23/06/2017
Where do I sign?

Words by

Alyce Cowell

During my short-lived yet illustrious career as an intern, I worked at a stuffy newspaper. It is one that shall not be named, because I’m about to take it to the cleaners.

It was 2005, so internships were very, very different. I was shooed away a lot. I was told to sit with journalists and read over their shoulder, which was a bit awks because they were mostly replying to personal emails. I was asked to read the newspaper with a fine-tooth comb, which I still claim I could’ve done at home in my pyjamas. Also, while I was there, 1984 called and asked for their décor and fashion sense back, but that’s just obviously me being bitter about being put in the motoring department.

In this day and age, internships can be insanely good. You learn things and get to contribute ideas. You work on fun projects like ‘trend research’ and ‘event execution’, instead of ‘getting coffees’ and ‘sitting’. It gives you a little taste of what life could really be like working in the industry, and it makes you want to stay – badly. 

So when your time as an intern has finally come to an end, how can you convince the company to keep you on as a full-time employee, swipe card and all? We went straight to the source and asked around. Maybe just don’t tell your employer you read this article… you just naturally knew this stuff.

From a start-up PR agency

onetwo agency is a Melbourne-based boutique agency specialising in PR, events and digital strategy. It was founded in July 2016 by Tessa-Jay Slight and Rachel Hayes, after a decade of making their way up the PR ladder.

PR – and in particular, fashion PR – is a tough but popular industry to get into. Why do you think that is?

We get intern requests on a daily basis! Thanks to the digital and influencer worlds, it’s become a dream job, so it’s a very popular industry for university students. PR is more of a full-time lifestyle than a job though, so if you love what you do, it will be the best move you make. 

What tasks do you give interns to give them a snapshot of what life is like working in the industry?

Day-to-day, the interns assist with the fashion showroom, briefs to the magazines, researching influencers and creating lists. We try and provide them with a broad range of tasks in the fashion, lifestyle and hospitality departments, as well as attending events to get a feel for agency life.

What can an intern do to impress you?

We look for a person with lots of excitement and motivation, and one who is really passionate in areas such as fashion and food. We also look for a candidate who is proactive and can multi-task – you can pick them out pretty quickly! Also, bringing coffee to the office helps. 

Is there a secret weapon for turning your internship into a full-time job?

Think outside the box, always ask questions and offer help with other projects once you’ve completed a task. Also, hard work! Always act and work as if a full-time job is a possibility, because you never know.

What should you do if you want an internship or job with a PR industry?

  1. Email us with a cover letter and CV
  2. Show your real personality at the interview
  3. Research the company and clients 
  4. Always arrive on time
  5. Send a follow-up email. You’re about to start your path in the PR industry, it’s all about communication!

What are five definite no-nos when it comes to being an intern? 

  1. Don't contact via text, Instagram DM or Facebook Messenger 
  2. Don't forget to attach your CV and cover letter to the email 
  3. Don't be shy. It can be portrayed as rude or not interested 
  4. Don't forget to ask how you can help 
  5. Don't forget to communicate. Let your team know what you are working on and once you have completed a task 

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From a real-life intern-turned-employee

Jordan Drummond started as an intern at Australian Style Institute (ASI) in 2014. After interning for two days a week over nine months, she asked ASI director, Lauren Di Bartolo, for a job. Bold move, but it worked.

Why did you apply for an internship at ASI?

I had previously completed a writing internship with an online travel and food publication ‘Lunch Magazine’ and was looking to keep interning. The fashion industry had always really interested me and given I wasn’t a designer, applying for something in communications made sense. ASI’s internship caught my eye because it wasn’t your typical ‘fashion’ job. The combination of styling and education wasn’t an area I knew existed and it seemed like an intriguing space to work in.

What did you get up to every day as an intern? 

It’s such a cliché, but no day was the same. At the time, ASI’s Instagram account really needed some love, so social media was a big part of it. I also worked on event preparation for the courses, interviewed students for testimonials, assisted on photoshoots and marketing plans and handled internal student communications.

Time to toot your own horn – why did ASI ask you to stay on as an employee?

I’m a big believer of ‘if you never ask, you’ll never know’. By the time I asked for a job, I had cemented myself pretty well within the small team and I’d proven I was truly passionate about the ASI brand and what it stood for! I think it was a combination of that, and Lauren’s belief in my abilities.

What qualities did you make sure to put on show?

I think my ability to adapt was probably something that aided my success – it’s really important to be flexible. Having reasonably strong writing skills has always worked in my favour too, and I think it’s a really important aspect to a lot of jobs. Attention to detail is also key, particularly in our industry (and to my boss!), so this was something I always strived to be great at. 

What are your best pieces of advice for wannabe full-time employees?

  1. Make sure you pay attention to detail. The little things will set you apart, whether that’s emptying the office dishwasher of your own accord or re-organising the storeroom.
  2. Build strong relationships and connections, as you never know where and in what lifetime you might meet someone again.

What are five definite ‘don’ts’? 

  1. Don’t do an internship just because uni requires you to. Make sure you choose to intern with a company that actually interests you.
  2. Don’t be a hero. Always ask for help if you need it. 
  3. Don’t get taken advantage of. If it’s not an equal exchange, move on!
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Make the most of being on your ‘Ls’.
  5. Don’t give me problems… give me solutions! Being a proactive problem solver will make you an asset to any company, so think outside the box, square, hexagon, triangle, whatever!

_____

From a big fashion brand

Group Executive of Product and Business Innovation, Julie Christy, drives the internship programs at Cotton On Group in partnership with RMIT, Melbourne School of Fashion and Gordon TAFE.

We’ve just landed an internship at Cotton On Group. What projects can we expect to be working on?

If you’ve just been accepted into a buying or production internship, you’d be busy with colourcard creation, garment measuring, trend research, CAD sketching and sample cataloguing.

You run specific internship programs at Cotton On Group, what’s an example of one of these?

Recently, we ran a two-week program of eight students, who were allocated to their brands of interest with a structured timetable. This allowed them to observe and participate in trade meetings, product fittings and ranging sessions. At the end, the students were paired up and given a project: redesign one of our best selling styles, then present a storyboard of trend research, sales analysis and CAD sketches. Seven of these students transitioned to full-time roles once they finished their tertiary courses.

What specific qualities really stand out to an employer?

We have a strong focus on culture here at Cotton On, so we look for people that show initiative, are team players, are passionate about what they do, and always strive for “ever better.” 

What are your top five tips for new interns?

  1. Always look professional and well-groomed (in the fashion world, we still encourage individual dressing)
  2. Be enthusiastic, but not disruptive
  3. Give 100% to every task
  4. Be assertive enough to suggest ideas (while still being respectful) 
  5. Look for ways to contribute, no matter how small, even if it is hanging samples without being asked

What are your five pieces of advice on what not to do?

  1. Don’t spend time on your phone
  2. Don’t look disinterested 
  3. Don’t be late
  4. Don’t walk away from a mess
  5. Don’t be disruptive 

Illustration by Twylamae.

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