Listen Up Interns

Earlier this week, I watched this video titled "Listen Up Interns" that Gary V. posted and every ounce of my being was like, “yeeeeeesss”. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it below -  but basically, Gary talks about internships, and what you really get out of them: 

There’s been a lot of controversy over internships (specifically, unpaid internships) over the past few years. In the fashion world, internships have been vital roles for students to gain experience, and you’d be hard pressed to find a successful person in fashion who didn’t “pay their dues” in an unglamorous job at some point. But it’s not just in fashion anymore -  a ton of schools have implemented co-op and internship programs for students to gain experience (and school credit).

In my experience, most every student is excited about their internships prior to them actually happening. Whether you’re fetching coffee at Armani, or managing social media for an upcoming startup, most people are excited to gain a glimpse of experience. But then something happens: you start the job, and your expectations don't match up with the reality; it’s either not exactly what you dreamed, or what you want to be doing, or you become frustrated that you’re working your butt off for free and the spark burns out. Soon, you’re counting down the days for your internship to be over and the anti-internship advocacy begins.

I get it -  because I’ve been there.

Throughout university and prior to starting Wear Your Label, I took on 8 different internship placements. 5 were writing/content production/social media internships with fashion companies. 3 were a bit more hands-on with non-profit organizations. And I felt the same trend, every single time: going into it, I was stoked to be a part of the team, to contribute, to become a “published writer” or make a difference in people’s lives. Then, the reality of the internship kicked in (aka real life job stuff) and I started to lose my passion. In fashion, it’s easy to feel not good enough -  or not appreciated enough. In the non-profit world, the admin, paperwork and overall “boring” tasks absorbed the “funness” out of the job, and all of a sudden I felt like I wasn’t getting anything out of it anymore. As if my talents and hard work were going to waste on stupid tasks, when I could be doing so much more. I mean, I have skills to offer. I’m a good writer. I’m a leader. I’m the top student in my class. Why am I stuck here doing this, when I could be doing that? I was one of those people who began to advocate against internships. God, I was so young.

Then, I finally got it

It wasn’t until I was on the other side, that I finally got it: It’s a perspective that very few students and interns will have, just by nature of not being on the hiring side of things. But as a ~relatively~ young person who could still be interning (but is instead running a company) I figured I’d give a shout out to Gary, and share my own two cents.

Photo: Kelsey Schroeder

Photo: Kelsey Schroeder

It’s as much about attitude as it is about anything else.

There’s two kinds of internships: the coffee-run kind, and the real-work kind. Both are important. Both matter. And to you the student,  it might not feel like getting soy lattes is a big deal, but god dammit you are someone’s favourite part of the day. And if a caffeinated drink helps fuel a designer to create something magical, or an executive to stay motivated during an intense strategy meeting, then it matters. Yes, it’s just coffee -  but it’s not. It’s an opportunity to make an impression, it’s a conversation starter with your colleagues. Aka it’s a chance to build relationships. And if you always see it as, “just coffee” then, you’ll never get it. (*This goes for basically every small task that seems menial)

Your internship won’t give you a world of experience, but it will open your world to new experiences, and new people.

It's likely you won't become an amazing marketer through an 8 week internship; you won't learn everything about design, or business with a short-term placement. You might learn 3% of the whole equation. The rest of the magic, is up to you. And you’ll only get out of it as much as you put in. So work hard. Make friends. Put yourself out there. Know that every person you meet is a potential connection to your next dream job, and remember that your boss is a potential reference for the future - yes, it's just an internship, but if you don't take it seriously, others won't take you seriously. Like Gary said, this is a people world. 

So don't whine and complain to your colleagues (trust me, it will always get back around to your boss). If you want something more, be frank about it. But don’t forget that every single role is important - even coffee-runs - and this is just meant to be a stepping stone to something greater.

Now, go get ‘em tiger.

- K

Kayley ReedComment