When you’re told by your tutor that you’ve got to undertake a compulsory placement at a magazine as part of your course, it’s like the best news ever. Every single one of us couldn't wait. But it was daunting having to organise it ourselves. All we had was a list of dates – it was up to us to find a magazine that would take us on.
Amazingly for me, that turned out to be LOOK magazine – Britain’s biggest weekly selling glossy. When the head of the features department confirmed I could attend, I marked it in my diary and the countdown begun.
Tom’s Aunty lives just outside of London so it was fantastic that I got to stay with her. It was this time two years ago that my placement finished and I remember bringing all my things down to the dining room the night before the big journey, feeling like I was moving out. It was emotional leaving my family – I cried a lot when I was left on my own, because starting the next day was the biggest thing I’d ever had to do.
Looking back, there was so much I learnt about myself, not just from the internship, but living independently in London for four weeks too. So today, I wanted to share these lessons with you, so that you hopefully enjoy them and learn a few things yourself too.
I’ve been told ghost stories of people that have applied for an internship at a magazine without having even read it – big mistake. The people you’re working for can tell if you’re not tuned in with what the magazine is all about. It’s like when you’re asking for the internship in the first place. I knew the Features Department was where I wanted to do my placement, so I looked in the magazine, saw the Features Editor's name and email, and sent an email over.
You've also got to be prepared in terms of where you’re actually going. I’d been to London before but I didn't know my way around. I was due to start the internship on a Monday, so I travelled down with Tom on the Friday so we got to spend the whole weekend there. We did what would be my usual trip into work for the next four weeks, and he pointed out things for me to look out for so I knew I was on the right track.
Seeing the building for the first time was incredible. Not only is it one of the most impressive buildings in London (I’m talking glass walls), but every night as I walked to Waterloo station, the big wheel was my view.
If I hadn't practised the journey, I wouldn't have known where I was going. So a big piece of advice would be to practice your route in. It also worked for timings as well – better to be early than late.
An obvious one, but this was probably the biggest thing I learnt. If you’re not sure about something, want to double check what you've been told, or have finished a job and want something else to do – ask. Ask your colleagues about their journey. Ask them where they live. Ask them what their career plans are. Find out as much as you can and take what they say on board. Watch what they do – where they go for lunch, what they do when they first get into the office. And always ask where the toilets are. That’s something I forgot and it was awkward trying to find them on the first day!
One of the Features team was off for a few days during my placement and I was lucky enough to be asked to cover her position. I immediately said yes and moved over to her desk. I was put right in the thick of it – proof reading, editing – and it gave me more chance to talk to some of the people in the team too. The more I did, the more responsibility I was given.
One day the person who was off had a phone interview scheduled with a top beauty blogger and I was given the opportunity to do it. Of course I said yes, and it was a big feature in the Beauty section of the magazine – that was a big moment, and when my love for interviewing really began. This is one of the main reasons why I’ve started the “How I Got To Where I Am Today” Career series on ABOH, to share people’s stories.
Always have a notebook with you
You won’t be told in advance when you’re going to be given a new job. You could be midway through a task and your editor will come over and throw something else at you. Don’t try and remember it. Have a notebook and pen on your desk at all times, so when someone comes over to you with a task, you’re ready to take notes.
At the start of your internship, it’s also likely that you’ll be given a bit of a tour, and a good thing to remember is where everyone sits. At LOOK, there were other magazines on the same floor and in the same building, like Marie Claire, InStyle and Woman’s Weekly – (to get to the toilets on my floor, you had to pass the Editor of In Style’s office and I always got goosebumps every time I walked by!) And then for each magazine, each team is sat in a cluster of tables. So beauty have their own hub, fashion do (next to the fashion cupboard), photography do and features, too.
Something I did on the first day was sketch out a floor plan of where each department was in my notebook. It was really handy every time I needed to go get some information from somewhere.
Write down names and email addresses too – you’ll need to use those a lot.
Make the most of your time
Remember you’re not just experiencing the internship, you’re experiencing the place too. Wander round your building, see the sights of the city. When Tom visited me at weekends, we made the most of seeing as much as we could of London and even got chance to see a musical.
It sounds cliché, but it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You want to come home thinking you did everything you could to make it the best experience possible.
Smile at everyone
A smile goes a long way. I was so timid at first and it took all the willpower I had to throw big smiles at people. But it worked. I became more approachable and had some good conversations, because I made a point of being friendly.
Remember it’s not like the movies
You've seen 'The Devil Wears Prada', right? That’s the outlook I had, especially when I was walking into the building with crowds of people on my first day. But it’s nothing like that. Yes, fashion cupboards do exist and they are incredible – but more than that, you forget what all of these people are actually trying to do. Publish a brilliant magazine once every week.
It was actually a lot more laid-back than I expected and most people working for the magazine were really down to earth. It was also reassuring finding out that a lot of them had gone down the route I was on at that time, and they offered a lot of support.
Just because it’s a fashion magazine DOESN'T mean everyone is into fashion
I won’t lie to you, I walked in on my first day thinking everyone was going to be dressed so fashionably. I even bought a few new outfits just for the internship! But I was pleasantly surprised. The Beauty department did have hundreds of freebies that they got to try out and people borrowed items from the fashion cupboard. But they weren't all kitted out in designer gear. They dressed like themselves, which was really refreshing to see.
Give everything your best shot - & remember who you’re writing for
I was lucky enough to be given the chance to write a few articles for the magazine which ended up being published. When you’re given an opportunity like this, you’ve got to give it your all. I used to bring copies of the magazine with me to the office so that when I got the chance to write an article, I had those to look through for inspiration. I wanted to make sure I got the right tone, used the right vocabulary and put it together like any regular LOOK writer would.
Because I did this, the Features Editor was really impressed and kept giving me more chances to write, which is exactly what I wanted.
Embrace the stories
It might not be like the movies, but it was definitely like being in another world. Models came into the office daily to have their test shots taken and one beauty writer came in one day saying she’d been to a launch party the night before and chatted to Harry Styles. Then one lunchtime, someone went out to interview a model and came back saying some quite negative things about her. You've got to take everything with a pinch of salt and just embrace the tales you’ll get to go home with.
Just because something goes wrong, DOESN'T mean it’s a bad thing
About halfway through my internship, I got a serious sinus infection. The day I got it, I had a nosebleed at my desk and spent an hour in the bathroom it was that bad. I tried to get a doctor’s appointment but couldn't, so went to a local chemist and they said I had to stay off work and rest. This news broke my heart – along with the fact that when I had the nosebleed, I took off my charm bracelet to not get blood on it, and it was stolen.
All of these things made those few days a really sad time. I remember telling the Editor that I had to go home feeling devastated and I cried on the train home and when I got home. I missed a full week of my internship due to this.
A lot of people would've just stayed at home, thinking the internship was over. But I went back. And the night before I went back in, I had a bad nosebleed again. The team were surprised when I showed up for my final week, but welcomed me back and I managed to complete the placement.
At one point, it made me feel like I’d failed. But I tried to remember that you can’t plan these things and just because I got sick, didn't mean that my internship was going to be affected. I still got to have a great time and I still got work published, which is the goal I wanted to achieve.
And there you go! Phew, that was a lot longer than I anticipated. But I hope it’s given you a real-life idea of what an internship can be like. No, I didn't get a job at the end of it, and that’s OK. Because that experience taught me that while I did want to work for a magazine, I didn't want to move to London. And what I did get back were great contacts and brilliant feedback, which led to me coming out with a fantastic Master’s Degree and the brilliant job I'm in now.
Yep, I’ll take that.
Let's chat in the comments - have you done an internship before? What's some advice you give to people who are about to start one?