People have varying opinions of internships. I think people love to hear the horror stories of an intern but sometimes they aren't that horrific.
After graduating with a degree in Fashion Design, the prospect of someone handing me my perfect job on a plate were starting to fade so I began applying for jobs. It's tough when you've just graduated. I've lost count of the jobs I've applied to and if I've been lucky enough to receive a reply it's been the dreaded 'not enough experience' and there the reality kicks in, how do I get that experience if I can't get a job? Which is when interning became the only viable option.
I contacted a well known design house for an internship and I got an email asking for my availability to intern, I replied asking whether it would be paid and the response was a curt, "like most other design houses internships are not paid". At this point I'd not long finished my degree and studying Fashion design had absolutely crippled my bank account. Needless to say I wasn't in the financial position to accept unpaid work, which I told them. I didn't hear back. I decided to carry on working at the local tourist attraction with my zero hour contract, earn a little bit of money to get myself to London and embrace the intern life.
My first internship would be at Hand & Lock. I travelled to London via coach on a seven and a half hour journey and went for my interview at Hand & Lock. Despite being double booked, it went really well and only lasted ten minutes (another thing to bear in mind when going for internship interviews; you'll be lucky if they last ten minutes).
Three weeks into my internship with Hand & Lock was when I realised I've been lucky. Mostly people assume you will be making plenty of cuppas and running errands, which as of five minutes ago, I had never made a hot drink for anyone. And errands have been pretty straight forward.
However, my second errand involved taking back a monogrammed item, I was given an address, a map and told to hand deliver the item to the company. Directions were simple and I found the place easily, seeing a sign that said 'deliveries to basement' I followed the steps down to an 'interesting' looking door and knocked. Through the window I could see a very chaotic studio, vaguely sweatshop like, with several stressed looking girls completely ignoring me. I raised my hand to knock again, when a girl at a sewing machine turns to me and snaps 'It's open!'. I asked for the person I was delivering to; no response. I try again, stating that I am from Hand & Lock with a delivery, which provokes the girl at the sewing machine to snatch the bag from my hand and throw it to the side.
I had thought that the 'internships from hell' were slightly exaggerated, but now I can see the darker side of interning and I'm sure most people envisage an internship to be like. Thankfully at Hand & Lock, it's not like that.
Hand & Lock do quite a bit of Machine embroidery, and there are usually several jobs to process via machine. Prior to Hand & Lock I had never used an Embroidery Machine, so when I was shown how to use it on my third day and left to complete a few tasks, the pressure was on. I hate being wrong and my perseverance came in useful so by the end of the day I'd picked it up and now I can just be left to use the machine by myself to help complete orders.
On an average day at Hand & Lock you have no idea what will be coming in. Day to day differs, clients differ and the orders that come through the door are completely diverse, compared to what you would expect from an embroidery company that has been around since 1767. The first day, two of the embroiderers were sitting, intently working at a frame, with an interesting and less than traditional looking embroidery. This continued into my second week and my input into this embroidery is one of my favourite 'intern moments'. The embroidery was for Louis Vuitton and there was a pile of bristles from a paintbrush which were to be embroidered into the design. My task was to sort the one centimetre long bristles into piles of six.
I think the best way to survive as an intern is to view yourself as an employee, you need to try and make yourself indispensable and make the most out of the situation. It doesn't just have to be experience that 'looks great on your CV'.