Internship, technical skills and mentors are key to fashion student’s success

Fashion merchandising student Jessica Rhee has been on the fast track for a fashion career since middle school. She graduates this December—a semester ahead of schedule—and is taking time off to travel, explore her identities, and figure out where she wants her career to take her.

Here, she shares the top four moments and people that have helped her along the way.

Developing her technical skills

My fashion professors have been some of the best educators I’ve ever met in my life. There have been two classes that I was really passionate about: Fashion 145 [Computers for Fashion] with Professor Jennie Cook and Fashion 345 [Computers for Fashion Design: Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator] with Professor Michael-Birch Pierce. It was really intimidating coming into my freshman year without knowing any technical skills and being placed in [Cook’s] class, and then being one of two merchandising students in [Pierce’s] class.

I learned so much about creating flats and looking at croquis, but from a digital perspective. Those two classes really helped me in terms of technical skills.

Landing an internship with Ralph Lauren

The internship was one of about 15 I applied for last winter. I was so discouraged because I kept getting interviews and getting rejected. When I got a call from the talent acquisition manager at Ralph Lauren that I received it, I actually cried on the phone. After being told no so many times, it was so nice to know that someone had faith in me that I’d be able to accomplish something within their company.

I think my internship is when I realized how expansive fashion is. I worked a lot with numbers, but seeing the showroom spaces for buyers—like Macy’s, the biggest account for Ralph Lauren—coming in and talking about what’s happening for next season was super cool. I’m not a designer, but seeing the designs that were coming for the next year really energized me and got me excited about seeing behind the scenes.

I’m not exactly sure about what it is that I want to do in the fashion space, but I have realized that I want to be more creative-focused, whether that’s working with showrooms or with clothing samples for the next season. My internship was all finance-based and staring at an Excel sheet isn’t my favorite thing in the whole entire world, so I’d like to find more creative outlets and avenues for me to pursue.

Her mentors and advisors

All of the fashion professors have so much faith and hope in their students and it’s so inspiring. The wisdom that they share with us is truly what made me want to be in the fashion industry, and helped me know that I’m making the right decision.

They’ve also helped instill so much confidence in myself. They’re there to listen and not necessarily give me exact advice on what I should do, but be a guidance for me to figure out my options and work through them together.

Joining Alpha Kappa Psi

One of the biggest commitments that I’ve had during college is with Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional coed business fraternity. I took the initiative to join because I was in Snead Hall taking business classes, but I didn’t know anyone. The organization has helped prepare me so much for my professional career. It’s helped build up my interview skills, and the way that I interact with people in networking settings. The workshops, the conversations and presentations, the mock interviews with faculty and alumni who are now with big companies have truly helped me prepare for my life after graduation.