I was invited to interview for my first internship -- a vague “let’s see how we get on” opportunity in fashion PR -- at London’s Shoreditch House. It was hard not to be overawed by the private members’ club, famous for its rooftop pool and no-mobile-phone policy. I imagined working my way up to a future among the fabulous: trading gossip over coffee with journalists, toasting the spring lines with designers.
Spoiler alert: I have never returned to Shoreditch House.
During my trial run, a more established intern told me, “You don’t want to work here.” She cited hard work and little recognition as her primary woes.
Hard work? No problem. I filed media coverage at double speed and swept the floor before visitors began to arrive for Press Day. “You don’t need to do that,” said the firm’s founder, roping in the other intern. She suggested I have a drink. But I continued to find tasks for myself: prepping cocktails, straightening gift bags.
At the end of the week, the founder thanked me for my help. But she didn’t ask me back – I later learned that she worried I couldn’t relax. I didn’t fit the culture, despite my attempts to exceed her expectations.
In an ideal world, you should always interview at a company’s offices to get some insight into their culture. Try to gauge the pace of work and how people interact with each other. This may be tough if you’re applying for an internship abroad, but you can still ask for opportunities to connect with current team members, or with internship alumni if the placement is arranged through your school.