Monday, April 2, 2012

Landing a Fashion Internship or Job in Nashville - Advice from a Professor

Lately I’ve received several emails from readers, students, and fashion enthusiasts alike about internship and job opportunities in Nashville. Some of have inquired with specific questions, while others seek general advice on starting a career in fashion. So, I decided to break from the typical fashion posts to cover a topic I advise students on daily. Here's my advice and tips for those seeking employment in the Nashville fashion industry:


Are there internship opportunities in Nashville?
Yes! There are always internship opportunities available in Nashville. At any given point I have about five to ten designers, boutique owners, and national retailers who have contacted me regarding internship opportunities that I don’t have enough students to fill.

Where should I do my internship?
This is absolutely up to you. Think about your interests and passions. Yes, you’re interested in fashion, but what specifically? If you’re hands-on and creative, perhaps visual merchandising may be of interest to you. Seek internships at Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, or Forever 21. Maybe you want to be a fashion designer- seek an internship with one of our local talents. If you’ve always wanted to be a boutique owner, hit up stores like Blush Boutique or Bullets and Mullets to get an in-depth experience of store ownership.

Do I need a resume?
It depends, but typically yes, you’ll need a resume. If you’re already friendly with the parties you’re seeking an internship with, a good conversation about your skills and passions may suffice. If you’re applying for a position with a national retailer in-person or online, you’ll definitely need a resume. I always suggest having strong resume ready and in hand. 

How do I get an internship?
Easy- ask! I’m always amazed when I have somebody say to me, “I’ve been looking for an internship for months and can’t find one.” I ask them where they’ve looked, who they’ve talked to, which stores they’ve enter, and who they’ve been chatting up. The typical response? “Nobody. I’ve been looking online.”

Online is a great way to start searching for internships, but not always the quickest way to score one. Craigslist and typically bode well for internship seekers. If you’re looking for internships with local companies or designers, I suggest taking the Facebook route. Friend local designers, like local retailers. DO NOT Facebook message these people asking for internships- it’s tacky and impersonal. DO email them (with a professional email address) or call directly. Many times I find out about internship opportunities with companies like Blush Boutique or Sleeveless through their Facebook posts inquiring about interns.

If you’re seeking an internship with a national retailer, like Macy’s, Dillard’s, or Nordstrom, do apply online. Also, call the store and ask if there is anyone who can assist you in the process.

Last and most importantly, if you’re looking for an internship at a specific local boutique, for example, ask! Business owners are flattered to know that somebody out there admires their company or them so much, they want to learn from them. Seriously. I’ve scored countless internships for my students by simply asking the store owners if they’d be willing to accept interns. That’s how I got my students started interning at Tidwell and Perryman. I attended Local Honey’s store opening, ran into Kevin (Perryman), told him I had a couple of students who would be a perfect fit for his company, and asked if they could intern with him. The answer? Yes!

I’m studying (insert non-fashion related major here), but I am passionate about fashion. What advice do you have?
Do as many internships as you can. There is no better way to learn about the industry than becoming directly involved and immersing yourself into it. The great thing about internships is that it allows you try different aspects of the industry without fully committing yourself to one area. Intern doing visual merchandising. Give buying a go. See what it’s like to be a store owner. Try your hand at styling. There’s no better way to discover what you’re truly passionate and good at without trying it all.


Are there job opportunities in Nashville?
Yes! Obviously Nashville is no New York or Los Angeles, but the fashion scene here is thriving and growing exponentially each year. Several designers are making a living creating exquisite fashion sold online and at local retailers. Companies like VF Imagewear and Simplicity allow employers to lead a more corporate life with jobs in product designing, merchandising, and allocation. Others are living the fashion life owning boutiques, becoming marketing directors or buyers for other companies, or living the dream as a fashion stylist.

How do I apply for a job?
If you’re seeking full-time employment, you’re likely to find job postings on a variety of websites from, Craigslist, and even Facebook pages of companies. But I always suggest and recommend to others to look directly on the company’s website under the Careers or Jobs section. Chances are, you’ll find something that speaks to you with a company you want to work for. And if you don’t find something immediately, check the website again the next day, and every day after that, and every day until you become employed. Yes, I’m serious. No, it’s not crazy. You never know when a company will post a job opportunity- maybe seconds after you’ve closed out your window and moved on to the next website. That’s why it’s imperative to check daily. You may not see anything for weeks, but as soon as a position opens, you’ll be one of the first to apply.

Finding full-time employment can be difficult for anybody, and especially in times of strained economic conditions. And the chances are, if you’re a recent graduate with little to no experience, it’ll be just that much more difficult to find your dream job. This isn’t meant to be a discouragement, but a dose of reality, and a push to get you to take this process with seriousness.

I found and applied for the perfect job. Should I hold off on applying to other jobs until I hear back from this one?
No. Keep applying for jobs until you get one. Who knows what’ll happen with the job you applied to and may be perfectly qualified for. Maybe you’ll get it and maybe you won’t. Having backups is wise.

I applied for countless jobs, went on several interviews, and was accepted to multiple positions across the country before I started my current career. Having multiple options allowed me to graciously pass on positions and accept the job I really wanted- leading the Fashion & Retail Management department at the Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville. 

I applied for the job, but I haven’t heard anything back. What should I do?
I advise my students to wait a week before acting. People get busy with work, and maybe they just haven’t had time to sift through resumes yet. But waiting about a week before a follow up is a good idea. I suggest following up with an email (to the specific person who would be hiring you) with a professionally-written statement about how you’re following up on the applied for position, can provide any additional information necessary, and you look forward to speaking with them soon. If you don’t hear back a week after the email, follow up with a call. If you’re still drawing up blank, it may be time to back off. You want to remain persistent, not annoying.

I got an interview! How should I prepare?
Do some investigative research on the company you’re applying for. What type of company are they? What job advancement opportunities can they provide for individuals in their organization? What notable things has this company done? Bringing up these pre-researched facts can add bonus points to your interview.

Think ahead about what you think you’ll be asked and prepare some answers. Common questions may include, What your greatest strengths/weaknesses, what previous experience make you suited for this position, or what can you add to our organization? Knowing the answer ahead of time will make you more confident and prepared in the interview. Also, think about what questions you want to ask them. Remember, you’re interviewing them as well. I’ve been on several job interviews where during the course of the interview I realized this was not a company I wanted to work for. Questions you may want to ask include, What career advancement opportunities do I have with this position, what type of benefits do you offer, or how or when will my performance be evaluated on this job?

Also, make sure you know proper directions to your interview location. Nothing is worse than a late interviewee.

What should I bring to the interview?
Several copies of your resume on thick resume paper (don’t pull an Elle Woods here), a portfolio if you have one, and a positive attitude. Nothing is more of a turnoff than an interviewee with a negative disposition. Your interviewer will usually inform you if other materials are required.

What do I wear?
You may be in fashion, but this is no excuse for dressing inappropriately. I’m not suggesting you wear a suit, but a tasteful dress or smart pants and top will suffice. It may seem obvious, but I’m going to lay it out there. No short skirts (knee-length only, please), no jeans, no low-cut breast-baring tops, no sandals. You’re going to an interview, not a dinner with your girlfriends.

Of course, you should always use your best judgment. A freshly pressed white button up, slim black pants, patent pumps and pearls may not be appropriate for an interview at Urban Outfitters, but would be perfectly acceptable at Nordstrom. Think about where you’re applying, and professionally dress on par with that company.

What do I do after the interview?
The day after the interview, follow up with a handwritten note. Emails are nice, but nothing is more sophisticated and mature than a smart handwritten card. Thank them for the interview, and quickly restate why you think you’d be a great fit for the company.

I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years and whenever I receive a handwritten note, that person always stands out to me, and I appreciate the gesture. If nothing else, a handwritten card puts your name in the potential employer’s mind again- hey, it doesn’t hurt!

I hope this internship and job advice has provided a little light on the whole process, and I encourage all my readers seeking either good luck in your hunt!


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