How I got my internship at Vogue
It was those final months in which university students of the world become emotional wrecks.
I had all the classic symptoms – panic attacks, cold sweats, inexplicable tears. The truth is I’d never imagined anything so far ahead as a life after University. I was about to sail right over the edge of the tiny world I’d created and I had no idea what I’d find in a territory unmapped by education.
Coming home one day overshadowed by my usual cloud of despondency I found a rather interesting envelope waiting for me, Condé Nast’s iconic logo emblazoned on the back. I was surprised a publication like Vogue would send out rejection letters to young competition entrants but, fortified by the impossibility of my bad mood getting any worse, I decided to open it anyway.
What I read made me happier than I’d been in months.
Entering Vogue Talent was, in all honesty, an afterthought. I’d happened upon the brief because my university required my portfolio to include three competition entries and, unhappy with the quality of the other two, I’d decided to play to my strengths and do a magazine article layout for my third. It just so happened that I finished writing the day before deadline and thought the price of a first class stamp wasn’t too much to lose. I don’t want to seem apathetic- of course I wanted to be noticed in the competition, I just never believed that I could be.
The letter began with “you have been shortlisted for Vogue Talent”. I think I welled up reading this, out of surprise and happiness. It went on to invite me to lunch with the other finalists and the judging panel, made up of Vogue’s editors.
During my time working at a Bond Street department store I’d often gaze up at Vogue House like you might gaze at some lavish garment in a shop window so far out of your price range that you never even dream of touching. I was nervous, excited and had absolutely no idea what to wear.
The big day came. I arrived in Vogue House’s lobby flustered, clammy and ruffled in the way London’s underground will always make you when you want to look your best. There were 10 of us in total, all girls and each from very different backgrounds but perched nervously together on leather couches.
The lunch itself is a hazy memory now, partly down to nerves and partly down to the free champagne on a quite-empty stomach – I don’t think I finished a single course as, after each one, the judges would rotate one seat meaning each finalist talked to every judge. However, I do remember a very good and, for this story, rather appropriate piece of advice that Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief Alexandra Shulman gave me. She told me never to be limited by what I thought I could or couldn’t do.
It was on this note that I took my next step. I didn’t want to go home and for it to be over and I knew I must get as much out of this as I could. On our final tour of Vogue House I took the opportunity to ask the approachable assistant acting as our tour guide about the possibility of internships. Usually I’d be far too timid to be the person at the front of the group asking for more than their portion but she seemed more than happy to oblige and gave me her email address. Within a few days I’d followed this up and secured an internship at Vogue in six months.
A word of warning- even the most glamorous sounding internships leave no room for diva-ism. If you go in wanting to see how a business works from behind the scenes and to be in an inspiring environment then you shouldn’t be disappointed, but remember you’re basically there to make the employee’s life easier. That means a lot of admin work and menial tasks. My daily chores list at Vogue would look something like this:
- Searching the infinite clothes racks for vanished garments
- Answering the phone to frantic PR agents asking about vanished garments
- Placating anxious PR agents
- Handing out post
- Endless trips to the post room carrying more parcels of clothes than you ever imagined possible
- Probably some more anxious PR agents.
There would be days I thought I’d scream if the phone rang one more time. All that said, I had a pretty great time at Vogue. I learnt the importance of lists – A to do list, a list of notes to self from the previous day and a list of every PR agent and what they were looking for. That last list was my most helpful. When I found some disappeared item I could alert the relevant PR and arrange an immediate return. That’s basic customer service but it didn’t go unnoticed – a couple of times I was praised as a result, which is a pretty handy story for later job interviews!
There were also highlights. I got to write copy for Vogue.co.uk. My pride was disproportionate to the length of paragraph. MY favourite intern duty was helping the features team with research. It meant a trip to the Vogue House basement, which houses the Condé Nast archive. It’s a bibliophile’s dream bursting with ancient issues of every major magazine the publisher’s produced. A computer acted as a glossary for what must have been thousands of these magazines and, given a keyword, would bring up the page number and title for every reference in the library. Given the time I would have spent hours down there reverently cradling mid-century Vogues.
Realistically a magazine intern is always pushed for time. Although the Vogue placements are short at only 3 weeks there’s so much variety and hubbub it can seem longer (and I mean that in the best sense). As a fashion enthusiast I got to touch clothes that would otherwise always be behind a glass pane for me. As someone who enjoys magazines I got to meet the brilliant women behind one of Britain’s most iconic. As an insecure student I got a huge boost of confidence and encouragement despite not winning the writing contest.
In hindsight there are some valuable lessons to be learnt from this experience. Firstly, always push yourself forwards. I realised that all my self-doubt was forcing me into my shell. It was almost only chance that I entered Vogue Talent. If I’d had more confidence in myself I would have invested more time entering contests, pushing myself forwards for internships and jobs. Believe in your talents and other people will too.
Be organised. My to do lists at Vogue were really helpful and being on top of things actually impressed some clients. Moving into the world of employment, organisation skills have become even more important. For many creatives time management isn’t a strong suit. Lucky for us there’s now hundreds of apps that can manage our schedules in a few taps, but if you’re short of a smartphone then always keep a pen and paper close by.
Ask for what you want. If I hadn’t asked about an internship I wouldn’t have got one, it’s as simple as that. Asking for something doesn’t necessarily mean being pushy; if you’re polite you’re twice as likely to get it!