Last summer, the HR manager of a finance firm asked me if I would come on as a summer intern. Of course, I was reluctant, knowing nothing about finance. All I could think of was men with rolled-up sleeves, cigars, whiskey, stocks, and obscene words being screamed across the halls. No place for a woman; especially a woman who collects Cosmopolitan magazines and organizes her closet by designer.
But then, I remembered my favorite movie as a child The Confessions of a Shopaholic. Rebecca Bloomwood, an aspiring fashion writer, takes a job at a financial advice magazine while avoiding debt collectors chasing her after each of her shopping sprees. If Rebecca Bloomwood could do it, so could I. On my first day, I wanted nothing more than to blend in, so I wore a white button-down shirt, rolled up my sleeves, and slapped on a watch on my wrist.
I remember walking through the halls of the office, seeing sculptures of bulls and bears, having no idea what the correlation was. (I now know they symbolize the Bull and Bear market, but I still couldn’t tell you what that means.)
My assignment was to launch the social media for their women’s initiative.
“We wanted to hire someone who knows nothing about finance,” my supervisor told me. The financial industry has a reputation for being a man’s world. After all, it made sense…the first thing I thought of was Wolf of Wallstreet.
I was introduced to the President of the company, who was the visionary behind their female-centric educational platform. She was a confident woman that stood tall in Red-Bottoms with a Gucci Belt and perfectly placed curls resting on the shoulder pads of her blazer. Anyone who knows me knows it’s my dream to work for a fashion magazine and the reason I am always pictured in sunglasses is attributed to Anna Wintour. The President of this company was like the Anna Wintour of finance and I mean that in the best way possible.
I later found out that she asked for a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for her 14th birthday and pictured her heels clicking against the marble of an office building. I had never resonated with someone so much as someone who bought a subscription to Cosmo at 13 and my parents threw them away when they saw the scandalous headlines about sex and relationships. I think when most women watch rom-coms they daydream about the moment they lock eyes with the one, but I always daydreamt about the parts of the rom-coms when the main character walks down the halls of the office and commands a board room.
I realized that I didn’t have to earn someone’s respect by blending into the finance world but instead embracing my femininity and my background in fashion journalism, that’s when I began to produce some of my best work.
The best advice I can give to an intern is to actually be yourself because that might be exactly what the company sees in you. If they wanted someone to fit the mold, they wouldn’t have chosen you. Treat the internship like a job, take initiative, be proactive, and be coachable. And throw away the idea that you have to act more man-like to earn someone’s respect. I went into a finance firm with the idea that I would be working with a bunch of Jordan Belforts and soon realized 60% of the company were women and the majority of the men that worked there were male-allies that wanted to empower women and help level the playing field.
When you bring your personality and passion into your profession, that’s when you stand out from the rest. I remember when I created a graphic on my personal Instagram and the President told me we should repost it to our socials and create more content like that.
When people tell you to “just be yourself”, it can sometimes sound like BS, but when you lay-low and blend in is when you phase out with the other interns that were only onboard for the summer. Just remember that the people you admire most aren’t known for fitting the mold, they’re known for changing the mold!