Co-op Lessons from New York City

I have been living in New York City for three months working as a fashion PR Intern. When I first decided to jump into the world of PR, I knew this was what I wanted to do and I was determined to be great at it. The thing with PR is you can’t just ace it immediately. There is SO much to learn in this business especially in fashion. At this point, I finally feel like I have gotten to a good place where I am fully aware of what is going on and can function in this high paced craziness. Yet throughout this short journey I have learned a tremendous amount! Here are five lessons I have learned on co-op!

Lesson #1: Leave a paper trail.

Every day at work I am bombarded with a zillion emails a day! I am constantly flagging, unflagging, and then flagging some more. Not only is it important to make sure the task is completed, it is important to respond to every email so whoever you are in contact with knows what’s happening. By doing this you leave a paper trail of what you are doing and what you are responsible for. If something doesn’t get done or goes wrong, you have a paper trail to ultimately save your ass. Recently an email was sent asking me and my fellow intern to set up a messenger to a publication. The other fashion intern was taking care of it but never scheduled the messenger. In her email reply she said everything was all set, but it wasn’t. The messenger was never scheduled and my boss was not very happy. Luckily because of the paper trail a) I wasn’t blamed and b) we know what went wrong. This leads me to the next lesson…

Lesson #2: Always read the emails and read them carefully. 

People tend to change their minds a million times and the email trail always lets me know what’s going on. The other intern I referred to before didn’t read the email and it came back to bite her in the butt. Everyone else around me also has a million things to do so to limit the amount of questions you have, read the email and understand the situation. When I first started every time I asked my supervisor a question, he always responded the same way: “Read the email! Did you read the email?” More times than not my question was answered in the email.

Lesson #3- PR Etiquette and Style 

We may no longer be in the 1800s where women needed to curtsey and men needed to bow, but in PR, there is still an etiquette that everyone needs to follow. I have learned in fashion that everyone wants something from everyone so to keep people on your side, follow these guidelines.  When writing an email always sign with best until you have been emailing with the person for a while. And always use correct grammar. Hey we may work in PR and sure we aren’t curing cancer, but put that comma where it belongs! You have a reputation to uphold! And exclamation marks are your best friend! I am obsessed with them and it’s a good way to let whoever you are talking to know you appreciate their help and assistance. I have recently been given a new responsibility that requires emailing fashion assistants to request samples back. My boss has been walking me through the emailing process and it is way more complicated than I ever could have imagined. The emails may not be an essay but proof reading is still very important and kindness still goes a long way.

Lesson #4- Resumes: the good and the bad

My office has recently been interviewing candidates for summer internships and it was so interesting to watch them analyze resumes. They go through them so quickly it really is true that you have to stand out (in a good way!). These are some do’s and don’t’s I learned from observing my boss.

DON’T: Put a picture on your resume. No one will take you seriously and it makes you look shallow. This has happened and it’s embarrassing for everyone involved.

DO: Include the most relevant experience first. While my advisor was flipping through resumes, he would get frustrated if they put babysitting from 5 years ago first instead of recent internship experience. It isn’t necessary to go in chronological order on a resume.

DON’T: Act like you have no idea what you’re applying for. I work at a FASHION PR firm, but half the applicants never even mentioned the word or anything similar. They obviously hadn’t researched the company and had no idea what we specialized in. You don’t necessarily have to be the next Anna Wintour, but know what you are applying to do. This applies to any job or business! My advisor tossed every application that was obviously unaware. 

DO: Write a great cover letter. The resume is a great way to show why you’re qualified for the job, but the cover letter is where you show your passion for the job. Internships can be competitive so be sure to express how hard you will work and why you would love the job. There is no need to beg, just get your point across.

Lastly when it comes to resumes, people do look you up on Facebook! I was surprised to see my boss doing it but he does want to make sure you’re not a freak! It’s just another way to check you out before they interview you so keep it clean. 

Lesson #5- Prioritize

This was the most important and hardest lesson I have learned so far. Prioritizing seems like a no brainer, but when I started my co-op all I wanted to do was impress everyone. I work in a department with two account executives, an assistant and a showroom supervisor. Each were constantly giving me tasks to do and I wanted to do everything for each of them right away. Therefore I gave every task the same amount of importance and would waste my time on useless ones. In the end I became stressed and crammed for time. After three months, I have finally mastered the art of prioritizing. When I am packing up clothes for whatever magazine, I make sure to ask when it is being picked up. That way I can plan out which to do first and which ones can wait. I also make a list of things to do in my notebook and number them based on importance. It’s important to ask questions especially about priorities and I promise your boss will not get upset. They want you to ask because it shows you’re responsible and care. In PR everything is urgent, but I have had to learn how to distinguish between what is really urgent and what isn’t.

Chelsea Addy,
Former Secretary, NU PRSSA 

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