Sunday, 17 June 2012

10 Things Every Fashion PR Intern Should Know

So far, I've done two work placements with PR companies (Snow PR and Black Frame PR) through which I worked on the PPQ AW12 show and the Meadham Kirchhoff Menswear SS13. From my experience, I think it's safe to say that internships can often be the most intimidating and daunting placements of all, especially in the beginning. I've learned a thing or two about coping in the fast-paced world of public relations so here are my top ten tips on how to dive in at the deep end and still keep your head above water:
  1. Know your place: More often than not you'll make at least one friend on the job. In fact, you might even get on splendidly with your boss but you need to know when you've crossed the line between being friendly and being outright inappropriate. If you find yourself discussing the colour of your pants, your risque dream about David Beckham or the results of your spicy curry dinner last night with anyone in the office - you've crossed that line. Don't take advantage of people's kindness or welcoming attitudes. In the end, you are still an intern and will always be just an intern until you prove that you're worthy of more than that. 
  2. Take note from Mr Happy: Do you remember the Mr Men books? There was Mr Nosy and Mr Sneeze, Mr Noisy and Mr Grumpy. Then there was Mr Happy - the big, fat yellow guy with a perma-smile. Now, I'm not suggesting canary yellow is the colour of success but I am saying that  a smile will go a long, long way. Never frown. Never complain. Never let on that you're tired, hungry, bored, confused, angry, etc. If you don't understand something, ask a question but you must always do it with a smile. Enthusiastic people get the job done and they stand out as personalities that people want to be around. I mean, let's be honest. Mr Happy's pretty popular around Misterland.
  3. Remember that chic comes from within: Ok, so that's not 100% true. You can't rock up to work in tracksuit bottoms and think that, if you channel Coco Chanel, no one will notice. What I mean to say is that, although your clothing says a lot about you, confidence is key. If you're anything like me, walking into an office for the first time (and maybe even the second or third) can be really intimidating. It feels like all of the other women are much better dressed than you and they're so much more "fashion". Even if you spent hours picking out your outfit and you know you look good - suddenly, you feel like you may as well be wearing a bin liner. Don't make that mistake. If you feel chic from within, it doesn't matter what anybody else is wearing. If you believe it, so will everybody else. Note: this trick does not work if you are wearing 3/4 length leggings, Uggs or anything else that's equally offensive in terms of fashion.
  4. Just add water: So, I'm sure you've all heard of the typical intern stereotype. Running around in the pouring rain, making deliveries, fetching designer clothes and, most importantly, making coffees. In my experience, I have never been asked to make someone any kind of beverage. Maybe, in comparison to other people, I have been lucky. However, sometimes it's acts of kindness that get you far. Even if no one asks, just offer. It's as simple as just adding water (where I've worked, nobody takes milk with their tea). Going on tea runs or helping with personal favours in your spare time can only put you on the right side of the right people. Always  hold your dignity tight but don't get it confused with arrogance or pride. Thinking you're above tasks like these can bathe you in a very ugly light and, if my imagination is anything to go by, that's really not a good look.
  5. Note that perfection is not what they're looking for: Obviously, in an ideal world, everyone would employ perfect people so that nothing would ever go wrong but that's not the world we live in and, therefore, not what your boss will expect. Of course, you must always try your hardest. The more you minimize your mistakes, the less you'll be to blame for any failings. Nevertheless, you can't beat yourself up over things that you don't do flawlessly. It's human nature to feel like a complete sap when you've done something wrong but, if you spend time dwelling on one error, you'll probably make 10 more. Don't let your focus move to things that aren't a priority and rest assured that you most probably won't be fired on the spot for forgetting to ask "who's calling?" on the phone.
  6. Learn how to read a map: I can't stress this enough. I am TERRIBLE at directions. In fact, no, I'm SHOCKING, HORRENDOUS, [insert another extremely negative adjective here]. I know they say that you learn from your mistakes, which I did, but it never hurts to be given a heads up on how to avoid making them in the first place. If you have a GPS system on your phone - that's great - but that's not enough. You need to practice reading it and you need to familiarise yourself with being able to make up your own route in case the one on your screen seems unnecessarily long (as they often are on SatNavs). At some point, you will most probably be asked to deliver or go pick something up and it might be in a location that you've never been before. There isn't time for messing around or getting lost because you'll most probably be under a time constraint. Even if it isn't set in stone, don't think that it won't be noted if you take a ridiculous amount of time to complete a task that, in the eyes of your employer, could easily be done by somebody else. Do. Not. Skip. This. Step.
  7. Disregard the saying 'It's not a fashion show': How many times have you heard that said? Maybe by your parents on your way to church, by your school teachers in reference to 'Own Clothes Day' or possibly even your boyfriend whilst ranting about how you always take so long to get ready for everything! Well, in this scenario you can completely ignore the fact that those words have ever even been said. Yes, you're just an intern and, yes, a lot of PR offices have a really chilled out atmosphere but you are still trying to impress. If you want to be kept on or maybe even offered a paid job, you've got to show that you have a great sense of style. If they think you're a slob or that your wardrobe consists solely of plimsolls and jeggings, I highly doubt they'll see you as somebody their firm can't run without. You wouldn't buy diet pills from McDonalds so why would you buy clothes from someone badly dressed? It's pretty simple, really. You don't have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe but make sure you always present a fashionable, well-groomed side of yourself. I agree, it's completely unfair, but attractive people are more likely to get the 'yes' they were looking for. And that's the way the cookie crumbles... {Source on why attractive people are more successful} {Another source}
  8. EAT: I know that sounds like such a silly tip. I mean eating is natural, we do it everyday. How could we forget? Well, the truth is, when you're busy it's really easy. The thing about doing your job well is that you focus so much on what your tasks are that you forget to do things like eating and drinking. Now, before you think about those jeans you'd like to fit into by next month or the really pretty girl sitting at the desk over there, you're going to be working extremely hard. In turn, you will get extremely tired. If you don't nourish and hydrate yourself, there's no way you'll be able to keep up that level of effort which could mean losing out on work opportunities to other people. We've all felt insecure at points and probably even considered trying the baby food diet to get legs like Jennifer Aniston (it was a moment of lunacy, don't judge) but 'get fit quick' plans like that just won't cut it. If you're feeling like your insecurities are magnified in an industry environment, refer back to tip #3 and, if you really do want to make changes to your fitness/health, do it the right way. There's nothing cute about jaundice and overly-sunken cheekbones. 
  9. Don't forget to look out for number one*: It seems like the greatest feeling when you start a new placement and you make friends with all of the other interns. You hang out, have a good time and actually consider staying in touch with them after you've all left. There's nothing wrong with that. You may meet people you really like, just as I have (in fact, I think I've made some really good friends), but you have to remember that you're all after one thing and, unfortunately, there won't be room for all of you in the long run. Although I'm not one to shy away if I feel like I've been treated wrongly, I don't like to cause confrontation and, therefore, also hate to be seen as someone trying to elbow my way to the top. Truthfully, though, there isn't really many other ways up. That's not to say that you should stab anybody in the back or only do things to help yourself but you have to grab every opportunity you possibly can. If there's a task that only requires one intern, volunteer first no matter how big or small. There's no point taking a back seat and watching everybody else score points for themselves. Be friendly, be genuine and be helpful but don't forget to be savvy.
  10. Network like a pro*: I know the last tip on a list is normally something corny and cliché like 'just enjoy yourself' or 'carpe diem' (cringe) but I really think that this point is much more important. Of course, you must always be professional. Never do something like using contact information that is available to you through the company's systems to get ahead because that's pretty much stealing. If it's a phone number or email that you couldn't find on the internet then it's private and reserved only for callers/writers that work specifically with them in mutually beneficial relationships. That information is not for you. However, in the industry, as I'm sure is similar in many others, it can be about who you know. Networking can help you to get jobs and placements much quicker and easier than you would have on your own. Talk to the other interns - you'd be surprised what their experience is and how they could help you. Don't just become friends with people for their contacts but if you genuinely do hit it off with somebody you'd be surprised how much they might be willing to do to help. Getting on the good side of your bosses and other colleagues will always help too. Even after you've left, aim to stay in their good books. You never know when you might want/need to come back. Keep in contact with the people you've met and, if you've got something like a blog or fashion related business, share it with them. You can never tell where you could go based on who you know. 
*Note: Never confuse being business savvy with being a superficial person. I have made some wonderful friends in my experience that I really hope to stay in touch with. Don't use people to get ahead - it's fake and it's wrong. Remember, if you step on too many people on your way up, there'll be no one to catch you when you fall.

5 comments:

Gemma Satire said...

Oh very very useful information to know thanks for sharing! Got a newspaper placement and a New Look PR placement in the pipeline so I will abide by your tips! Desperately trying to find some more new places though too. And LOL at the UGGs/jeggings thing. I agree. NOBODY mortal or god can ever look chic in them. I wouldn't even let them past bloody reception.

Gemma x

www.gemmasatire.blogspot.co.uk

Naomi Oforiokuma said...

Honestly! I think Uggs + jeggings + any sort of vest top (especially from Abercrombie or American Eagle) = the biggest fashion faux pas. Don't do it girls!

Seriously though, these tips are basically what have gotten me through my internships and even my paid jobs! x

Lucy Rance said...

Great post! Very useful. x

Karen Ussene said...

Very good post!
x

Maggie ☮ said...

Your advise is definitely very helpful and much appreciated! Thank You.

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