, stylists, and photographers in the fashion industry. This itself should trump the whole not being paid issue.
9. On that point, your boss and supervisors are there to help you when it comes to exploring your options in the industry. While you may think you know what you want to do as your career, your boss actually knows the ins and outs of the business. So don’t be afraid to ask them questions like whether or not they can see you in the industry or what the next steps are. This is your opportunity to know whether you fit in, and who better to ask than the experts in it already.
10. Don’t give up. Take your passion and make your dreams come true. =)
Till next time,