Friday, 2 May 2014

How to Get That Internship (& make it count)

How did she get that?
This question is one I've heard a lot over the past few months. 
It's a question I have in fact asked myself a few times. When I confirmed the internship at Glamour Magazine I was genuinely waiting for the moment it would all fall through; someone would email and say 'sorry we can't have you anymore'. Luckily that didn't happen and last month I worked in the shiney magazine offices for four weeks.

Yesterday my classmates from LCF and I had the pleasure of returning to the offices for a tour and a chat with the features team and one question resonated round the room: what do you look for in your interns?
The features team and Amy, the PA, told everyone that I was probably the one who could answer that best so here's what I can tell you about how I got the internship, what I learnt during the internship and how I actually made use of it.

(1) Applications

On the website it states that Glamour often fill their work experience slots up to six months in advance and this is true, I know when they are next booked up until and it's a long wait.
When I applied I was fully aware that this might be the case - this is normally the case on any major commercial publication - so I gave them specific dates that I could come in and asked if anything would be available then. {note: I applied in October for an internship in March}
My advice then is state (in your email as well as a your cover letter) when you would like to come in, if you are wanting to do the internship over your uni holidays then tell them the dates you'll be free. If you are 100% free and could pretty much work whenever they asked you to then tell them that, let them know you are happy to work on short notice because people do cancel last minute.

I'll let you in on a little secret here: the Glamour offices get around 200 - 300 applications per week for work experience. This means that most of the time your CV will be read first - if they are impressed by that then your cover letter will be read but ultimately if your CV isn't up to scratch, chances are your cover letter might not even get looked at.
So what to put on your CV?
It depends where you apply obviously but for a major magazine you need to have previous experience elsewhere. I had my local newspaper, my student newspaper, two online fashion publications and a popular teen magazine on my CV, as well as office experience and a degree in fashion journalism. Be aware that this isn't unusual, in the same way you would work your way up in paid employment, you need to work your way up in unpaid employment.
In terms of your cover letter my only advice is make it short and interesting, don't just repeat what your CV said because that's so dull. Tell a joke or a funny story {my cover letter had an anecdote about a nightmare experience transcribing an interview when I was working on the teen mag}, give them a reason to remember who you are.

Most big publications state clearly on their website that they don't get back to anyone who is unsuccessful - the pure volume of applications means it is difficult to do so. So what's the rule with chasing up an application?
For me one email and one phone call would be your maximum, sometimes it doesn't hurt to pick up the phone and remind the employer that you applied but don't ring more than this. Being pushy and ballsy is important but if you hassle someone who is already hugely busy the most you'll get is an interview with no real intention of hiring you afterwards.

The Intern

If you manage to get the internship (hooray!!) then don't just see it as something to put on your CV - these people may recommend you for other jobs in the future, they may ask you to come back for work in the future (I've just been asked to be an assistant for the Glamour Women of the Year Awards over the next couple of weeks) so do everything you can to impress.
That starts with being competent. This sound ridiculous but it is so important. Answer the phone when it rings and when you do, don't just pass the call to someone else, try and get all the information you can and pass on messages. Be fully prepared to do remedial tasks like filing or transcribing and be happy about doing them!

Don't act like an intern but know your place.
If you act like you're work experience and need someone to hold your hand during your time in the office then everyone will get fed up of you fast, so act like you're part of the team - chat to people, say good morning, join in if it's someones birthday or people are having drinks.
At the same time though understand that you are an intern so if someone gives you a task that seems boring or not important then it's because someone needs to do it and you are at the bottom of the ladder.

Clear your minds of filthy thoughts, I mean do anything and everything for everyone (at work).
My biggest piece of advice is DO NOT sit at your desk and wait for the team to come to you because, chances are, they won't. They are busy and able to function without an intern around so try and make yourself so useful that they don't want you to leave because they can no longer function without an intern! Send emails, go up to people, ask everyone and anyone on the team if you can do anything. If everyone says no then use your initiative and come up with something; suggest feature ideas, organise the cupboards, put together a handbook for the following intern.

I've heard so many people say to me 'you know no other interns offer to make tea'. It became a running joke in the office that if anyone needed tea I'd probably already be making it so get off your high horse (if you are on one) and make tea and coffee. This isn't just a stupid intern task, it gets you talking to people, it gives you the opportunity to chat and get to know everyone. I'm not sure why interns think it's degrading to make tea anyway, on the rare occasion that I didn't offer tea up to everyone then someone on the team would do it and that would be anyone from the features assistant to the associate editor. No one is too good to serve a round of tea.

Hopefully this has been useful for anyone looking to get an internship. I loved my time at Glamour and I made some genuine friends whilst I was there so I am always happy to share any wisdom I can offer: if you have any questions just comment!

Until next time, E xx 


  1. I just found your blog and LOVE it! I get what you mean about making tea: it doesn't make you a slave. It gives you chance to get chatting and know people a bit better!
    So glad you enjoyed your internship, I'll be looking for one myself next year and will take your tips on board! :)

    1. Thank you so much! It's so lovely when my readers leave comments - then I actually know who they are! I've had some great feedback on this so glad to see my tips will come in useful :) xxx

  2. I've just seen this on Journograds and thought it was a fab piece! I've got my first placement next month in London and it's helped ease my nerves quite a lot! Thank you xx

    1. Oh how exciting! Where are you going to be working? I was so nervous before I started but honestly after a few days there was no problem, so glad I helped! E xx

  3. This is a great post with really practical advice. I've interned a few times and totally agree with your tips- the suggestion to create a handover for the next intern is a great idea. Also, I just discovered your blog and I love it! Love the quote under your title- where is it from?

    Faye x,uk