There is more competition than ever for fashion industry jobs. Graduates often discover that they are expected to work as interns when they actually need a job. Preparing students to get the most from their internship opportunities is the focus of a Kent State University event in which Carla Carstens, founder of FreeFashionInternships.com, addresses a group of junior designers and merchandisers completing their study away semester at the school’s NY Studio. Carstens has 13-years experience in fashion, having worked with brands like Gucci, Jennifer Fisher, Chopard and Jennifer Fisher. She has 5 tips to help you land a job that will launch your career.

girl wearing grey long-sleeved shirt using MacBook Pro on brown wooden table

Focus

Vision-boarding is a great way to visualize yourself in the job or company you want. It also helps to set goals and achieve them. Don’t be afraid to reach out and speak with specific designers. We live in a connected world and have never had so much access to other people. Carstens says, “Slide into your DMs.” It is important to determine your learning goals and make a targeted search. Otherwise, it will take a lot of time and effort to tailor the resume for every job. As they may offer more hands-on learning, don’t overlook smaller businesses and brands.

Network

You will meet people once you’re inside a company. They can help you get a job. These people are your gatekeepers and, later, when you apply for your dream job, it is extremely beneficial to be able call your intern supervisor to send an email. This allows you to be vetted and is a major advantage. Connect with your classmates early on LinkedIn to connect with them.

Resume

Avoid displaying creativity in resumes using fancy fonts and layouts. Use professional fonts like Times Roman or Cambria. Applicant Tracking System is a common tool used by large companies. It cannot read beautiful templates and InDesign can be confusing so a pdf is best. Your resume should not exceed one page. Attachments should be added to your LinkedIn profile and not to your resume. Do not undervalue your skills and interests as they can make you stand out from other candidates. Don’t forget about listing all programs you are familiar with.

Resume summary and objective statements are not interchangeable. Choose the one that best suits you. Your objectives are your company’s goals. The summary is a brief overview of your skills and experience that highlights your value to an employer. Although cover letters can be daunting, they are essential. People often read the cover letter and open their resumes to confirm their decision. The job title should be included. Also, make sure to use the key words from the job description. As the resume is opened, it will be viewed as a professional file. To make it easier for employers, you might consider putting your first name and last name.

white printer paper on macbook pro

Interview

Companies tend to select the top 15-20 candidates and then post them. Make sure to confirm the appointment time and place the day before. Also, do your research on the company and the person you will be meeting. Two copies of your resume are recommended. Make a list with questions for the interview to help you look prepared. What are your expectations of an intern? How will you evaluate my work? How did you get started in the industry? This question will allow you to make a connection with the interviewer and help them recall you.

Add the company information to Skype or Google Hangouts interviews. Interviews via phone allow you to communicate less with the interviewer, which can lead to more uncertainty. In-person interviews allow you to assess the environment. You have more control as you can detect cues and body language, and can expand on any points you may have made. Employers are looking to eliminate people from their workforce. Treat phone interviews as in-person interviews. If necessary, stand up and pace yourself.

You can send a thank-you email that same day. This is an opportunity to thank the person for their time and help you if you feel you did not answer a question adequately. You can follow up with the question once you have finished, and then let it go. If you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback.

Work

Steam like you have never steam before if your job involves steaming clothes. If you are able to complete the task, you should suggest other people if there is an area you could be helpful. Do not say “I want more”, but instead notice inefficiencies and suggest solutions. You can see what your assistants are doing, as those are tasks that you are qualified to perform.

Concerning unpaid vs. paid internships, it seems that larger companies are more likely to pay minimum wage because they don’t want to be sued. There is more competition for entry. The more complicated the tasks, the bigger the brand.

To expand your network, you might consider interning at a variety places. You might be offered the assistant job if you stay for long enough. However, it is not always possible. Interning is half about staying in touch. Send your supervisors a note during the holidays. Invite your boss to coffee with you when you graduate.

Jackie Mallon, fashion editor, is also an educator. She is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs. This novel set is a unique piece in the international fashion industry.

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