A by-product of COVID-19’s effect on the business world, virtual internships have become an increasingly common way for students to connect to opportunities around the U.S. TCU’s Department of Fashion Merchandising, which requires students to complete a supervised internship between their junior and senior years, has embraced these new opportunities by supporting students who hold virtual or hybrid (a mix of in-person and virtual) internships.
In some cases, in-person internships with companies based in New York City or Los Angeles — two big hubs for the fashion industry — were previously cost prohibitive because of the funds needed to move to and live temporarily in a major city.
This summer, a handful of fashion merchandising majors who have worked with companies across the country have discovered the benefits of interning virtually, including connecting through technology and the flexibility of telework.
“I was definitely hesitant about working remotely, but I am shocked at how much I love it,” said senior Erin Greehey, whose summer internship with the multi-line sales showroom, HATCh, has her working with teams in New York City and Los Angeles.
“This specific internship is a very hands-on experience, and I feel that I am still getting the same experience as if I were interning in person … because everyone in the company is so helpful and welcoming.”
Greehey’s responsibilities as a sales and showroom intern include helping to prepare for market appointments and local trade shows, assisting and shadowing buyers, supporting sales staff, and assisting account executives.
She works on selling analyses, creates and updates immediate inventory line sheets, researches target accounts, and creates marketing materials for account outreach, among other duties.
“I usually spend about half of the day using my creative skills by creating graphics to push immediate styles and the other half of the day I spend using my analytical skills,” said Greehey.
She said she is fully engaged in her daily work thanks to consistent communication with her supervisor, who is on the East Coast, and the teams around the country.
“Every night before my workday, my supervisor sends me at least three different [prioritized] tasks to work on the next day, so I can start working on my tasks immediately when I start at 9 a.m.,” said Greehey. “I communicate with the team through email, phone calls, text messages, and Zoom. Throughout the day when I have quick questions, I call or text them because it is faster … They have a strong company culture and everyone who works here has a great relationship and connection.”
Similarly, senior Kiara Jones said she had a positive virtual internship experience after recently completing the five-week Executive Development Program for Merchandising at Neiman Marcus Group (NMG).
“My main responsibility was to attend daily lectures and meetings via Microsoft Teams,” said Jones. “I met with NMG associates at various levels [who] shared their experience with the company and gave advice for continuing a career in the industry. At the end of each week, I was tested on the information presented in the lectures from that week.”
Jones also discovered the flexibility of NMG’s results-only working environment, commonly referred to as ROWE.
“ROWE allows NMG associates to focus on completing their daily goals at their own pace throughout the day,” said Jones. “This approach allows for flexibility within the work week and encourages a balanced work-home life.”
Jones said she was able to take time for herself as needed, but still complete her tasks and stay in touch with her colleagues and supervisors using various communications methods, including Microsoft Teams, Outlook, GroupMe and texting.
“Overall, my virtual internship experience was amazing!” said Jones. “Completing my internship virtually was better than an internship in-person. I was able to make connections and learn the curriculum that would be taught in an in-person internship, while having greater flexibility in my schedule due to working from home.”
For senior Lauren Armstrong, a hybrid internship with Over The Moon, an e-commerce, editorial, and wedding registry platform, has allowed her to split her summer working in New York City and at home in the DFW Metroplex.
“I was able to spend a month and a half in New York City working in person from coffee shops and co-working spaces with my editor,” said Armstrong. “I have just recently returned to DFW to work remotely for the remainder of my internship.”
As a marketing and editorial intern, she works on social and digital media projects, including for Instagram, Pinterest, Shopify and Over the Moon’s blog.
“One aspect that I have loved about this job is that I have been able to work independently with limited supervision because of the virtual aspects of this role,” said Armstrong. “My editor and I call [each other] to discuss upcoming projects and assignments two to three times a week; however, the rest of the time we simply message over Slack throughout the day with updates and collaborations.”
Though Armstrong said telework has both pros and cons, she has found how to make it a beneficial experience that will serve her career in the long run.
“This is the second summer I have worked remotely, and I have loved every minute of both of my experiences,” said Armstrong. “By being proactive about meeting co-workers, offering your assistance, and genuinely wanting to learn as much as you can, I think working remotely offers a unique experience in which you can grow independently.”
Greehey agrees. “Through my internship, I am not only getting beneficial experience working in fashion, but I am also learning how to manage my time before my first job out of school. Even working remotely, I have the rare opportunity to build my network with some of the most influential people in the fashion industry,” she said.