6 Things My Internship Taught Me About How To Snag Real-World Success

Unlike some kids, I knew at a young age how I intended to spend my life. Since I was able to read, my nose has been stuck in fashion magazines.

Coming from a small town called Mountain Top (yes, it is on top of a mountain), I always thought my dreams would just be just that: dreams. So, I put my sewing machine aside, along with my one-of-a-kind dresses, and followed society’s typical path toward a “proper” education.

Attending Penn State has been the best decision of my life, followed by the best years of my life. With my graduation just around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on the roller coaster ride.

Before entering into sophomore year, I had three internships under my belt, but something was missing. I wanted to be in New York City surrounded by fashion designers, stylists and celebrities. So, sophomore year, I decided to make it happen.

Many people think that in order to get a high-profile internship, especially in the fashion industry, you need a connection. Don’t get me wrong; a connection will help you, but the only connection I had was a connection with the local thrift shop down the road from me.

But, totally willing to face rejection, I sent my résumé to more than 20 different companies, hoping someone would take a chance on Ashley Vargas. I waited. Nothing. I followed up. Months went by, but still nothing.

Then, one February, after hearing from no one, I got good news. By the end of the week, I was on a bus to New York City, accompanied by the latest issue featuring Kim Kardashian. I’ll never forget what I wore. I was cool and collected on the outside, but on the inside, I swore it was impossible to feel more nervous.

I didn’t tell anyone about my interview because I was convinced it was too good to be true, but for some reason, the cards were in my favor that day. I walked out of the office in tears as I reached for my phone to call my mom: “I got the internship at Cosmopolitan!”

That day marked the start of my journey, which led me to where I am now. During that summer, I became a confident, young adult. Back then, I thought my dreams were so big — too big — but now, they are only getting bigger. Now, I know I can achieve them, and I know that you can, too.

Passion Is Worth More Than Experience

Passion should be a requirement before you apply to any job. Whether your passion is fashion, helping people, politics or medicine, pursue it with a burning desire and don’t stop until you get want your heart desires.

Dress For Success

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have; it's a cliché, but it's true. People will take you more seriously if you dress like you work at the company rather than like an intern. Don't show up in anything risqué -- wear heels, too. Not stilettos, but heels give you a sense of authority.

Don't invest all your money in a designer wardrobe, either; instead, pick pieces you can wear again. Check out H&M, Zara and Nordstrom for professional, yet trendy, office clothing.

Be Prepared

Whether this means having multiple résumés ready before an interview or studying everything about the interviewer and the company, do your homework.

When you get the position, make sure to always carry a notebook. You never know who you may meet. If your supervisor assigns you a task, you don’t want to get it wrong, and you also don’t want to bother him or her to repeat the instructions. Write down everything.

Be Nice To Everyone

At your internship, other interns, from universities all over the country, will surround you. You need not be friends with everyone, but always be nice. The days will be a lot longer if you can’t get along with your fellow interns. Also, your supervisor will notice things like this, and it says a lot when someone can get along with his or her colleagues.

Also, make sure to always smile and say hi to people in your office. Even though you are an intern, people in the office will remember a warm and friendly person more vividly than the shy intern who kept her head down and kept walking.

Sleep Later

They don’t call New York City the city that never sleeps for nothing. While interning at Cosmopolitan, I was also a bartender at a bar on the Upper East Side to make extra money.

I was interning long hours, and sometimes, I would go straight from interning to the bar for work. I would get home some nights at 3 am and would have to wake up the next morning at 7 am. I worked Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays.

The days were long, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tired. Carrying 20 pounds of shoes to the opposite end of the city in 90-degree weather, then serving drunk people through the wee hours of the morning, was not easy, but it was worth it.

Somewhere between running around New York City to deliver one-of-a-kind designer clothing and pouring drinks, I made countless of connections and friends. On a Sunday night, working at a bar, I even met someone who worked on the costumes for "Sex and the City."

Work hard now. We can sleep when we are old.

Never Take No For An Answer

After my first big internship, I was determined to get a great internship in the city for the following summer. However, fashion internships are seldom and often unpaid. My parents did not want me to return back to the city for another summer, especially if it meant I wouldn’t be paid.

I reassured them that another summer in the city would help be achieve my career goals. I needed to be back there. Before I knew it, I was returning to the city for the second summer.

I won’t be wearing Prada anytime soon and will never be “the devil,” but day-by-day, I feel like my dreams are coming to life. I have wanted to give up countless of times and have gone through spells of not feeling good enough.

Regardless of the voice in your head, remember that you are good enough. Whatever the career path, I hope you can glean relevant advice from my thoughts. Whether you are going to Wall Street, medical school or becoming a teacher, find your passions and never give up.

Photo Courtesy: Lauren Atkins