All of my internships have been in corporate PR/marketing/communications. You would think that means they’re pretty similar. Well you would be WRONG. I went from a Fortune 20 healthcare company to a well known fashion brand and my experiences couldn’t have been more different. I learned that it’s not always about what you’re doing but rather what you’re representing that can drive passion in the workplace.
This internship just kind of fell into my lap. I was lucky enough to meet my manager while giving her and her kids a tour at Ohio University. We hit it off and the rest was history. But despite the great connection I felt with her and the team, I still had no idea what to expect when I arrived on my first day. Also I may have a made a critical mistake of watching The Devil Wears Prada the night before which resulted in me worrying that Express headquarters would be filled with “clackers” and haughty fashionistas that wouldn’t be willing to accept the “smart fat girl” from Ohio University. Yes, I am Anne Hathaway in this analogy and no I don’t think a size 6 is fat but the metaphor just worked so well here.
However, the minute I arrived at my desk, all my fears were squashed. There were signs covering every inch of my desk, chair, computer and cubicle walls all proclaiming my arrival and welcoming me to Express. They even had gift baskets waiting for me filled with candy and Disney toys! They made sure I felt totally welcome and that’s when I realized this company was different.
Now before you start thinking that I spent the summer canoodling with models and designers, just calm down it wasn’t quite that glamorous. I worked in the Store Operations department specializing in Field Communications. That meant that I was communicating with store employees, ensuring that everyone at headquarters were able to get their messages to the stores. This included event details from the PR department, promotion information from production and sourcing and test guidelines from the testing department. Because of my position I got to interact with every function in the company and, for a girl who’s only retail experience was an extensive amount of shopping, meant I had to learn about retail very fast.
This is where the kindness of my team comes in. Knowing that I had no retail background whatsoever, they took extra time to coach me on the different vernacular, teach me the intricacies of our technology and applications and provided me with work that ensured I would have the most well rounded experience throughout my internship.
Some of this work included a complete rebranding of an important document sent out to all 600-something Express stores in the world, organizing the promotion/redline documents, providing my Vice President with a weekly calendar overview and the “fitting room ideation project”. Needless to say, my summer was jam packed and filled with new and exciting learning opportunities. In addition to this work, my team gave me plenty of opportunities for exposure to the upper management of Express. Several of the above projects were presented to SVPs, VPS, the EVP of Store Operations and even the CMO. Not only did I get to present to them, but I was lucky enough to meet with them as well. Let me just say, I have never met more genuine people in my life. I realized that it wasn’t just my team that was rooting for me to succeed, it was the whole company. And it wasn’t just me, they all help each other and cheer one another toward success. Express is more than just corporate, it’s more than just retail, it’s a family.
It’s a family that showers you with presents and a decorated desk on your 21st birthday, it’s a family whose CEO takes time to meet and chat with all the interns, it’s a family that makes sure you have the best summer of your life at concerts, cookouts and corn hole tournaments. And because it’s a family, they want you to come back. There’s a reason so many Express employees have been here for 15+ years. It’s because they look at the company as more than just a stepping stone to bigger and better things. They look at it as home.
I am so happy I was able to call this place home for the past 12 weeks. I started school with an entire new wardrobe (thank you 40% discount and corporate sample sale), many new skills, new friends, and a new appreciation for the world of fashion.
Sarah Rachul is a Senior studying Strategic communications with a double minor in Visual Communications and Sports Administration. Follow her on Twitter @SarahMRachul!