#1. Do research before your first day.
You should know all there is to know—and more—about your company and its employees, news and history before ever setting foot in the office. The more you know, the more you’re able to offer throughout the duration of your internship. Google and Women’s Wear Daily are your friends.
#2. Dress like the brand.
One of my first fashion internships was at Donna Karan. While researching for that role (see above), I found a tip on the brand’s Twitter account, DKNY PR Girl (later revealed to be SVP of Global Communications, Aliza Licht), which recommended you always dress like the brand you’re interviewing or interning for. That really stuck with me. This isn’t to say you need to change your personal style entirely, but it should reflect or take into consideration the brand or company you’re working for. As an intern especially, not only does this make you look professional, but it also helps employers physically envision you as a real part of the team.
#3. Pay attention to the brand and office culture.
You should always be listening to and be in tune and aware of the office culture surrounding you. It may not seem like much, but really paying attention to how your team operates with each other and with industry insiders will help you learn how to act when you’re in their position. You can always learn from the people surrounding you, so take out the headphones, look up from your phone and stop scrolling through your Facebook feed—this is a learning experience that can really shape your career path if you mentally take note ofeverything you possibly can.
#4. At the end of your first week, make a list of goals and projects for the semester.
You want to go above and beyond—not scrape by doing the bare minimum. Map out your daily job tasks and how you plan to get them accomplished. Also include additional ways you can assist your team or contribute more. Think outside the box and pay attention to what kind of tasks can help your supervisors in any way. They’ll be impressed you’re going above and beyond.
#5. Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. (Unless, of course, you’re instructed otherwise, or your team is staying at the office until 10 PM.)
I’m not advising you to work 12-hour days here, but it’s important to put in the time and effort if you want to stand out. Arrive a few minutes early to get a head start on your tasks or get the office situated for when your supervisor gets in. You shouldn’t be waiting for the clock to hit 5 or 6 PM at the end of the day and have your things packed up and ready to go 30 minutes prior to that. This isn’t math class—it’s the first stepping stone of your career. Before you leave, ask if there’s anything else you can do or help out with.
#6. Ask the right questions.
Don’t be afraid. You don’t know everything. You’re there to learn and the only way you’re going to learn is by asking. You should, however, always try to troubleshoot something on your own before asking a supervisor. If it’s something you can Google or figure out on your own, there’s no reason you should be taking up someone else’s time.
#7. Execute every job task with enthusiasm.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going on a coffee run or rolling a rack of samples down the hall. Every task should be taken on like it’s a privilege. For an intern, good attitude is a must in every situation. You’re there to learn and get experience, which means you don’t always have the most glamorous of job tasks at all times. That’s okay: this is your time to put in the hard grunt work. Do it well and do it with a smile.
#8. Ask for feedback, take notes and LISTEN.
You should always have a notepad with you to jot down everything your employers tell you, including assignments, instructions and feedback. It can seem tempting to nod eagerly in reply, but actually listening is so important. If you’re not taking your feedback into consideration and actively working to improve, you might as well just go home.
#9. Be confident and speak up (when appropriate).
During my first few internships, I was so intimidated and shy that I barely ever spoke a word—and that was a huge mistake on my part. When you don’t let your personality show through (at appropriate times), you miss out on the opportunity to show your full potential in the workplace. Everyone is nervous—especially as an intern—but the key is faking it until you make it. Don’t overstep boundaries by constantly inserting your opinions or ideas, but do offer them in the right situation. Speaking up also lends a good opportunity to connect with supervisors, team members and fellow interns—networking is always key.
#10. Be cautious of your social media reputation.
You’re now a working professional (yes, even as an intern), so it’s time to start acting like one online, too. Instagram photos of you doing a keg stand at last weekend’s sorority party? No. Tweeting anything private about your internship experience? Double no. And finally (you’d think this goes without saying), never, ever, ever complain about an internship, boss or job anywhere on social media—even if you’re private. There’s always a way for it to get back to someone you don’t want to see it. Save those tidbits for private in-person conversations. As someone who now hires interns, the first thing I look at is the applicant’s social media profiles. On that note, said profiles should not be private. Employers will wonder what you’re hiding. Plus, they’re a great way to work on your personal brand (a necessary asset in the fashion industry).
#11. Schedule one-on-one private meetings with your supervisors and team for advice.
Before the end of your internship, ask your supervisors if they can spare 20 minutes to sit down with you for an informational interview. Ask them for advice and feedback and job hunting questions—even ask questions about their own personal career paths. This will not only (hopefully) give you great career advice, but will also let your supervisors know you’re serious about your career goals.
#12. Send thank you notes and keep in touch.
As soon as your internship officially ends, send hand-written thank you cards to every supervisor and team member you worked with throughout the duration of your internship. Ask to keep in touch via LinkedIn, email, social media, etc.—that way you can stay in the loop and be considered for future open positions.