Qualities of a Good Design Internship
Participating in a design internship is a great way for young designers to break free from behind their computer screens in classrooms and transfer what they have learned in theory, into a real-world business setting. Not only does it help you grow and learn from seasoned designers and developers, it helps you gain valuable skills and experience that can be transferable to future jobs.
Focus on the Experience
Internships are all about growth and development. The best internships should have you working hands-on, teaching you skills that can be used for later on in your career. Design internships should provide you with experience that you would never have gotten in the classroom. Even if you aren’t able to participate on a project from conception to completion, your internship should allow you to soak up as much information as possible about the process. This will prove to be invaluable later on in your career. Compared to what you are used to at school, an internship should be challenging and force you out of your comfort zone.
What Do You Want to Learn?
Think about what it is you really want to learn about, or the stuff that was left out during your formal education. Remember, internships are different from jobs. You won’t be expected to take on much responsibility. Some internships might be a better fit for you than others. It’s important to take into account how big the company is, how you’ll fit into day-to-day activities while you’re completing your internship and who will be responsible for what tasks are assigned to you.
As an intern, the focus should be on learning. Employers will (hopefully) understand that the sole purpose of you taking an internship is to learn from others. This doesn’t mean your internship will be easy, learning is hard work. But you shouldn’t be doing a ton of work without some supervision.
Not All Internships Are Made Equal
Internships sometimes get a bad reputation because internships can be used to exploit inexperienced design students that don’t know any better. If you find yourself doing “chores” such as grabbing coffee or photocopying, it is not beneficial for you. If a company takes you on as an intern, they have agreed to allow you to learn from their full-time designers and developers. If they resist to allowing this to happen, be wary.
Also, companies should be more focused on your ability and eagerness to learn. You shouldn’t have to meet any “criteria” for being hired as an intern, since they shouldn’t be expecting a mastermind designer or developer just yet (in training).
Take Control When Things Go South
I’m hoping that internships that require students to fetch coffee and do photocopies are now a minority, but it your internship isn’t what you were expecting, there are a few things you can do to create a better internship experience for yourself. For example, if you find yourself with a day with nothing to do, ask someone if you can help them out. Co-workers will be busy with their own tasks and sometimes will forget to give you instructions or work for that day. Instead of twiddling your thumbs, ask!
Ask people as many questions as you can. Don’t be a pest, but this is your opportunity to absorb as much information as you can. Once you graduate, you’ll have to fend for yourself. Internships give you the chance to ask as many questions as you can, so take control of your own experience.