The Perks (and not-so Perks) of Being an Intern

Just your typical fashion internship, The Hills style

Katie Byrne explores the pros and cons of the internship

People’s views on internships seem to fall into one of two categories. They’re marvellous opportunities, providing the internee with heaps of relevant experience, giving them industry contacts and an insight into the creative field they wish to work in. Or, they’re hideously exploitative, practically mugging young people across the country of time, money and effort.

It’s all very well listening to our parents telling us stories about the ‘good old days’ when you could (apparently) just stroll into a job with no qualifications, no prior experience and only a willingness to learn. Admittedly, these kinds of stories have a tendency to set our teeth on edge – ‘we have heaps of experience, and qualifications, but can’t even get a job in Boots,’ we wail, ‘let alone a job in fashion/journalism/illustration’. Until you have your dream job (well, probably not your dream job, but certainly something that will put you on the right track), the internship is the only real option, unless you want to set up your own highly lucrative brand/company/publication.

Yes, we know she wasn’t actually an intern…

We’re not saying getting an internship is easy. Assuming you have the time and money to commit, the application process for the average internship is enough to make us want to give up and play Temple Run instead. Yes, you might well have a relevant degree, previous experience and a passion for your subject – but can you describe in 100 words or less a scenario where you have demonstrated leadership/iniative/originality? ARGH.

However, once you’ve managed to bag the role, it’s all down to you and what you choose to make of it. The internship is the perfect chances to establish contacts in the industry, build your C.V. and seize chances to prove yourself. It can also lead to other opportunities and, if you’re really lucky, an actual, proper job. Just make sure you don’t find yourself in a situation where you are being made to feel worthless or used – rather like an abusive relationship, you need to abandon ship, stat.

We asked you to send in your best and worst interning experiences – and far from having to make coffee dashes Devil Wears Pradastyle, they’re actually rather uplifting. Below are a selection of our favourites – so if you’re an intern and feeling a bit despondent about what you’re currently doing, have a little hope.

Ben Lynch (advertising)

Best Experience: Coming up with the pitch winning concept for a new client, then receiving a Swiss flag and free dinner as a thank you from them. Can’t go wrong with that, right…?!

Worst Experience: Having met my mentor at the beginning of a month placement, he then quickly decided to take the rest of the month off on holiday. Still think today I may have scared him off into taking a vacation. Either way, It forced me to talk to the other creative teams and adopt a mentor. So it all eventually turned out just fine.

Laura Gallagher (fashion)

Worst: Being sent across London on a shopping trip for a photo shoot, then carrying two very very heavy bags back. Couldn’t feel my hands…

Gemma Snelling (illustration)

Best: my layouts and illustrations published in a mag internationally.

Worst: designing a naff Xmas card on the hottest day of the year.

I learnt to not let people take advantage of my free skills for too long…

Becky Turner (graphic design)

Best: Having my work picked to be featured on t-shirts in Japan.

Worst: Having to spray paint a box black over several days.

And even better…

Sky Nash (design)

I got paid for one!


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