The fashion industry often appears impenetrable, particularly for individuals over the age of twenty-five without significant personal connections. So, what are the odds of a thirty-seven-year-old American, coming to London for further study, securing one of the most sought-after internships in the field?
Let’s begin at the outset.
Why would someone of my age choose to study in London and pursue an internship?
You could call it a mid-life awakening or perhaps a realization that life was slipping through my fingers. I felt I wasn’t fulfilling my true potential. On the surface, my life seemed wonderful to most women my age – a loving husband, a beautiful home, a close-knit family, and great friends. I had previously worked in PR for an NBA basketball team and local charities in my community. On the surface, life was good. But deep down, it didn’t resonate with me.
I always believed I was destined for more than what my small southern city had to offer. I’m more of a creative spirit than a corporate conformist. While my previous jobs were well-paying and made a positive impact on my community, they never truly aligned with my authentic self. When I turned thirty-five, it dawned on me that I hadn’t pursued any of my dreams; I hadn’t experienced living abroad, and I hadn’t embarked on a fashion career, which had always been my passion. I wasn’t utilizing my inherent talents, and I was far from content. I began to wonder: was it too late for me? Was this all life had in store for me?
Fashion had always held a special place in my heart. While I recognize that many claim to have a passion for it, there really isn’t a better way to describe my connection. Friends would often turn to me for outfit advice or to identify designer shoes featured in magazines. I can’t count the hours I spent at work, sneaking glances at fashion-related content online.
When I graduated from college, my first job was at a law office. There was a lawyer there, probably in her seventies, and I assumed she’d been practicing law forever. Later, I discovered that she had been a nurse for over thirty years before pursuing a law degree. Her story left a lasting impression on me and served as a source of inspiration. So, I gradually began contemplating a career change.
I stumbled upon a program in Paris, but I applied after the deadline, and my application was rejected. It was disheartening, but I knew it had been a long shot.
Months passed, and life carried on as usual. I dreaded going to work every day and continued to feel uninspired and unmotivated. The more I reflected on my situation, the more I began to doubt whether fashion school was the right path. Instead of pursuing a specialized degree in fashion PR, I opted for a more general degree while seeking to gain experience in the fashion industry. That’s when I discovered the Advertising and Public Relations Master’s program at Richmond American University in London. Everything about this program clicked for me. It was an American institution, ensuring accreditation in both countries. Moreover, I could obtain financial assistance to cover my living expenses while studying and potentially engage in unpaid internships for valuable experience. Crucially, it was in London, a city I’d always yearned to live in and explore. I thought, why not take the plunge? If I couldn’t establish myself in fashion within a year, I would leave with an incredible experience of living abroad and a graduate degree.
Before arriving in London, I meticulously researched fashion PR firms for internship opportunities or work experience. At the top of my list was XLI PR, a highly successful international luxury PR agency representing some of the biggest names. An internship there would be a dream come true. I scoured their website for opportunities, but there were no job listings or internship openings, only an email address for submitting a CV for future prospects. I sent my CV without expecting a response. I thought to myself, they must receive thousands of applications from much younger and more qualified individuals.
Then, after completing my second term in my Master’s program, I received an email inquiring if I was still interested in an internship at XLI PR. I seized the opportunity and scheduled an interview.
Now, here’s where things took an unexpected turn. I almost missed my interview because I mixed up the timing! Can you believe it? The original interview was scheduled for a certain time, but it was subsequently rescheduled an hour earlier. When the interview time arrived, I had forgotten about the change and arrived late. I feared I had blown my chance, but I sent an email explaining my situation and was graciously offered a chance for a later interview time. Such a second chance is rare, so it must have been fate that brought me this internship! I felt terrible and was mortified at how unprofessional I must have appeared. After the interview, I didn’t think I had performed well at all.
Yet, a few weeks later, I received an email offering me the internship. I was overjoyed! I couldn’t believe it. It seemed that all the sacrifices I had made by leaving my life behind and coming to London had paid off. Another amazing this is that XLI PR’a head quarters are in Dubai, the city of my dreams! So i would have a chance to move there!!
On my first day of the internship, I was a bundle of nerves. How would my colleagues treat me? Would I be up to the task? Was I making a fool of myself? Most importantly, what should I wear? I soon learned that the dress code was decidedly casual, and comfortable shoes were paramount. I chose not to make a fuss about my age. I wanted my personality and work ethic to define me, not my journey to get there. I wouldn’t conceal my age, but I also wouldn’t readily share the information unless asked. Surprisingly, not many people inquired. Some said I looked younger than my age, assuming I was in my twenties. Another reason I kept my age under wraps was to ensure I was treated like any other intern. I wanted to earn my stripes, so to speak. I recognized that most of the people I was interning alongside were considerably younger, and I didn’t want them to feel awkward assigning mundane tasks to someone older. The moment I stepped into the showroom for the first time, I was awestruck. You do get accustomed to it eventually, but nothing compares to that initial impression. All those exquisite clothes and accessories I had admired in magazines were on display, bathed in the soft glow of ornate chandeliers. The room was flooded with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
My experience at XLI PR differed vastly from how I felt back in the States. Each day, I looked forward to going to work, a sensation I had never experienced before. I never dreaded it, and every day brought unexpected, invigorating challenges. I often arrived early because I couldn’t wait to be there (this was unprecedented in any previous position – and I was doing it for free!). I finally felt like my authentic self again. It was undeniably the best experience I could have hoped for. My only regret is that I didn’t give myself this opportunity ten years earlier.
One of the most significant misconceptions about working in fashion is that it’s all glamour and glamorous parties. While at XLI PR i have learnt that its the industry full of competition, extreme resilience to rejection and hard work. I feel fortunate that i started my career at one of the top pr firms in the world, and hope to continue my journey in the industry!