Columbia teaches students to decipher the words of history’s most renowned scholars, but does it teach students—in the words of runway superstar and fashion industry mainstay Tyra Banks—how to “work it”? Success in the culture of couture requires more than a liberal arts education—it requires a certain strut obtained only through extensive immersion in the world itself. Trend-setting Columbia students need not fret, though, for ample fashion internship opportunities are available to undergrads, as are services that help achieve that confident swagger.
Although many Columbians may think that they’re surrounded by nothing but pre-med this and pre-law that, Columbia’s Center for Career Education actually provides a great outlet for students hoping to tread more stylish waters.
In fashion, nothing is more impressive than an extensive résumé, since it is the clear indicator of much-needed hands-on experience. Mark Holly, CC ’12, obtained an internship with a buyer of leather goods at Prada through a posting on LionSHARE, the online recruiting service run through CCE that’s available to all Columbia students and alumni. Listings are diverse, and companies show their specific interest in strong, liberal arts-educated candidates simply by offering opportunities on LionSHARE.
Holly is one example of a student whose liberal arts background has come in handy in a real-world context. An Italian literature major, Holly took what Columbia taught him about Italian language and culture and brought it to Prada, one of Italy’s most renowned fashion houses. Not only does his education provide him with a distinct connection to the brand, it also gives him a striking advantage, since all the information he must enter daily into company computers is in Italian.
Individual initiative is also vital. Tien Yang, Business ’11 and co-president of the Business School’s Retail and Luxury Goods Club, emphasized the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. “You’ve got to take the extra step,” Yang said, “or else you won’t get anywhere.”
A self-professed “career switcher,” Yang was a fashion novice before interning at companies such as Rent the Runway and Saks Fifth Avenue. He loved clothes but knew little about the industry itself. In spite of this, he wasn’t afraid to jump into the thick of things, making connections and networking as much as possible in order to get ahead.
Thankfully, the Center for Career Education provides students—both undergraduates and graduates—with access to career counselors. Through scheduled meetings and information sessions, fashion-savvy students who are a bit nervous to enter the cutthroat world of couture will be left feeling confident that they have what it takes to snag that perfect internship and perhaps develop relationships that will lead to a future career.
Although Columbia students are undoubtedly better versed in the stories of Aristotle, Plato, and Socratesthan those of Gucci, Lanvin, and Chanel, University courses and resources still allow students seeking fashion internships to, in the words of Ms. Banks, “work it.”