How to Find a Design Internship

Looking for an internship in graphic or web design? I wouldn’t waste any time; start your search ASAP, especially if you’re thinking about landing one for the upcoming summer. Great opportunities (especially paid ones) are extremely competitive, so you want to be ahead of the game.

The first thing to do in your internship hunt: Think about what you want from your internship experience.

When considering your internship desires, there is a lot to cover.

Where do you want to be located? A big city? Near home?
What kind of responsibilities do you want? Monitored or more independent?
Will you need to make money? Or can you handle a zero-income unpaid position?

It’s essential to know what you’re looking for before you begin searching.

Location, Location, Location

Let’s consider location: Where do you want your internship to be? There are positives and negatives about all options, just like all things.

Cities will offer more graphic design opportunities, for example. There will undoubtedly be more firms, more places to apply and more connections to make in a big city. There will also be more competition, however, and a higher cost of living. Don’t forget the costs associated with moving into a sublet or apartment, as well as the possibility of feeling lonely, knowing no one in the area. Small cities or suburbs, on the contrary, will offer fewer opportunities, but will probably be cheaper and less competitive.

Paid or Unpaid?

If you do opt for an internship in a big city, you may need to rule out unpaid opportunities (which comprise a huge chunk of all internships). It just might not be feasible for you to have no income with the higher rent, food and city-related costs. Definitely consider your financial needs before exploring unpaid internships in cities (or in general).

Paid internships, while offering an obvious monetary benefit, may not deliver exactly what you want in the way of one-on-one mentoring, however. Often paid positions are within bigger firms, firms in which you may not get as much hands-on experience as you would in a smaller, more personal environment.

Searching Out Opportunities

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about. With that in mind, you should begin exploring opportunities on the world wide web. Keep your priorities in mind as you search internship outlets like InternMatch, Dream Careers, and Internships.com, sites that allow you to specify exactly what you want and search your options. You can also utilize traditional job search sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Simply Hired and even Craigslist.

If you’re looking to mostly learn through your internship experience, and you consider yourself not yet ready for employment in the field, stick to the internship sites and searches specifically tagging “internships.” If you are comfortable with your skills and are more interested in workplace experience and gaining connections, feel free to explore actual job openings. You may be able to negotiate with the hiring agency by accepting less money (or none?) and dub the position an “internship” rather than a job.

It’s great to get your name out there, but don’t throw yourself at every “graphic/web design internship” you stumble upon. Applying should be a thought-out, thorough process. Therefore, make sure you’re actually interested in a particular internship before putting together application materials.

What should you look for to determine your interest? First, read the job description. Does it sound like something you’d like or be good at? Will you be compensated? Will the hours pose a schedule conflict for you? Next, investigate the company. What is the employee satisfaction rate? Do you know anyone who has interned there in the past who you could talk to? If it all sounds fine and dandy, prepare to apply.

Honing Your Application

For each application, you’ll need a resume, cover letter and glowing sample pieces. Your resume should include previous jobs, schooling, related roles, extracurricular activities and any other relevant pursuits of your past. Check out sample resumes online in order to best sculpt yours.

When writing your cover letters, craft one for each individual position to which you apply. Two cover letters (or all of them) may be similar to one another, but not identical. No two internships are looking for exactly the same qualities or skills, so tailor each cover letter to the specific job’s description. This is your chance to brag about yourself in greater detail than the resume allows. Tell the hiring agency why you’re the best candidate for the job.

Each application will probably require samples. Attach your best work, the ones that best reflect your skills as a graphic designer. Like the other application materials, these samples are going to speak for you; make them say good things.

You may also need to gather a list of references, people who can vouch for your skills, ability, and work ethic. Make sure you ask or at least give your references a heads-up before you give their names and numbers out to potential employers, so they can expect a few phone calls.

By chasing only the internships that really interest you, you’ll leave more time to produce better application materials. With better application materials, you will be that much closer to landing your dream internship.

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