Landing My First Internship: A Story of Resumes, Rejections, and Redemption

Ah, Labor Day. I sit here at my desk writing this post on the quintessential day that marks the end of a care-free, relaxing, and party filled time we call summer. Like everyone else, I’ve always loved summertime because it the season where there is truly nothing to worry about…unless you are a design student. You see, there was actually plenty for me to worry about over the last three months because I was hell bent on getting a real internship within the fashion industry. “Real” meaning it’s happening in New York City, and it is with an established company in my selected field.

As many of you have been told, an internship is the only way to get a job nowadays, no matter what industry you work in. I made a lot of mistakes in the application process, but now I want to share with you my advice for landing your dream internship. If you’re wondering why you should take my advice, let me preface this by saying I did get a job with the fashion department of Town & Country for the Fall 2015 semester. With that in mind, please allow me to help you.

Step I – SCHEDULE YOURSELF

When scheduling your classes each semester, be sure to leave AT LEAST two days available so you can work full days at your internship. Some companies might be willing to let you come in for a morning here or an afternoon there, but I believe you show true dedication by scheduling yourself around a workplace’s needs.

Step II – CRAFT THE PERFECT COVER LETTER

For this part of the process, I took a lot of advice from Leave Your Mark, a career help guide authored by the SVP of Communications at Donna Karan. I took her cover letter sample and put my own twist on it.

Always make sure you know the name of the person you are writing to. “To whom it may concern” is impersonal and does not prompt someone to continue reading. Referring to someone by his/her name shows off strong research abilities.

In the first paragraph, state your name and where you attend school. I recommend calling yourself a student instead of stating your grade level (freshman, sophomore, etc.). Some companies might discriminate based on age, and would prefer a senior in college. But if you can land an interview, and prove that you are mature and responsible, you just might get the internship of your dreams. The rest of this paragraph should be used to give a general idea of why you want to be in your selected industry.

Your second paragraph should focus on why you feel passionate about working for that company in particular. In the case of Town & Country, I told a story of how the magazine has been a staple on my coffee table since before I was born. It’s something I grew up around and the opportunity to contribute felt invaluable to me.

Your final paragraph should highlight a singular experience that you feel qualifies you for this job. Obviously, you will be sending your resume so you don’t need to reiterate any of that information. Instead, tell your potential employers about a time when working at a past company led you to where you are now.

And of course, never forget the power of “sincerely” when signing off your cover letter.

Step III – EMAIL THE RIGHT PEOPLE

I had sent out a ton of copies of my resume, and different cover letters depending on the company. No one had responded and I felt extremely discouraged. I could not fathom any mistake I had made. I believed my cover letter was perfect, and my resume was well designed. What was I doing wrong?

Later, I began to think about all the advice I had been given about the industry. And then it hit me. Paula Knight, the Fashion Market Director of The Wall Street Journal once told me that the best way to get an internship with a magazine was to contact the assistant editors. My mistake was emailing the director-level editors. In some cases that may be okay, but at the places I wanted to work, the high ranking editors don’t deal with interns very often.

So, with that in mind, I went to Target and perused the mastheads of every magazine with a fashion section. I came across Town & Country and thought, “this is perfect.”

I sent an email to my now supervisor, and within minutes, she replied to me asking for an interview. All the bad feelings I had about myself went right out the window and I was so excited, but panicked at the same time.

Step IV – INTERVIEW LIKE A PRO

Since I spent this past summer in Massachusetts, my supervisor agreed to interview me over Skype. I had never been through this kind of interview before but it did present some awesome opportunities for success.

I gathered all the research I could find on Town & Country’s history, just in case they asked me a question that stumped me. In addition to that, I chose three favorite designers from the current season, and wrote my thoughts down on post it notes so that I could discuss them at any moment. The best part about this note sheet? My supervisors could not see it. All they saw was me in my professional work wear, and a bookcase in the background.

The best thing to do for a Skype interview is to make it look like everything behind you is together. It’s alright if you have a chaos in the areas that the camera can’t see.

Getting an internship is not as easy as it seems. Yes, some people get jobs handed to them, but most people do have to work hard for great opportunities. Be like the latter because success achieved on your own is much more admirable.

As you can tell, I love talking about my past experiences, so if you are applying for your dream job, feel free to comment below and ask me questions.

About Jeffrey Roy Jr.

My name is Jeffrey and I am a Strategic Design and Management student at Parsons School of Design. When I am not posting on Twitter or Instagram, you can often find me perusing the newsstand at Barnes & Noble.

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