How I landed my first fashion internship

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.

The resume

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.

The portfolio

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!

The interview

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!

XO,
CC

Continue building your career at school

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!

XO,

CC

 

 

Beauty in Transit

Lately I’ve found myself on a train with a bare face and 30 minutes to kill before I have to arrive somewhere and look like I didn’t just run out of my apartment.

Except I’m always racing against time, and when you have 5 minutes to hop on the Metra, mascara isn’t as important as making it there. The good news? My makeup bag is always with me, with beauty tools made for moments of panic.

Here are some pointers for beauty on the go, whether it be trains, planes or automobiles:

Foundation

Hopefully you got this on before you left the house– this one is most important to do under good lighting– but if not, no worries. Just make extra sure you’re blending with the right brushes.

Start with a primer that has SPF (ALWAYS SPF) and then use a BB cream that gives you nice coverage without being super heavy. When you’re applying quickly, you can’t afford to do heavy.

Be sure to use a brush that gets the job done in quick, broad strokes. I use the e.l.f flawless face brush.

Cheeks

A duo palette is the call here. I like the NYX Cheek Contour Duo Palette. If you can go pricier, Clinique and Tarte have great options. Right now I use Clinique bronzer, and apply it with the e.l.f fan brush.

Bonus points: Finish it off with highlighter to look like you really have it together.

And with that, you’ve gotten your base done. On to the hard part!

Eyes

If you’re a travel pro, you have the travel size Urban Decay Primer Potion.

It’s so itty bitty! Look at it next to my mascara!

Next, use a palette with your essential neutral shades. I usually have the original Urban Decay Naked or the Naked Smoky palette with me, but it’s not ideal since it takes up more space. Try a mini palette with the best of the basics. You can always darken it depending on where you’re going. A couple suggestions:

As for eyeliner: Beware of bumps, and choose an eyeliner that won’t smudge if you do hit something. The Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Waterproof Gel Pencil is a good smudge-proof option.

Mascara

When you need to swipe it on quickly, it’s important to have a mascara that will still achieve the same volume without being clumpy. I use the Clinique Travel Size Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara or the classic Maybelline Falsies to get the voluminous effect in seconds.

Lastly: Lips & Nails

When it comes to shaky transportation, you want to avoid neon-bright lip colors and lipsticks that are unforgiving with mess-ups. Opt for a neutral or light pink color in either a lip gloss or lip crayon, which won’t need as much precision and still looks great. The e.l.f. Lip Kiss Balm  is swell.

If you have time, paint your nails with another light, forgiving color. Then grab a magazine and your headphones to sit back and relax, knowing you just pulled off a polished look in the middle of rush hour. Not bad at all.

XO,

CC

 

 

 

Ballin’ on a budget: 10 actual fun things to do under $10

Part of working as an intern or entry-level employee is the less-than-ideal pay. We’ll all got to start somewhere, and most of us start on a limited budget. This is even trickier when you’re a 22-year-old surrounded by people with limitless energy and seemingly limitless bank accounts. It’s hard to be budget-conscious when everyone else wants drinks after work every day, dinners out every night, and plenty of shopping trips and coffee runs in between.

This summer, I’ve felt especially strapped for cash, as I complete an internship while living in downtown Chicago. As anyone will tell you, cities are expensive, and going out in Chicago for just one meal can mean $20-30 gone. 


The city is pretty but not cheap.

So my friends and I started getting creative with our weekend activities. Here’s 10:

1. Rent bikes


Chicago has an amazing bike rental system called Divvy bikes, and I know other cities have similar systems. Basically you pay ten bucks for a code, which you use to unlock a bike from any Divvy bike rack (there are Divvy racks everywhere). The code is good for 24 hours, which means you can bike around as much as you want- as long as you don’t have one bike out for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you’re active and you want to see your city in new ways, this one’s for you.

2. Visit Chinatown or Little Italy


On the other hand, if you mainly want cheap food and fun gift shops, Chinatown is for you. Little Italy is another great spot for great food amd a mini cultural adventure. The last time I went to Chinatown, I pigged out on dim sum, duck, and Chinese donuts. 

Caffeinated tip: Be sure to grab a cup of bubble tea while you’re there. It’s not coffee, but it’s the most fun you’ll ever have drinking tea.

3. Have a pizza picnic.


No matter where you go, you can always bring pizza with you. Order a box of ‘za, find a park/beach around you, and have a lovely date night outside with the love of your life: deep-dish sausage and pepperoni.

4. Ice cream in a new neighborhood 


Literally get on a train and go somewhere you haven’t been yet (I chose Wicker Park in Chicago), then make it your mission to locate THE best ice cream place (I chose Jeni’s). Alternative: The best taco place. Equally acceptable and potentially dangerous if they offer tequila shots.

5. Cheap (or free!) outdoor concert


Another benefit to cities: Concerts. I’m not talking music festivals, I’m talking those outdoor shindigs with families and lawn chairs. They’re actually fun. Bring beer and blankets, and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent happy hour.

I’ve seen Weezer and Passion Pit both for $20, and plenty of other shows for absolutely zilch. Check your fairgrounds and sports arenas– one time I stumbled on the Grateful Dead playing at Wrigley field.

6. Take a day trip to a brewery and take advantage of the free tour.

The MillerCoors tour in Milwaukee? Free. The three beers I got at the end? Priceless.

Even if you don’t drink beer, brewery tours are fun and you feel like you’ve learned something without being in a museum. The beer does not hurt either, though…

7. Shop the sale section of Forever 21.


Truly takes you forever. But it’s worth it when you find a killer romper for $2.99. And you’ve gotten the experience of a shopping trip without actually spending a fortune on two tops.

Alternatively, visit Goodwill or another thrift shop. There’s good stuff there for the taking if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. 

8. Go to a museum on a free day (or show a student ID if you can)


Most museums offer free days for residents and student discounts (even the Louvre). Check their websites and call around, then mark the calendar!
9. Rally the troops for bar trivia night.


Usually free, with great food and drink specials. If your friends are cool enough to not worry about looking cool, you’ll have a blast inventing an absurd team name and arguing over the answers to obscure 80’s song titles.

10. Stay in and have a Harry Potter marathon.
Arguably the best option of the ten. 

Im the end, even though they’re expensive, cities make up for it with all the free events and locations. You just have to know where to look!

XO,

CC

Interning after graduating: Is it worth it?

So you just graduated. What now?

Well, some may argue that it’s time to find a job. I agree with that– eventually. Because to find a job, you might need to consider an internship first.

A few reasons NOT to intern after you graduate:

You already have a great job lined up.

The internships you’ve gotten are unpaid (I advise against unpaid internships; in my opinion you should be doing real work and therefore should be paid. If you aren’t getting paid, you don’t be doing real work, and then what’s the point?)

You’re not trying to work.

A few reasons to intern after you graduate:

Your dream company hires entry level employees from their interns (this is a commonality in the PR/marketing/advertising industry, and I’ve seen it in plenty of others like accounting). 

You want to try out a career path before committing to it.

You’re breaking into a competitive industry.

You want to learn more about a company to see if you fit in.

It’s paid.

You’re going to graduate school and want to get experience over the summer.

You’ll gain experience that you would also gain as an entry-level employee (very true of my internship experiences).

You’re trying a new city.

You’re trying to be employed.

Graduation is merely a ceremony and you aren’t quite ready to be a full time adult yet so an internship is a good trial run for the real world.

Yeah, that one.


The bottom line: An internship is often a stepping stone to a full-time job in the career you want, so don’t overlook it. A few months as an intern will be 100% worth it in the end, especially when you might otherwise be spending those few months looking for a job. 
Remember that even med school graduates start as interns in hospitals. If you’ve learned anything from Grey’s Anatomy, it’s that we all need to start somewhere. And one day you’ll blink and be the world’s best neurosurgeon or something.

See, internships aren’t all bad.

XO,

A