Internships can provide invaluable experience to the novice web designer who is still getting their feet wet in the design world. Companies oftentimes need an extra set of hands even moreso in hard times than if the economy is in a better shape. Although there are a host of unpaid internships out there, a great internship can prepare you enormously for the working world while giving you real world experience that the field demands. How do you go about finding the perfect internship in design? I’ll briefly touch upon some important steps to take in landing a great internship in this article.
Make an Online Portfolio
The easiest way to get attention from a potential employer is to put your work up on a free portal such as Coroflot, Behance, Deviantart, and Carbonmade. These sites are designed as a platform to showcase the leading talent in the creative industry. The more exposure you get, the more potential employers. Remember to feed your online portfolio with your best work instead of every project you’ve completed. This makes updating much easier, and gives the prospect an easy overview of your skills. With all the options available, there really isn’t a reason to not take advantage of a free online portfolio site. You never know where your internship requests may end up coming from. Many of these websites also have a job board dedicated to finding jobs, so your likelihood of snagging an internship increases with each sign-up.
Diversify your Skill-Set
In this economy, it is often smart to expand your skills into areas that you wouldn’t necessarily specialize in. You may be a top-notch coder, but can you write fluently? Everyone knows you create stunning visuals for the web, but are your oral communication skills up to par? These are just some areas to think about in making yourself a great candidate in the eyes of an employer.
One way to improve your writing skills is to host your own blog on your website and keep it up to date with the topics that are important to what you specialize in. Doing so not only shows the employer that you’re interested in the industry, but it may also help you think more critically of what is out there and improve your writing skills in the process.
If you’re a great visual designer for the web, it can be beneficial for you to try your hand at HTML/CSS or another programming language. Doing so makes you look much more rounded in the eyes of an employer, too! Conversely, an excellent programmer can get their feet wet learning advanced Photoshop techniques to round out their skill-set.
Scour Online Job Boards
One of the best places to look for an internship in either graphic or web design is on the internet. Job boards provide you with instant access to the latest openings in internships and with a myriad of them popping up, it can be beneficial for you to check them out!
- Authentic Jobs
- AIGA Design Jobs
- Freelance Switch
- Smashing Magazine
- Fresh Web Jobs
- Simply Hired
Networking is often easier said than done so I’ll propose a method of finding leads to internships (and even jobs!) that is relatively stress-free. Join LinkedIn and search for as many people you know as possible. They can be friends, teachers, coworkers, and even relatives. Invite them to connect with you. Then do an Advanced People search of the web design studios or companies you’re interested in interning for. Look at the profiles of those that are in your network and kindly ask for an introduction through your connection. It’s that easy.
Join: Get on Twitter to share links, converse, discuss. It’s great for networking. And it’s usually the first place you’ll hear about a company looking for interns. Intern jobs come and go, they come and go and sometimes aren’t relegated to job boards, especially at smaller studios. So twitter is perfect for companies to let people know they’re hiring short-term.
It’ll also be to your benefit to check out your college’s career center and see if they’re teamed up with any local agencies or have alumni that can vouch for a certain company. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Make your Cover Letter Standout
In writing, be passionate about why you would like to intern for a certain company – Why does their work interest you? Is this a web design studio whose work falls into your own personal interests that you can grow from? Make sure to tell the individual you’re addressing why you feel you’ll be a great intern for them following that criteria.
You can then go on to explain why you are qualified to intern for them. Do you have experience with school projects that are in the same industry as theirs? Are you interested in exploring career possibilities in your chosen field further? Include at least five high-resolution pdf examples of your best work in web design to back up your claim.
Resume Mistakes to Avoid
At all costs, avoid these errors in your correspondence:
- Dear Sir or Madam
- So-and-so recommended I call you
- “I’ll call next week to follow-up”
- “My work speaks for itself”
- Not including a permanent way to reach you
Include your Professional CV
Remember to tailor the design of your resume to the individual company. If you’re applying for an internship at a large, corporate company, a cleaner design is usually your best bet while smaller studios usually allow for more creative freedom. When creating your resume always include:
- Name and Contact Info
- Your Experience
- Your Degree and Major (e.g., BFA in Graphic Design)
- Date of Graduation (Month and Year)
- College You Attended
- Location of Your College (City and State)
- Software Skills
- Awards (as applies)
Try an Informational Interview
If you’re still in school it can be worth your energy to get a couple informational interviews. They allow you to see what’s out there, hear firsthand what they’re looking for, and get interview experience. The interviewer will likely offer helpful feedback for you that will benefit you in going forward. At the end politely ask about future openings and try to be open and receptive to everything they say.
After your interview at your potential internship, remember to send a handwritten thank you note that sincerely expresses your gratitude. If that’s not available to you then an email should do just fine. Just remember to reflect back on the interview and express key points on why you’ll make their work lives easier for the next few months as their intern. And, as always, use proper grammar and punctuation for a great impression.
Of course every company you contact isn’t going to accept you with open arms. Landing an internship with your dream employer usually isn’t an easy feat. But always remember to follow-up! Art Directors and head hunters are busy people so the best way to get under their radar is to gently remind them of your interest. With a bit of persistence and following through, you will soon find yourself that much closer to getting the internship you want. Good luck!
Have you found other methods for landing an internship? Let us know in the comments section!