Landing A Dream Internship With Elizabeth Arden


I first moved to New York when I was 18. The whole city was a romantic mystery filled with endless possibilities.

It had a palpable heartbeat and an intoxicating energy that I couldn't help but get swept up in. After all, it’s the concrete jungle where dreams are made of (right, Jay Z?)

Through my business school in Canada, I had somehow landed my dream internship working in marketing at Elizabeth Arden. Little did I know that would be the beginning of my career as a nomadic professional.

New York is a mecca for any young girl (woman? not a girl, not yet a woman?) with an interest in fashion and beauty. Elizabeth Arden was this elusive utopia for me. I read my congratulations email, with the signature red door logo, over-and-over again. I couldn't believe it was real life. My life! Dream jobs aren't something that actually happen, I thought they were just something you fantasized about.

Initially, it was overwhelming leaping from my small pond to the big city. I wasn't even legal to drink for another three years! I knew no one and had never lived alone before. I was thrown into the real world, headfirst.

Coming from Canada, the VISA process was also something I had never encountered before. Luckily my company and numerous visits to the local Travel Cuts helped me navigate through all of the red tape. Then there was the business of getting a US bank account, a social security number, a new cell plan, oh and a place to live. As the old saying goes, “everything seems impossible until it’s done!”

At the time, Lauren Conrad’s reality TV hit, “The Hills” and Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel-turned-blockbuster, “The Devil Wears Prada” were my forays into the interning underbelly.

I remember worrying my boss would be a stone-cold Meryl Streep and I’d be the clumsy, half-wit intern spilling coffee and jamming the printer. Luckily, reality wasn't quite as stereotypical as they make it seem on TV.

My boss was stern, but sweet and gave me a lot of responsibility. I jumped at the chance to prove myself. I truly felt a part of the marketing team, not just a nameless intern. The most memorable task was getting to design and name two lip-glosses in their permanent collection. To this day, I sometimes go by the cosmetic counter and still get a small thrill seeing them perched there. Getting my foot in the door was one thing, but keeping it there was another.

Miraculously, my first internship turned into three. I moved back-and forth from Canada to New York for the next three years. From May to August I lived in a teeny-tiny NYU dorm. It was all my intern paychecks could afford.

It was very scary, but every year I got a little bit more acclimated to my surroundings. Even in a city full of people, it’s easy to feel alone. Homesickness inevitably reared its ugly head, but it forced me to learn how to fend for myself. I reached out to a familiar face from home and made friends with my electric group of roommates over the years; including a bubbly, blonde fashion journalist from California and a prima ballerina from Texas.

It can be hard to keep up with the dynamic pace of the city. Long working hours, networking events and trying to squeeze in some exploring along the way makes it easy to see why it’s been dubbed the city that never sleeps.

With a lot of trial and error, I learned how to navigate the intricate subway system (I feel like a pro today!), how to manage a tight budget, the best times to lug my laundry to the laundromat down the street, and how to function on very little sleep.

From SoHo shopping, to movie nights in Bryant Park, to getting my java fix at Grey Dogs, I tried to immerse myself in everything the city had to offer. By the end of each internship, I started to feel like I truly belonged.

Moving to New York at such a young age changed me in ways I can only now grasp in retrospect. Being away from home has made me appreciate the close relationships I have with family and friends. It has made me feel more confident, independent and driven, and it also gave me a new perspective on the world that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

After those three internships in New York, I finally graduated and was hired full-time by Elizabeth Arden. I moved to their European head office in Geneva, Switzerland to work in skincare marketing. After almost two years there, I returned to New York as part of their Celebrity & Designer Fragrance team.

It felt like I was returning home.

BY LOUISE JOHNSON



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