My Most Important Internship Lesson

Almost three months ago to the day, I ventured outside of my house to begin my internship. As I was walking down the street toward the tube station, I was a little lost in my own thoughts and anxious to meet the people I would be working with for my time here. I was so preoccupied with what was going on my head, that I didn’t seem to think it would be a good idea to check that I was on the right platform. About two stops west, I realized I should have gone east instead, and my anxiety was now higher than before; I could not be late – it was only my first day! I thought one little bump in the road wasn’t enough to set me off course for a great day, but little did I know that more than a few bumps were ahead of me. CAPA had given me Salt Resort Wear’s old address, about a mile and a half walk from where they are currently located. I had already used up my built in cushion time by taking the wrong train, so now I was really running late, and, quite literally, running.

Seeing that the original location I was directed to was right across from Victoria Station, I saw no need to take an umbrella. Much to my luck, it started raining cats and dogs on my way to my corrected location. Within that ten minutes of full sprinting, I wasn’t sure if I was soaked with rain or sweat, and if the smell that surrounded me was my sweat or the mud pile I had so ungracefully splashed through. Stepping into the pristinely white interior of Salt, surrounded by a small array of very expensive clothes that could be sold to healthily fund my full college education, I’m almost positive the receptionist mistook me for a homeless person. Walking up the stairs to meet my supervisor, only then did I realize the leg-long run in my stockings that had developed at some point on my journey from home to here.

This was my first lesson, and I hadn’t even technically started the program. Prior to this experience, I had always had a plan and had been prepared for wherever I needed to be. Little hiccups occurred now and then, but never to the extent of what had happened on that first day of my internship here. As I stood in the stairwell alone, I let out a sigh from looking back at all that had transpired that morning and I learned the best lesson I ever could: things happen, be flexible, keep going. I couldn’t control what had happened, but I could choose how I dealt with it. I would go upstairs with a smile on my face to greet Marina with my best foot forward, and make the best of the situation.

Little did I know, this lesson I learned very early on would be the most important and useful throughout my time at Salt Resort Wear as a Merchandizing Intern. I originally requested this industry for my internship because I knew I liked working with people, numbers, and fashion. Working in an industry where much of the orders and information is handled by people and not automated machines (especially in a small boutique), there is much room for human error. Being flexible and able to problem solve quickly, while handling many different problems and projects at once, is the name of the game.

In a recent Forbes interview with some of the worlds most influential and desired companies to work for, including Amazon and Google, said the top qualities they look for in potential upper-management hires were resilience and problem solving abilities. I knew this, but hadn’t really faced problems that I hadn’t already prepared for. Going into the internship without much upper level retail experience, I wasn’t able to prepare for many of the problems I faced, and learned how to handle them as I handled them. This flexibility isn’t something that can be taught in the classroom; this is something that comes with experience. Being submerged in the new world of making major success-determining decisions for a highly reputable luxury retailer with little to no prior training or background was the best way to get my feet wet. Though I learned other small, day-to-day aspects of the business and developed my communication, I feel nothing I learned was more important or impactful than that of going with the flow and being able to handle whatever life throws at you – especially on an international scale.

Anyone can follow a training manual and almost any job can be automated to follow programmed guidelines. Most companies are no longer looking for a cog in the wheel of an assembly line, they are looking for someone to reinvent the wheel; someone with innovative ideas about how things are going now, and how things can be done differently to improve quality, service, and their bottom line. When it came to order errors, shipping errors, and any other ‘bump’ in my time at Salt, especially when I was given tasks to do without my supervisor, I was forced to come up with original ways of solving the problem, and usually more efficiently than protocol. I will take these examples into my interviews to show how I helped Salt and how I can make inventive decisions under pressure as a part of a highly productive team in the position for which I am interviewing. I will use the duties and responsibilities I have undertaken this past semester and relate them to the skills the firms I interview are looking for in the positions I wish to fill. I am confident that the problems I have resolved for Salt both on a domestic and international basis will make me stand apart as a candidate in future job prospects.