Dakota Isaacs '15

Out of the Box Internship

At the fall Advisory Council conference, recruiter for Heyman Associates in NYC, T.R. Straub, told us how essential internships are to building a young professional’s resume—but also to try a variety of roles and find what you like and dislike. Though having an internship is no longer required in the Department of Communication, it is necessary. Through internship fairs, word of mouth and The COMMunity Network job/internship blog, the department provides access to internships—but then it is up to the student to take the initiative.

How hard should you push? How do you make it work financially? How do you make yourself stand out? We sat down with Dakota Isaacs ’15, who found herself—no, pushed herself to become an full-time intern at Birchbox this past summer.

Isaacs knew she wanted to be in New York, working at Birchbox--and wasn’t going to stop until she made it. She thought their business model was revolutionary. As a start-up, the company had amassed upwards of 800,000+ subscribers and was consistently recognized for their PR approach. She had already completed thirteen internships, so she had the experience and the resume to be an impressive candidate.

But how do you get your foot in the door? In February, Isaacs was working at New York Fashion Week—which happened to be located just across the street from Birchbox. She made phone calls, emails, LinkedIn connections trying to make some type of contact across the street. Finally, after she had left New York, a co-worker from Fashion Week met someone from Birchbox and put the two of them in touch. Four rounds of interviews over eight weeks later, Dakota received the one public relations internship available out of 1,000 applicants.

Now that she had the internship, Dakota had to figure out the rest of the logistics. She was fortunate to have family living in Westchester that she could stay with, but she still had to commute and navigate New York. Luckily she had spent the summer before interning for two of the top beauty PR agencies in the city. Many interns lived in NYU dorms. She didn’t have to work a part-time job because she was granted three scholarships through the college—The Bonner Leader Program Scholarship, the HSS Scholarship, and the Lindner Scholarship through the Department of Communication.

Now came the fun part!

Isaacs was the intern for the PR, events, and strategic partnerships team. Their largest project of the summer was opening Birchbox’s first brick-and-mortar store in SoHo. Considering Birchbox is an online, interactive beauty experience, translating this to a store-front was a big challenge! Dakota supported the team with their initiatives and press surrounding the event. She was able to speak to the very bloggers she had been researching for months, in addition to working on a series of pre-opening events with celebrities and writers. The team brought the monthly-delivered beauty box to life by tracking the online shopping experience and organizing the store accordingly for a “Build Your Own Box” experience.

What surprised Isaacs most though, was that she realized how important company culture was to her—because Birchbox was like no other. From being able to talk to the CEOs directly, to a team who let her lead initiatives, Dakota says, “I never felt like an intern—they made feel like an integral part of the team.” She knew the Birchbox team wanted to challenge her so she would become a stronger employee.

One of the many takeaways from this internship was that Dakota learned how much hard work does pay off. “You can get there,” she says, “I learned you should always go for the dream job—and go for it all the way.” Her advice for her classmates just beginning their path in Communication is to start looking for an internship right away. She says to start small and build on each one. Dakota started interning for local non-profit Darkness to Light three years ago, and is now on their paid staff.

Not surprisingly, Isaacs’ dream job is to be the Director of Global Communication for a large beauty brand that has a great culture. She may have already found her perfect match.