3 Things That Made My Unpaid Internship Worth It

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to be a writer. The path may have been partially predetermined – I’m named after Jane Austen and share a surname with TV’s Carrie Bradshaw – however, writing was a creative outlet that I have always been drawn to. But it wasn’t until I saw Jeanne Beker reporting on the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer ‘99 runway show in grade five that I realized I wanted to go into fashion communications.

There’s a tendency to glamorize the fashion industry, a heuristic created from the countless ads, fantastical editorials, and over the top parties spread across our Instagram feeds. However, this is a far cry from reality. Just like The Devil Wears Prada, if you want to break into the industry, you have to be willing to work long hours, deal with egos, and yes, get coffee. The largest barrier to entering the industry, however, is the fact that almost all internships are unpaid.

I was fortunate enough to spend the summer working at one of Canada’s top independent fashion publications. Here’s why I was glad I took this unpaid position:

My Time Was Valued

During my first and second year, I had a paid marketing internship at a decently well-known company. While the job looks great on my resume, I feel like I spent most of my summer scrolling through Facebook, waiting for someone to assign me something to do. When I did have work, I was expected to know exactly what I was doing; after all that was what I was getting payed for! At the magazine, my Editor-in- Chief knew I was there because I wanted to be there. She kept my schedule packed and gave me opportunities like interviewing Manolo Blahnik – it was all incentives to keep working hard, because if you’re not learning and growing in an unpaid role, you might as well work a minimum wage job.

I Got Opportunities I Would’ve Never Imagined

By the end of the summer, I had 11 articles published in print, 50+ articles published online, and attended countless events where I was able to network with some of the domestic industry’s most influential individuals. For someone who is trying to compete in the fashion world, this opportunity was priceless. I got to interview celebrities, build relationships with PR firms, and understand the business model of a real publication. While I am able to gain some of this experience through my university’s magazine, I can walk into any job interview with unique life experience and a rolodex of coveted contacts.

I Got A Paying Gig Out of It

I worked my ass off this summer, giving up my nights and weekends to transcribe interviews or respond to emails. But after 3 months, I started to get a paycheque. Now, I am working for the magazine as a content editor, contributing 2-3 articles a week for web content and a couple articles for each print issue. By maintaining my position at the magazine, I’m able to continue to stay in contact with many of the creatives and brands that I connected with during the summer, which will hopefully set me up for long term success.

It’s easy to pass on unpaid opportunities during college because of the perceived necessity of having money in the summer. Nevertheless, sometimes these positions are the best way to explore different fields, build your portfolio, or get your foot in the door into an industry you are passionate about.

Jane Bradshaw is a third-year Psychology student at Queen’s University, where she is active in the campus creative community through her work as Online Director of Muse Magazine, Co-Founder of the Queen’s Fashion Industry Network and Creative Director of Project Red Charity Fashion Show. She is also a content editor at Dress to Kill Magazine and never turns down a chance to pet a pup.

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