A Career in Fashion
Internship leads to job offer for Loyola junior
The Apparel Group never found out whether their intern from Loyola knew the quickest route to Starbucks. When Katherine Bigley, ’12, worked as a summer intern for the clothing manufacturer, her boss wouldn’t let her make coffee runs.
Instead, she worked as a member of the team, wowing them with her Internet research expertise, her professionalism, and her communication skills. The result? The Fairfield, Conn., resident finished her summer break with a standing job offer—through 2012.
“She’s welcome back any time, and we really, truly mean it,” said Marybeth Martorana, ’90, vice president of sales. “This was my first year with a Loyola intern, and it totally exceeded my expectations and everybody’s expectations in the company. Katherine came in with this incredible energy and amazing ideas. She was honestly a breath of fresh air.”
Martorana created the internship as part of Loyola’s Internship Challenge, in which Loyola alumni and parents throughout the country offer paid and unpaid positions to students. When Martorana heard about the program, she approached the Apparel Group president, who welcomed the opportunity.
When Martorana contacted her alma mater’s Career Center, the staff forwarded some impressive résumés. Bigley’s stood out because of her part-time work for American Eagle Outfitters. “She had retail experience, so I knew she’d have an understanding of the business,” Martorana said.
Bigley landed a phone interview—and then the paid three-day-a-week position in the Manhattan office of the manufacturer, which is based in Lewisville, Texas, and produces one out of six dress shirts sold in the U.S.
“What started off as a part-time job ended up being something I wanted to do for my career,” said Bigley. “I didn’t realize how much I liked fashion until I started working for the Apparel Group.”
Any concerns that the internship would require working long hours for a demanding boss like the character in The Devil Wears Prada were quickly alleviated. “It was an upbeat, professional environment. Everyone was really nice, not snobby at all, and very patient with me,” said Bigley, who is majoring in communication with a specialization in advertising and public relations and a minor in marketing. “I was so happy it wasn’t just opening boxes. That was my biggest fear, that I would just be opening boxes and filing.”
Instead, she was handling Nordstrom accounts, giving weekly sale reports, and—one day when a colleague was taken ill—presenting one of the clothing lines to a buyer.
Martorana understands the value of an internship for a college student. As a Loyola student, she had internships with The New Yorker, WLIR Radio Station in New York City, and Saks in Owings Mills, Md., where her boss mentored her.
Before Bigley and two interns from other schools started in their internships, Martorana made it clear to her colleagues that she wanted the students to get hands-on experience. “I said, ‘These girls are not gofers. I really want you to embrace them and give them some projects that will challenge them,’” she said. “Everyone here was totally on board with that.”
Initially Martorana was concerned that she would have to oversee the interns in addition to her usual workload. But she found all three could take on projects without much supervision.
Throughout the summer, Martorana found herself turning to Bigley frequently. “First of all, she’s incredibly bright,” Martorana said. “But her skills on the Internet are so strong that if we needed any sort of research, she would run to her computer and find relevant information.”
At the end of the summer, when Martorana invited Bigley to return to work during her breaks—or for a job after graduation—Bigley was surprised. “It’s very nice of them to offer me a job. Honestly it’s so hard to find a job right now, and having them like me so much is wonderful,” she said.
As for Bigley’s parents, who had just been happy that their daughter had landed a summer internship in the field of her choice, “they were blown away.”
The Internship Challenge is recruiting businesses and organizations to offer 250 paid or unpaid internships in 2010-11. To learn more about the program, visit loyola.edu/alumni.