It’s never too early to start your dream career, especially when it’s a tough industry like fashion. The problem is, you have the catch-22 of getting entry-level experience: To get experience, you need experience. So how do you go about getting your first job or internship when you don’t have a previous experience? WHAT IS THIS CONSPIRACY??
What they don’t tell you is that you do have previous experience. Maybe it’s not an internship, but by the time you’re in college looking for internships, you’ve got plenty of valuable stuff under your belt, from school to extracurricular activities, to your personal passions and interests. The trick is packaging. Yup, packaging. It’s all in the presentation.
After lots of trial and error and Internet research, I was able to spin what little experience I had into resume gold. I turned my after-school retail job and my one year of college education into the first internship of my dreams at Note To You Little Sister (NTYLS), a San Diego-based online fashion retailer with killer clothes and an amazing brand story.
Here’s how I did it:
The internship search
Finding your passions and shooting for the moon and all that
It’s a rough time applying to summer internships as a sophomore. You’re competing with people who have eons of experience ahead of you. But I was both stubborn and stupid, which isn’t a bad combination when it comes to the gutsy experience of going for jobs way beyond your reach. Because guess what? You’ll get rejected, but you never know where you’ll get accepted. I applied to PR agencies that would probably not even give a junior in college the time of day, but what did I know? I just kept trying.
Tip: Start with what you’re naturally interested in, and go from there. Make a list of everything you want to apply to, even if you don’t think you’re qualified yet.
I knew I wanted to work in fashion, so I applied to big fashion brands like Free People, Nordstrom, and also smaller boutiques that I found on Instagram and just Google. I made a spreadsheet of all my dream jobs and internships, from ones I thought I had a reasonable chance with, to ones I had no business applying to. And I ended up landing one of the internships I thought I had no business applying to. You are not wasting your time if you really care about the places you apply to.
Standing out both visually and verbally
Knowing I had to stand out even more as a sophomore, and because I was applying to a creative industry, I designed my resume with some flair. I used Canva to create a gorgeous, personalized resume that was so unbelievably extra I couldn’t even believe what I had done. But guess what? BEING EXTRA WORKS. Job searches are the time to be extra, ladies and gentlemen.
(Are there any gentlemen reading my blog? I have no idea, to be super honest.)
Then, I had to make the content sing. Since I was focusing on fashion jobs, I focused my experience on fashion. My first job was at a local clothing store, so that was great, but I also had to connect my jobs as a cashier at the campus bookstore, a ride operator at Legoland, and a writing tutor. Not as easy. Yet there are so many ways to make connections– for example, with the writing tutor position, I described how I build relationships with each unique individual that comes in for tutoring, and connected that with managing client relationships in PR.
Tip: Think about how your experiences can directly apply to the job you want, even if it doesn’t seem applicable at first.
At your first job in Hollister (or Taco Bell, or wherever), you may think that all you did was fold clothes and operate a cash register. But there’s more to it, so don’t sell yourself short. You have experience working with customers. You worked on a team. You addressed problems and handled challenges that came up.
The cover letter
Being direct and being different
How many cover letters in fashion do you think have the phrase, “I have a passion for fashion”? I would literally guess that 90% of them. And the people in charge are tired of it. They’re also tired of cover letters that aren’t personalized.
Tip: Cookie cutters are for cookies, not cover letters.
When sending out applications and emails, I always, ALWAYS started with a personal connection to the company, and then made everything I talked about directly relate to what I could do for that company. NTYLS was founded by sisters, and operates with the mission of offering sisterly advice and hand-picked clothes. When applying, I told the founders that I related because my own sister and I steal each other’s clothes, and I genuinely loved what they were all about.
Fake it ’till you make it (in a good way)
Don’t have professional work samples yet? Make them up. I don’t mean lie– I mean impress the company you’re interviewing for with work samples that you created on your own as if you already worked there. For example, when I applied to places like Nordstrom and Free People, I sent a press release announcing Nordstrom’s new fall boot looks, with actual photos and links to shoes they carried. For FP, I wrote a pitch as if I were pitching Free People products for a holiday gift guide to an editor at Refinery29. And for NTYLS, the job I got, I wrote copy for an advice column I saw on their website. The devil is in the details, and you can show the company that you did your research.
Tip: Use your resources to look as professional and polished as possible.
I didn’t have enough school training yet to know exactly how to write a press release or a good pitch, but thankfully Google exists and you can learn a thing or two yourself! Be confident that you are capable of more than you know!
Show up prepared. In fact, overprepared.
I don’t actually think it’s possible to be overprepared for an interview. Beyond the typical answers to interview questions like “Tell me your greatest accomplishment” and “What do you think makes you different from other candidates?” I came in armed with knowledge of everything there was to know about fashion and NTYLS.
I made a list of fashion industry trends and my favorite bloggers, and scoured the NTYLS website and social media to prove I understood the company and meant business. During the interview, I referred to specific things, like a kimono I saw for sale on the site or an Instagram post. My interviewer let me know later that very day that I was hired.
Remember that you should have all the confidence in the world. After all, if you’re applying to internships early in the game, you’re already proving that you can think one (or two) steps ahead.
Coming up next, I’ll post about my experience in the fashion world, and how I eventually made the move to beauty!
We’ve all got dreams about where we want to be. For some, it’s the beach. For others, it’s In-N-Out (me, 90% of the year when I’m away at school in Missouri). And for so many, it’s working in the fashion and beauty industry. Which happens to be one of the hardest, most competitive fields to be in.
Many people ask me how I ended up doing PR for fashion and beauty retailers. The simple answer to give is that if you’re passionate enough about something, the rest follows. I’ve always been inspired by fashion retailers, magazines and bloggers, and I was naturally doing my thing following online fashion retailers when I discovered NTYLS. They just happened to be hiring for a Marketing Communications Intern. I just happened to love their style and their story. And the founders just happened to love my style and story when we met over coffee.
But that’s not the whole way it happens. Yes, I got totally lucky, but if I hadn’t been actively searching for places to draw inspiration from, and if I hadn’t put myself out there, and if I hadn’t spent a thousand hours working hard on my writing and marketing skills, there’s no way I would’ve gotten my first fashion gig. And there’s no way that gig would have led to my next gig at Ulta Beauty, my big break in the beauty industry, or Ketchum, my big break in the agency side of PR.
Landing your dream job in the place you’re passionate about is completely possible, even probable. But the pieces of your puzzle won’t fall into place unless you get the pieces first. Here are my pointers for working hard and sending good vibes to the universe:
- Be genuine. Before I was hired at Ulta Beauty, one of my interviewers asked me who my favorite beauty bloggers were, and what my favorite makeup brands were (of course I said the Urban Decay Naked Palette, like the majority of girls in the United States). If you really do care about the industry, you’ll have no problem being enthusiastic and knowledgeable. And your employers will see it.
- Search for opportunities, and make doors open even if they look closed. An amazing job isn’t going to drop into your lap one day while you’re eating your In-N-Out burger, unless you look like a model and a scout discovers you, in which case, can I switch lives with you for a year before I go back to eating In-N-Out? If you’re a normal person, you’re going to need to dig, dig, dig for opportunities. Make a list of places you’d love to work for. Keep an eye out for openings, or even reach out and pitch your talent to them. You never know when someone might need you. When I got the Ulta internship, it’s because my eyes were open and I saw the LinkedIn job posting, not because a recruiter plucked me from obscurity.
- Work, work, work, work, work. Says Rihanna. Listen to her. Yes, it should be fun pursuing your passion, but it also comes with developing serious skills. The most successful people spend a lot of their free time doing the hustle instead of watching Netflix, and the people who say you’re too obsessed with your career are the people who are in disbelief when you end up landing your dream. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll find yourself rising above everyone else who just does their required work and calls it a day.
- Find a support system. I would not be blogging about reaching my dream career if I wasn’t surrounded by friends and family who are 110% behind me and my craziness. My boyfriend, bless his heart, knows to expect my frantic phone calls about things he knows nothing about (such as the Urban Decay Naked Palette). And he knows how important it is that I do what it takes to make things happen. Nothing can replace that, and you need it.
- Figure out what sets you apart. What are you good at, that other people aren’t? For me, it’s being able to learn a lot of info in a little bit of time. Or walking into a room and getting along with just about any stranger there. Or putting myself into anyone’s shoes so I can write from their perspective. These things are hard for many people, and I use it to my advantage when seeking out opportunities. Find your unique strengths, write them down somewhere, remember them when you write cover letters, go to interviews, or go to the office.
- Always send positive energy. Attitude is everything, and when you’re going for a competitive field, so many people want your spot that nobody with a negative attitude ever makes it. When you love the universe, the universe loves you right back. It’s a simple concept that everyone knows, but not everyone can practice.
You’ll figure out pretty fast that 90% of the people in this world do things because people tell them to. I made that statistic up, but I would bet that it’s close to the truth. Few of us actually care enough to tell ourselves what to do, and when we do, others think it’s weird. But whatever. Let your freak flag fly. Because when you’re able to tell yourself what to do instead of waiting for someone else to, that’s how you become the boss.
Easier said than done, though. Which is why not everyone can be a boss.
It’s all fine and good to say you’re a driven self-starter, but it’s another thing to actually be one.
It means not sleeping in until your first obligation (11 a.m. class) and getting your butt out of bed to work on a paper at 9. It means waiting to binge-watch Riverdale until a night you don’t have anything else you need to be doing. And it means learning how to manage yourself, because you are a human being and not a machine that can automatically sit and do stuff. Here’s how:
Get the crappy stuff out of the way before you do the fun stuff.
You might be super excited to write a blog post or do an interesting project or get started on a paper that actually sounds fun, but to really focus, you need to clear out the cobwebs. If you have boring things hanging around in the back of your mind, it makes it harder to really enjoy doing the other things. So just do all the things.
Treat yo self.
If I have something to look forward to, it’s a lot easier to try to get things done. I’ll tell myself a goal– like, answer those emails you did not want to touch– and then once I get to that goal, I’m free to take the longest shower of my life and spend the rest of the night painting my nails, grabbing ice cream with BF, and/or watching the latest leaked Game of Thrones episode. Block out time for something fun– like, going out with friends at 9– and then tell yourself you need to get everything else done before that time.
I repeat: Do. Not. Multitask. Seriously.
I know you really, really want to multitask. Don’t do it.
They have done the studies and the facts are the facts: Multitasking does not help you. It only hurts you. It makes you so much less productive, because the time you spent shifting your attention to a new task is time you can spend on your current task. I know you think you can be a superhuman and those facts don’t apply to you, but you are a human being and you are just simply not built to do it. More on this later, because I can take a whole blog post just on this.
Alternatively, build out 20-30 minutes at a time just on one specific task. And if you’re feeling flow, just keep going.
Get out of your house.
I’m currently sitting outside the library, because on my way home I randomly saw an open table and decided to sit down instead. I have accomplished so much more in my hour outside than in five hours on my bed. Find your happy place for work– it shouldn’t be the same as your happy place for relaxation. I don’t care if it’s the library, Starbucks, or even your car dealership while you’re waiting for an oil change. I do that sometimes. Oil changes are some of my post productive hours. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll be sitting in a quiet lounge drinking free coffee at Toyota.
Practice yoga and exercise.
If you’re just sitting like a bump on a log all day, you’re going to put yourself in a slump where you never reach the right state of mind to work. This shouldn’t be hard on yourself– if it’s too much of a pain to get to a gym during your working hours, set up a yoga mat by your desk and take 20 minutes to breathe and stretch. It will make a world of difference. I personally don’t know how to teach myself yoga, so don’t let that stop you. Go on YouTube and find a free class. I like this one for a quick detox.
Yoga not your style? It’s not always mine either. Go to a spin class. Play football. Or literally just exit your building and walk for five minutes around the block. Just do something active, even if it’s the last thing you think will help, because even just a few minutes of exercise can get the brain going.
Just start. Tell yourself you don’t even have to finish it. Because once you start on a task, even without the intention of spending a lot of time doing it, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is just to keep going and finish it. Starting is the hardest part, and it’s also the easiest, so do yourself a favor and trick yourself into doing it by starting it.
Anyone else have ideas for staying self-motivated? Anything weirder than going to a car dealership? Please spill.
It can be frustrating spending the summer in the ~adult world~ at an internship, only to have to go back to school in the fall. I’ve spent the past three summers doing internships, and every time I went back to school, it felt like I was putting my life on hold instead of getting ahead. But this isn’t the right way to think (you are in school to get your degree and therefore get ahead, after all), and you can still take advantage of your time in school by developing new skills and gaining different experience.
Which sounds like bullshit, but I am not here to bullshit you. Some people spend college doing the minimum, which involves skipping lectures and selling your textbooks halfway through the semester to buy a burger (guilty as charged on the latter). You are going to spend it possibly doing those things, but also still growing on a personal and professional level. You can have it all. You can enjoy a burger bought using
blood textbook money and simultaneously become extremely hireable.
Sound too hard? Here are a few different plans of action for continuing your career while still making it to class and slaying that degree:
Plan A: Continue your work for the company you interned at
If you have a strong desire to keep working your internship and think you can handle it (school is, like, hard sometimes), ask if there’s a way you can continue after class. If you’e in the area, you can offer to stay on part-time at the office, or you can help out remotely. I had one internship that let me extend my internship through fall and work virtually from school, since I didn’t have to physically be in the office to do my job effectively. It will depend on your industry, relationship with the company, and geographical/time constraints.
Pro tip: Give them a reason to let you stay on– pitch your contributions and show them that they still need you!
Plan B: Freelance for local businesses and nonprofits
If continuing the internship isn’t an option, you can also take on freelance work. Into music and event promotion? Offer to help out your local concert venue. Enjoy shopping and social media? Ask around at the fashion boutiques in your town to see what you can do for their Instagram. Do you already feel passionate about a nonprofit in your area, and think you can contribute your professional talents to their cause? Volunteer on a whole new level. My sorority works with the Alzheimer’s Association, for example, and I would love to do PR for them while I’m in grad school.
Plan C: Work on your resume and personal brand
This actually should’t be a Plan C; it should just always be an ongoing focus as you start out in your career. It takes serious time and energy to update your LinkedIn profile, re-design your resume, maintain a personal website and construct a portfolio. Or at least, if you’re doing all of these things right. In school, you’ll have more time on your hands than when you’re working a full time job, so take this as an opportunity to spend time on yourself.
Also, remember that you just finished your internship, so it’s important to update everything with that new position under your belt! Know it’s a pain. Just do it.
Plan D: Learn and develop new skills
At your internship, did you realize you could work on certain areas to make you stronger in that industry? Now is the time to work on those areas. I learned over one summer that Excel spreadsheets are a major part of entry-level work in PR (Surprise! Sometimes your dream job involves things you thought you were avoiding). So now I know to focus more on learning the ins and outs of Excel, and it’ll make me an even stronger candidate since many PR/journalism/communication majors don’t think to learn it. There are plenty of online resources for teaching yourself skills, and taking the time to develop those skills while everyone else was snoozing through class will set you apart.
2017-2018 is going to be an amazing school year, and you can make it an amazing professional year, too!
Every morning at 8 a.m., I get to the office, turn on my computer, and read the entire Internet.
Okay, not quite. But close enough. It’s part of my job to do a sweep of every major news outlet, checking for news about my clients, the industry, competitors, and any other notable stories that a company’s leaders need to know.
It’s also part of my job to keeping up with trends, getting better at my career, and understanding what’s relevant in today’s society. Pretty tall order, right? Luckily, my go-to list of daily media outlets help me stay on top of everything I need to know, from the latest trending makeup look on Instagram to the most important mergers and acquisitions of the week.
- Refinery29: If I had to pick a number one, R29 would be it. Which is probably why I listed it first.
- TeenVogue: I’m not a teen, fine, but TeenVogue is still relevant. Lately their articles have been spitting straight truth.
- Bustle: An all-around great site with the most up-to-date headlines. If it’s a thing, chances are it’s already on Bustle.
- Brit + Co: The ultimate DIY site. Enough said.
- Corporette: An awesome work-fashion combo blog catering to overachievers.
- The Everygirl: A down to earth site with some of the most inspiring career stories and advice.
These are all like spinach for the brain: Not the most exciting, but good for you.
In other words, print magazines that people are forgetting about. These all have webites, of course, but there’s nothing like the “thump”– the sound you hear of a print magazine landing on your coffee table.
- The New Yorker
You’ll find a ton of articles telling people how to be more productive and get things done. Well, here I am to tell you how I don’t get things done.
If I don’t write it down, I don’t get it done.
Think you’ll remember that mental note? Think again. Everything will fly right out of your head the minute after you tell your boss, “Yeah, I can definitely do that!” And then you don’t.
Use a Post-It. Keep a notebook on you. Set reminders on your phone. Whatever you need to do to get it out of your head and into the physical realm ASAP.
If I don’t tell someone I’m doing it, I don’t get it done.
It’s not always enough to hold yourself accountable. If someone knows what you need to do, even if it’s just your roommate, you’ll still feel more responsible for doing it.
If I don’t block off time, I don’t get it done.
Literally schedule time on your calendar to do a task. Treat it like an important meeting.
If I don’t list my tasks in order of importance, I don’t get a single thing done, I just sit there and panic at all the things I need to do and then don’t do anything.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. I’ll say it one more time: Prioritize. Categorize emails based on level of importance– this is like dividing and conquering, because once you split up your tasks, you’re mentally putting things into more manageable chunks. It’s still the same amount of work, but because you’re separating your tasks into groups, you can tackle one group at a time without feeling overwhelmed.
Once the panic sets in, it’s hard to stay focused, and you’re so distracted worrying about the things you need to do that you don’t do any of it.
If I don’t stay organized, I don’t get it done.
Because if you lose the thing you were supposed to do, you can’t do it.
If I don’t get it started, I don’t get it done.
The hardest part is when you actually start doing the thing. Until then you just procrastinate and do other things.
If I don’t have coffee in my system, I don’t get it done.
In honor of both Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday (they’re back to back, which means I get two excuses in a row to tell him how awesome he is), I’m going to start the week off with some of his advice: Most of success is just being there.
Whenever he says that, I think he’s referring to the famous Woody Allen quote– 80 percent of life is showing up. Or maybe the Thomas Edison quote about genius being 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent perspiration. Well, whatever the percentage, one thing is obvious: To do well in something, half the battle is showing up (or more than half…60 percent? Oh, forget it).
To do well in something, half the battle is showing up.
Today was one of my roughest days as an intern so far this summer, which is saying a lot, because interning at a large PR agency is no joke. I had to hide in a bathroom stall for five minutes to do deep-breathing exercises and pretend for a second that email did not exist. When you watch the work pile up, and your day get longer and longer, and your chances of making it home in time for The Bachelorette get slimmer and slimmer than the Bachelorette herself, it’s easy to feel like giving up and calling it a day. And why not? Why not settle for leaving tasks for the next day?
You already know the answer, because you’re reading this blog. You don’t settle. You sure could. But deep down, you know that buckling down and tackling that to-do list for two more hours means the world to your team. You know that you are there to do your job, and do it well. And you know that as long as you are there– as long as you haven’t walked out of that office– you are already so much closer to your goals than everyone that marched out at 5 p.m. Yes, it’s demoralizing to be the last one sitting in a dark, quiet cube on a Monday night. But it can be empowering instead. Put on headphones and blast whatever EDM it takes to get in a zone. Grab a coffee (obvi). And chug away, both on the coffee and the work.
Mondays are the worst because they’re about showing up. It’s so hard to show up after a weekend of not showing up. But once you’re there, you’ve already made it halfway/80 percent/99 percent depending on who you ask. I firmly believe that the first person in the office and the last person out are both the people that will be taking the corner office one day, if they don’t already have it.
They say work smarter, not harder. But sometimes, it doesn’t take smarts to get somewhere; it just takes tenacity. Thomas Edison would know. And if he can invent the lightbulb, well, you can probably fill out a spreadsheeet for another hour or two.