I had no idea what to expect from either of the internships I took on last summer. The only thing I knew for sure was that they would look great on my resume –so I was on board. At the time I really wasn’t very sure as to what kind of career I wanted to go into upon graduation –only that I wanted it to somehow relate to my two majors: Applied Visual Arts and Merchandising Management. After applying to about ten different internship programs, I was lucky enough to be offered three.
At first I was tempted to accept all of them and juggle my schedule as I went. Fortunately I saw reason and decided to accept only two of them. I accepted an illustrator position at a patterning company for spring term, and a merchandising position at a prominent retail chain for the summer.
In the illustrator position I worked closely with the designer to create visually accurate and compelling drawings of her clothing. I was surprised by how difficult it was sometimes. Communicating specific visual ideas can become very complex –and I learned a lot about myself during the process. Looking back, I’d say the most important thing I took away from that experience was that I do not want to be an illustrator. I didn’t like trying to create someone else’s vision –particularly when she didn’t like what I had sketched. This was actually an incredibly valuable thing to learn about myself, as this really helped narrow down what kind of career paths I would enjoy in the future.
To say the merchandising position was educational would be the understatement of the year. Having never worked in retail before, I had never been exposed to the retail culture –let alone the environment of salesmen working on commission. I was immersed in this very competitive field for three months, learning valuable customer service and managerial skills along the way. It was very interesting to work in such close proximity with such an individualistic group of people. There was this undercurrent of self-promotion and strategic thinking that I had never connected with retail sales before.
I would definitely say that this was one of the most important professional experiences I’ve had to date. From this one internship I learned: specific companies I do not want to work for, what qualities I need (and don’t need) in a manager, that sales is too cut-throat for me to enjoy it, and that I should look for careers involving the buying, merchandising, and trend forecasting aspects of retail –rather than those on the sales floor.
Overall I can’t emphasize enough how much you can learn about yourself and your future career field through completing a few internships. Not only do they look great on your resume –but they introduce you to the real-life workplace in a way that classes could never do.
Posted by Leah Anderson, Career Services Assistant