Thursday, November 17. It’s the last day of my internship at Scarlett Showroom in NYC and I find myself thinking, “Where did the time go?” It feels like last week that I was just an anxious, excited, nervous wreck of a college senior off to my interview with Scarlett when it’s now been almost three months.
In my three years at Mercyhurst, I heard a dozen testimonials from seniors studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology about their internship experiences in the big city. I spent the better part of my summer stressing about finding an internship, and finally landed an interview with Scarlett Showroom. Now it was finally my turn to be the big bad senior with the cool New York City internship, and I felt like everything I had learned and prepared for was leading up to this moment.
But despite all the preparing and knowledge, things don’t always go as planned.
Even though my interview wasn’t until 11:00 a.m., I woke up at 8:00 that morning in August, put on the outfit I had carefully chosen the night before (and by carefully, I mean I ripped apart my tiny dorm room closet, pulled out every piece of Forever21 clothing that passed as “business casual” and had a mini fashion show with my roommates to figure out which combination made me look the most professional yet stylish), and nervously ate my breakfast.
Since it had only been a week since my roommates and I had moved to New York City, the thing I was most worried about was getting lost. The subway has since become my best friend since I never learned how to drive, and wouldn’t be able to in the city even if I could, but at the time it still terrified me.
My roommate Caitlin coached me all that morning about which train to get on and how many stops I had to get there. I left – Google Maps in hand – a solid hour and a half early, even though it was only a 20-minute trip. I thought I was in good shape.
I was still late.
Being late to an interview is always Mistake #1 in every article about Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make in an Interview. And I wasn’t just 15 minutes late, it was a good hour because I took the train going the COMPLETE wrong way (a mistake everyone in NYC has made at one time or another, no matter how long you’ve lived here).
When I realized it was 10:40 and I was in the wrong place, I had to call the people at Scarlett, hold back the tears that were welling up, and tell them that I was going to be late. It was completely mortifying, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to come back from this bad first impression.
Long story short, I pulled myself together and did the best interview I thought I could, and walked away not expecting to hear from them again. But later that day I did end up getting a call back, saying that I got the internship and that I could start the following week.
I definitely learned from that first mistake and spent a significant amount of time trying hard to erase that bad first impression. And in the time of my internship I learned valuable knowledge about the world of sales, organized a lot of hangers, got to attend the Coterie trade show at the Javits Center, saw how buyers and account executives interact, made the stereotypical coffee and breakfast runs for the other employees, and finally got more comfortable with the subway while running errands.
I wish I could say that being late to my interview was the last mistake I ever made at my internship, that I made it through the next three months as the example of the perfect employee. And while none of them were ever to that magnitude, I still made “typical intern” mistakes even up to my last day, when I was leaving and almost forgot to bring the package with me that I was dropping off as my last errand for Scarlett Showroom ever.
But for all of you reading this who are planning to come to NYC your senior year, or anyone who needs or wants an internship in the future, the moral of the story isn’t that you can get away with anything and still get employed somewhere, because I got lucky.
But the most valuable thing I learned about being an intern is that this is the time of my career that I can make these simple mistakes, and learn from them so that I can be a better employee in the future. I had spent so many years worrying about being the perfect intern (probably as a result of watching “The Devil Wears Prada”), but in the end the people at Scarlett were patient teachers who knew I was an intern who was going to mess up. And I’d much rather make mistakes now, and gain the experience so I don’t do it again when it really matters.
The value of an internship isn’t in the small stipend you get or the college credits you earn, but in the contacts you make, the questions you ask, and, of course, the mistakes that turn into learning experiences.