Every season hundreds of motivated young students apply for a couple of spots open at some of the top fashion brands in the world. Applications are often drowned in 500+ applicants in under 2 days so landing your dream internship takes strategy! Unfortunately, unless you go to a school that specializes in fashion, many college career counselors don't have great advice for getting into the industry. In addition, starting to make connections in the industry can be a painstaking process. Over the past 6 months, I have been able to transform the way I apply for jobs in fashion and turned what used to be applying to 200 places and hearing back from no one to hearing back from about 90% of the jobs I applied to and working with the top fashion houses.
Creative and Clean Resume
Before you can even start applying for jobs, your first step should always be updating your resume and formatting it for the industry. In college, I was often taught to keep resumes without color, any decorative design, 1 page, and no pictures. However, I have found that when it comes to applying in fashion, a creative resume stands apart when applying and can even make your application more personable. Below, I included some easy changes on your resume that will help hiring managers see your potential.
Include your skills: One of the easiest ways for your resume to be seen is to include your skills. When jobs are flooded with hundreds of resumes, the first step of the hiring process is automated, so the system looks for keywords to appear on your resume. Many fashion jobs look for individuals who understand social media, photo and video editing, content creation, and Microsoft Office (All of which are pretty basic skills that a college student would have). I encourage everyone to include their understanding of all social platforms, especially Tik Tok, as this is a new social media platform that many companies want to get into but don't understand how the platform works. Other excellent skills to include are Photoshop, Mailchimp, and Hubspot.
Add a simple design: If you are applying to a competitive internship, it is time to upgrade your resume from the one you made on google docs or word. One easy way to make your resume more creative with zero graphic design skills is to use Canva or Enhancv.
Quantify your accomplishments: Quantifying your results is the easiest way to show your impact on a company. For example, if you grew an Instagram from 1000 followers to 3000, include those numbers!
Apply Early and Apply Often
Fashion internships don't have a traditional hiring period like many internships, so they often don't attend career fairs or have a recruiting period. Many companies post internships as they need new interns so the best thing to do is to set up job notifications. By setting up job notifications, LinkedIn will send you an email every time there is a posting, for example "fashion interns," "PR interns," and "magazine interns".
For highly competitive positions, the best time to apply is within the first 3 days. Anything after a week, and the company has generally already started contacting applicants. Due to the fast pace of applying, it is even more important to have your resume ready so that you can be one of the first few applicants when a position opens.
In addition to applying early, it is important to apply to everything when you are first starting out in fashion. Companies are going to prioritize applicants with experience in fashion, so finding a hiring manager looking for 1st-time interns can often be a long process. When I was first starting, I would often apply to 3-5 internships a day just to practice and raise my chances of getting emailed for an interview. After you land your first internship in fashion, the hiring process becomes significantly easier as your resume is higher priority.
Email your Top Internships
Once you have sent out your resume, it is important to choose 3-5 internships that are your top picks. From there, use Linkedin to find employees and other interns that work for the company you applied to. Connect with them on Linkedin and see if you can find an email to personally introduce yourself and send over a cover letter. Even if the application didn't require you to write a cover letter this is a great way to show your interest in the company. This also shows your dedication to their company and can get your application directly forwarded to the hiring manager.
Bring your Application in Person
If you live near the company, I highly recommend bringing your application in person to the corporate office. I did this with my application to Yves Saint Laurent, and within a day heard back from the company and was able to schedule my interview. When visiting the offices, I would dress in business casual and bring a printed version of my resume and cover letter in a folder addressed to someone who worked within the department where I applied. If you are going to go in person, be prepared to interview that day in case the front desk offers to let you bring your application back personally. I added some additional tips below if you are bringing your resume in person.
Delivering your resume early in the day increases your chance of hearing back as most companies get very busy later in the day, and it can easily be forgotten.
If you have any sort of portfolio, this can be great to include printed, so the hiring manager has something physical to look at
Be friendly and remember the name of the front desk worker. Although this may be a small step, the receptionist can get your application pushed straight to the correct person, so being respectful and friendly is a great way to make a connection at the company.
Follow up in an email: After dropping off your resume if you have the email of the person you dropped your resume off with send them an email letting them know you sent them your resume personally and would love to set up a time to interview.
ABC: Always Be Closing
A famous line in business is to always be closing. The same thing is true when you are applying for a job. If you are emailing a potential employer, one great way to keep the application moving is to ask when a good time to interview would be.
Prep for your Interview
If you have gotten to the interview stage, it is essential to go into the interview with both the basic knowledge of the company and the reasons why you appreciate what the company does. An easy and quick way to prepare for the interview is to look up the companies brand strategy. It will tell you how the brand positions itself, its values, and what sets it apart from other companies. Understanding these key differences will show the person interviewing that you have put thought into your application and recognize the benefits of working under their company. If your interview is over the phone, I like to create a google doc of all the information I have found on the company. That way I can reference specific points during my interview. Some topics to look up or mention include:
The company CEO and how they lead the business
Reach out to other interns and ask about the benefits of the internship
Look up the companies design process
Look up the brand's mission statement
Find what similar experiences you and your interviewer may have in common
Find recent news on the brand and mention projects or articles you liked
Find how they are personally impacting the future of fashion
Send a Thank You Email
Sending a thank you email should not be optional when applying to an internship. It shows how seriously you take your application and respect the time of the person interviewing you. It is also a great time to add anything you may have forgotten in your interview. For example, if you realized they mentioned that they want a very independent candidate, this is a great time to reference that you were a leader in a school project or club. I also always include that I would love to set up an informational interview if I am not picked for the position. This is a great way to learn more about the employee's career journey and even learn what could have been improved on your application for next time. The next time you apply that interviewer will remember the extra time you took to further your learning.
Don't Underestimate the Power of the Informational Interview
Sometimes internship opportunities may not be posted so one way you can find opportunities at a company you are interested is to send emails to employees who are doing jobs you are interested in. Informational interviews help you learn an employee's experience and help you build connections within the fashion industry. Informational interviews can be a great tool from people as young as high school to people far in their career. People love to talk about themselves and give advice so showing you are interested and inspired by someone's career is a great way to make a valuable connection and possibly even find a mentor in the industry. I have found that individuals who agree to an informational interview are also more than happy to connect you to help you in your job search and connect you to other helpful individuals. Informational interviews have allowed me to talk with employees at Glossier, WGSN, Rowing Blazers and learn the employee's tips on how to work for each company
Believe in the Value you Provide
Many times in the application we process, we only focus on what companies can do for us. For example, we can learn from their leadership, learn new software, grow our network, ect. But we often forget that companies hire interns because they want a new perspective. Through your coursework, job, internship, and overall life experiences, you can find out what unique strengths you have. It is important to be your biggest advocate and show the hiring manager that you believe in your ability to go above and beyond their needs. Even if the application would prefer you to have knowledge in specific areas, you can often get around this requirement by explaining a time when you were able to pick up a skill quickly and show that you would be able to apply your adaptability to their company.
Starting in fashion can be a really challenging process. Still, the people and experiences you gain from the industry make all the effort worth it. If you have any more questions or want a part 2, let me know in the comments or reach out in my contact form!