You Don’t Know What You Want to Do Until You’re Doing It
Last summer, I was rather disappointed in the structured internship program that marked my entire summer with middle age and elderly business men who were set on buying only red ties and white dress shirts. While I learned that countless numbers of shirt combinations are to be had in the world of Men’s Furnishings, I cared very little whether or not a man preferred a button down collar to a spread collar. I wasn’t passionate about what I did, but I signed up to do it and I had never been a quitter (yet). But what I did learn, which is just as valuable as any other lesson, is what I didn’t want to do with my life. All this time I thought I wanted to be a Buyer and once I realized how little control over the creative process one really has in the retail sector of this industry, I switched gears and focused my passion on something else.
I had the opportunity to work a Fashion Show that summer which featured the Fall 2008 collections for Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta and Marni, among others. Immediately I felt I had found my calling. Public Relations had my name written all over it, or so I thought.
Cut to my first days here in New York: With my brand management internship in place, the over achiever that nature has seen fit to make me kicked in and I emailed a public relations company I had been chatting with since December to finally schedule an interview. I flew into New York at 7 am. A few hours and a 1.5 mile sprint through Soho later, I was sitting across the internship coordinator/fashion assistant at one of fashion’s most notorious public relations firms. Naming names would probably be bad taste on my part, so I’ll refrain from identifying which label greeted me on rolling racks as I walked through the door but it rhymes with Shmalenciaga, for the record. And for the record, I was star struck.
I had applied to this internship with every impression that my brief stint working with public relations at a show last summer was an accurate depiction of what I would be in for. I mean, how different could the Big Apple be from the Windy City?
Newsflash: Insanely different.
This is the epicenter for American fashion, and one could argue that it serves as an international epicenter as well (though, personally I prefer London Fashion Week to New York, but let’s not split hairs). Everything you do here is seen all over the world. While that sounds exaggerated, it’s the truth. Flip through any magazine, seriously, just pick one off the stands and look at an editorial. Guaranteed an intern acquired many a blister and worked up quite a nasty sweat running those pieces from one closet in Soho to another in Midtown so that some photographer could snap some photo of some model whose name you can’t pronounce as she frolicks through fields because it’s edgy, y’know, juxtaposing thousands of dollars worth of clothes against a rural backdrop.
Trust when I say that it is no easy feat carrying 100 Shmalenciaga look books to every fashion publication on the island of Manhattan, picking up Shmierre Shmardy shoes from Shmarie Shclaire, and thousands of dollars worth of jewelry from Shmelle Magazine only to get back to the office and be told that Julia Roberts didn’t like the other earrings so you need to stop by Dior circa 20 minutes ago to pick up new options. My feet hurt just thinking about it.
But that’s public relations, at least as far as internships and New York City are concerned. I’ve always been incredibly aware of what I like and what I don’t, and one can only guess where public relations fell on that list. Remember how I said I’d never been a quitter? Well, in the interest of honesty, I quit. And it wasn’t because it was hard or thankless – I’ve done my fair share of hard thankless tasks – but because it was becoming more obvious to me that my heart was in creating things, being involved in the creative process and not in trying to get as many credits as I could in magazines. Not to mention everyone in that office seemed Miserable, capital “M” intended.
Thankfully I had my brand management internship (which has proven to be nothing short of a dream) and had enough overachiever energy left in me to apply for another internship in trend forecasting. Three internships later, I finally feel at home.
The moral of the story is that even for overachievers, finding the right fit isn’t easy nor is it immediate. Everyone will tell you that internships are supposed to give you a taste of the industry before you decide it’s for you, but what they don’t tell you is that it often takes multiple internships for you to really find what makes you happy. I’m a firm believer that one should spend his/her life doing what he/she loves. Nothing more, nothing less, no excuses.
So, if you are entering the internship stage of your life or have just finished one up, know that you might be disappointed and that’s okay. And maybe I’m being hypocritical, quitter that I apparently am, but don’t quit. Don’t ever stop trying to find what makes you happy. And don’t be fooled into believing that your experience at one company is characteristic of every company; don’t be fooled into believing you have to settle. Don’t ever settle for anything that falls short of your dream. Bad experiences are meant to teach us what not to do in the future. Just as long as you are true to your passion first, everything else will fall into place.
1: Touristing in NYC
2. On the plane ride here
3: Madame Liberty.