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  • Gulshan Manvani

'Nobody Told Us'

When it comes to actually working on field, it is important to understand that some of our biggest lessons will not be learnt in a book. They say 'experience is the best teacher'. Here are the 5 lessons I learnt being a fashion intern.

Just like every other graduate from London, I too, had big dreams and expectations of multiple job offers and a glamorous, exciting life in the world of fashion. However, it was not long before I was transported back to reality (quite literally!!) Like tons of international students who had to leave everything as is and come back home, I too, bid goodbye to my most favourite city; came back with an empty suitcase, but a heavy heart. Thanks, Covid.

I returned at such uncertain times, and looking at the economy crumbling around me (almost like my dreams and expectations) as a fresh graduate- it was a complete nightmare! Soon after, I came across The Inde Project and realized it was a company unlike any other. I wasn’t even sure if they were recruiting, I just applied anyway (Lesson #1). Luckily enough, I was hired as an intern for a 3-month period.

I thought to myself, “an internship? That can’t be tough”. I thought I would be given banal tasks that I had to simply report EOD. Someone with a masters’ degree from a reputed university in London can handle that! But, I was in for a ride. The first day as an intern my manager asked me to “make my place in the company”?! What did that even mean? It felt so overwhelming, but I was excited. Working at The Inde Project, for me, has been the one right thing that has happened in 2020.

I assumed that the education I received in university and the experiences I had working hands-on on projects was all I needed to be aware of while working in the industry. But, one month into the internship and I realised the many many things that nobody told us. Or taught us.

#1. What The Tech! – Nope, I don’t mean Photoshop or Illustrator (which I still don’t know). But I mean Trello, Slack, Asana, and even Canva! Nobody told us about these life-changing apps and websites that make our lives so very easy, organised and pretty. Thanks to these, I have now learnt how to break down my tasks and work more efficiently. I wish I knew of them during my uni-days when I was constantly juggling between multiple tasks, assignments, and deadlines.

#2. Don’t make it personal – As most students would agree, our schools and universities are sort of our comfort zones. And if your manager or professors were anything like mine, they were the kindest, most forgiving and understanding. They never dismissed any idea you brought to them and always encouraged you. Nobody told us about the innumerable rejections we had to face. The innumerable emails you had to send and people you had to contact only to get no response. I felt so discouraged until I was told that it is not a ‘you’ thing, it is a ‘marketing’ thing. This has been one of the biggest takeaways that I will always hold close. Sometimes giving up is important. Giving up on “bad faith”.

#3. Scouting is half the battle – I know as students, this is the one thing we are taught to do. Source! For articles, for journals, for books, the works. We are now pros at how to Harvard reference and cite quotations. But researching and discovering the right clients and the right retailers is a whole other ball game. Nobody told us how to think of new ways to find clients, the effort that goes into finding new leads, or to ace a sales pitch. As students, sourcing has always been a part of the task, but here I have learnt that scouting is another task altogether, which takes a lot of effort and creativity, but ends up saving you lots of time!

#4. Power of Reflection – We go about week after week, repeating the same mistakes and giving the same excuses. Here, I was taught how to take ownership and responsibility for the goals I couldn’t meet. Nobody told us about how important it is to reflect after each day. Most schools skip this aspect of learning, mainly because it is something so natural and instinctive. But, it isn’t really. Learning how to reflect back on the ways that worked and didn’t work in a constructive manner takes skill and it can be life-changing.

#5. Make your Place! – Yes, this is something that can not be taught. But it is something that we should be told as students. Having heard those words for the first time, I felt a little lost. In retrospect, I now fully understand the importance of it. When I started interning, I wasn’t given routine tasks. And I think that is the best part of working here. I was forced to think of what to do, and how to get it done because of which I grew in the company and on a personal level faster than I could have ever imagined. Nobody told us how to make your place, but we surely learn.

So, there it is. Perhaps it is a little too soon to be writing about my journey considering I’ve just taken my first steps up the career ladder. Nevertheless, these are the 5 things I wish someone had told me when I had started. We’ve often heard of internships where interns are treated like a nobody and are given tasks that make no difference- especially so in the fashion industry. If you’re lucky, you might just find one that not only gives you a glimpse of the real world doing real work and mentors you, but also values you enough to grow with you.

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