How to be an awesome intern

First, obtain a coveted mag internship. Next? Be the girl (or guy) they want to hire.

July 15, 2013


Hint: napping in the office will not be looked upon favourably.

After an office poll, I learnt that every single person who has a job here either did work experience or held down an internship (or in most cases, both) before landing their first paid gig. So when I tell you it’s pretty much essential, I really, really mean it.

Part One: How the hell do you get an internship? If you’re still a student, your career advisor can help organise it for you. Knowing someone in the industry helps, but if you’ve got access to neither of those, look for the central email address on the mag’s masthead. A short, snappy email asking for your email to be forwarded on to the relevant person will do the trick; just think about how you can make yours stand out from all the rest – there’s a fine line between brilliant and just plain bad. Know the name of the editorial coordinator who will read your email, spell it correctly, and be patient. Phone calls are distracting and your message will get lost in a flurry of Post-its and coffee orders. Email is definitely the way to go.

Part Two: Congratulations – you’ve nabbed that internship! We see a lot of interns come and go through the SHOP office, so we know what makes a good one (especially since we’ve all been there).

Here’s what we love to see:

- Attention to detail is paramount. Be thorough, yet efficient. For fashion interns, a mix-up in the fashion cupboard can quickly turn into a disaster of epic proportions (like a designer handbag being damaged or accidentally returned to the wrong PR). Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure of something. Your manager would rather take a minute to explain something than spend three hours trying to fix your mistake.

Listen (but don’t listen in on other people’s conversations). Absorb everything that is going on around you; it makes you a better worker and means you’ll pick up on things faster. On the flip side, listening in on other people’s personal conversations, chiming in on them uninvited, or staring at the people engaged in said conversation – all massive no-no’s.

Have a thorough understanding of the magazine you’re interning for. Showing up on your first day and not knowing what goes in the mag – whoa, just go home now. Consider the product, the price points and the ‘voice’ of the magazine – whichever department you’re involved in. It’ll be invaluable, especially if you’d like to get a job there one day.

Now, some things we don’t like to see:

- Interns who show up late without letting their manager know. Additionally, if your manager tells you to take a full hour for lunch, please do so.

- Doing things begrudgingly. Yes, going to the printer, or getting someone’s skinny latte seems beneath you… but we’ve all done it. If I had a dollar for every time I had to collect something from the printer when I was interning, well, I’d be sunning myself on the Côte d’Azur instead of sitting at my desk. You don’t have to pretend to love doing those menial tasks, but I guarantee the person you’re interning for will pick up on those sour vibes, which won’t help your chances when positions become available.

- Excessive talking: including, but not limited to, chatting with fellow interns about your wild weekend and taking lengthy personal calls. Being noticed for the right reasons is the name of the intern game.

Thinking you can do a job better than the person currently doing it. Interns go home at the end of the day and don’t give a second thought to that story they helped researched, which just got bumped up to the issue being sent to print tomorrow. Employees are still in the office at 11pm writing said story. A harsh point, but an equally harsh reality.

With all this in mind, interning is a great experience. This is a tough industry to crack, and you might get overlooked for the first job that comes up because you’re not quite ready for it yet but persistence and positivity are key. Beauty writer Lisa interned at SHOP for like, I don’t know, a decade or something. Our ed Alex interned at about twenty different publications – worldwide – to get experience. I balanced uni, part-time work and two internships that had me busy seven days a week for four months straight. Now we’re all getting paid to do what we love, and that my friends, is a pretty sweet deal.


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