We’ve always been told to grab opportunities with both hands, but sometimes it may be counterproductive.
I had an interview at ELLE for a year-long paid internship as a Fashion Assistant. In that interview I was praised by one of the editors for having taken on so many different internships, however, she noted that only one of them bore any relevance to the role I was currently being interviewed for – That being a two-week stint at The Sunday Times Style in the fashion cupboard. My other previous experience included roles in marketing, PR, and social media. What I really wanted to do was style and write and while those previous roles had elements of each, they weren’t necessarily directly focused on my big goal.
What the interviewer was trying to point out was that I wasn’t prioritising what I needed out of an internship but sooner trying to squeeze in as many I could; whether or not they were relevant to my desired career path. Rather than connecting the dots I was adding more dots and spiraling way out of focus, creating a web of experience that didn’t really make sense or correlate with each other. I was falling off the track and I needed to get back onto it.
Very early on, I found myself being shut down with the classic “You need more experience” line and that pressured me to feel like I needed to take on as many fashion internships as possible. Yet what this interviewer said was a real lightbulb moment for me. She helped me realise that I was so focused on getting ‘any’ experience that I’d lost sight of what I actually wanted to do and was working extremely hard, but not so smart. Smart work should always come before hard work.
By taking on these fashion internships there was no real career progression, just frantic interning in a million and one fashion roles that were too widespread to make sense. Don’t get me wrong all experience is good experience and I learned a lot on those jobs. However, I feel like I almost backtracked on myself for a moment, instead of providing myself with the tools that I needed to navigate my career with confidence. I was knocking myself back, burning myself out and ultimately not really enjoying what I was doing.
If it’s your dream to become a Fashion Editor, then intern with magazines but only in areas that count to the bigger goal. If you want to become a Head Buyer at Selfridges then work in-store and get to know your customer. While I think it’s important to be educated in all aspect of fashion, strategically interning with the mindset of quality over quantity will put you in a better position in the long run.
Make a list of the places you really want to intern for, find out who works there, reach out to them, invite them for a coffee, go to events they’re going to, network with the correct people and it will put you in the correct places. Of course, career paths aren’t always linear, but progression is important, ask yourself questions like am I actually learning something? Is this beneficial to me? Am I enjoying it? Rather than applying for all the fashion internships that comes your way, think about whether you’re ‘climbing the ladder’ or simply ‘playing the field’. Ensure you are moving forward with your career rather than just moving around.
Words by Torey Cassidy