Collage by Danielle Moalem, photo courtesy of Getty Images

How To Turn Your Summer Internship Into An Actual Fashion Career

Fashion pros dole out tips for becoming the best intern ever—and maybe even snagging a job

by Margaux Meisel

So you landed your dream internship, perhaps at a fashion magazine, for a designer, or at a PR firm. Rather than working on your tan for two months, you spent the summer sitting in front of a computer sending emails, meeting cool people, and maybe sometimes feeling a bit lost. Guess what? That’s totally normal. But you’ve got the hardest part down: landing an opportunity that could eventually lead to your dream job.

However, I’m here to tell you that your work is not done. Actually, it’s kind of just begun. As the summer comes to a close and the start of the fall semester is just around the corner, you have to find a way to remind your bosses how organized you were with that contact list, or how you were smart enough to anticipate that a little extra research on that obscure celeb would be necessary.

And the best way to do that is to stay on their radar—without being too aggressive.

“Master the art of the follow-up and the KIT [keep in touch] email,” recommends Noah Silverstein, an editor at Marc Jacobs. “Keep your emails to once every other month. It sounds super infrequent, but that's all you need. And, of course, stay updated on their work, especially if they're writers and putting out content.”

If you’ve still got a few more weeks of work, be sure to use your remaining time at the office as smartly as possible. Look back at what you’ve done, reflect on what could have been better and how you can improve. There’s still time to make an impact.

“In many ways, being an intern is an unrivaled position, because you get to be eyes and ears, to absorb what’s important. Of course, that’s not permission for passivity—be active and proactive. Arrive early, volunteer, contribute more than what’s asked,” suggests Paula Wallace, the president of Savannah College of Art and Design. She also makes a good point that you should not be wearing your tattered Levi's cutoffs to the office, no matter how casual the environment.

“Dress professionally and speak to people in a professional manner. You’ll be working with people who are more senior to you, therefore show them the proper respect,” she says.

Here are some more tips from seasoned fashion professionals on how to really ace your summer internship.

Kristie Dash, freelance writer and digital consultant

Former Intern at: Vogue, Teen Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, E! News, and NBC

“Don’t be overly annoying, but definitely stay in touch with everyone you worked with, even the more senior directors. If an editor I briefly worked with did a cool story, I’d always send an email to them and something like this: ‘Just wanted to drop you a note to tell you I’m obsessed with this story. [Insert question/comment about said story.] Hope you’re well, thanks again for all of your support this year. PS. I’m in the process of applying to [insert names of internships/jobs], so I’ll be sure to keep you posted!’ Don’t send anything longer than two paragraphs and do not only send emails when you need something. You can’t be needy until you really know someone.”

Amy Levin, founder of CollegeFashionista

Former Intern at: Chicago Social, Western Costume, and Giorgio Armani

“Stay in touch with your manager and team. It is your responsibility to not only maintain but also nourish the relationship after your internship has ended. Do not overthink or complicate the communication. Handwritten or emailed notes seeking advice, forwarding relevant news articles, or updating after a major milestone or success is generally well-received.”

Photo via Instagram

Sydney Reising, founder of Sydney Reising Creative

Former Intern at: Tracy Reese, Versace, and Yigal Azrouel

“It is important to dedicate yourself to your internship and treat it like your job if you want to evolve your experience as an intern into a career. Interns today need to embrace more of a hustle attitude; it's rare that I see interns with a willingness to do thoughtful and consistent work these days.”

Nikki Kule, founder and creative director of Kule

Former Intern at: Michael Kors

“There is no job that is beneath you. I am sure you are thinking, How can I learn from folding clothes, rolling tape, or organizing closets? The truth is that it’s all important, if you want to succeed. You have to be flexible and willing to do anything with great pride and a good attitude. You also must treat every single person with utmost respect. You never know if your fellow intern or the person working at the desk beside you will be the next Leandra Medine, the CEO of Nike, or a next-level entrepreneur.”

Micaela Erlanger, celebrity stylist

Former Intern at: Condé Nast and Hearst publications, fashion PR firms, sales showrooms, and retail.

“Write a thank-you note [at the end of your internship]. The interns that do that for me are ones I remember. And stay in touch—you never know when that referral will come in handy. Check in, let them know how you are doing, share exciting news with them, and ask for advice. I still have former interns who pop into the office to say hi from time to time. The effort matters and sets you apart and keeps you on their mind and, in some cases, can even lead to a job.”

Lucy Armstrong, fashion editor at GQ

Former Intern at: CXA Agency

“When looking for an internship, be creative when searching for places to work. Be in contact with everyone. The next opportunity will always be there. Just work hard and be open to what comes your way. One job always leads to the next!”

Danica Zheng, founder and designer at Pamplemousse

Former Intern at: Narciso Rodriguez, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, and Jen Kao

“An internship is the best time for you to make mistakes and learn from these mistakes. Always keep an open mind.”

Photo via instagram

Daisy Johnson, photographer

Former Intern for: Steven Klein and Mark Seliger

“Internships are a stepping stone for figuring out exactly what you want to be doing, without the pressure of a long-term commitment. I would recommend trying a bunch of different areas within a field. If you work too much in a confined space, you won’t know what else is out there.

I wish that I had continued interning for a bit longer and had more experiences with various types of photographers. I would have loved to work for a few fine art photographers or even painters, to get a well-rounded idea of the medium. I dove directly into working after interning, but I think that apprenticing and learning is such a vital part of the process.”

Photo via @fashioninstant

Noah Silverstein, editor at Marc Jacobs

Former Intern at: Town & Country, Vogue, and Elle

“Do your homework! Know everyone at the place where you're interning and what they do. In a moderately professional way, get to know what your boss and department members do and how they got to where they are. If you're assigned to a specific department, sweep the web to know as much as possible about that market and corner of the industry. It makes your life easier and shows you can take initiative and are curious, which everyone, including myself, looks for in young people.”