How Do I Make the Most of My Graphic Design Internship?

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A graphic design internship is one of the best ways to secure a coveted design job. Competition for design internships is fierce, so interns should make the most of their internship as described below.

Why Intern?

A great way to gain valuable work experience is through a professional internship. Taking on an internship work experience helps a graphic design student build professional skills and gain insight into the design industry. Internships can also allow the student to establish a contact of networks that will be very useful in their later career. An intern who uses his or her opportunity well can increase their self-confidence, professional competency and job competitiveness. Finally, an internship can help a student smoothly transition into full-time employment.

Choose Wisely

Before committing to any internships, be sure to thoroughly research your target company. Just like a job interview, you must familiarize yourself with the company in order to ensure a mutually beneficial fit. While you may only have a few internship options, accepting one at the wrong company may create major problems down the road. Therefore, doing your homework and asking the right questions during the interview will help you secure the right opportunity. For example, if the target company is in the middle of a major stressful project, having an inexperienced intern around may actually become detrimental to your career plans.

Financial Preparedness

Typically the hardest-to-get internships will be paid. Therefore, you should financially plan and prepare for working an unpaid internship. This may be difficult, because internships are the primary stepping stone into gainful employment. Therefore, start saving, planning and budgeting now. It would be detrimental to quit a valuable unpaid internship halfway through because of personal financial problems.

Interpersonal Tips

Be aware and responsive to the design company’s internal subculture. Therefore, be sure to act and dress like everyone else. Keep in mind that senior designers are probably entitled to dress very casual because of their ingenuous talent and history of hard work. However, while you are trying to fit in, avoid allowing yourself to become exploited. Certain employees in every company will try to take advantage of interns. Therefore, align yourself with helpful and professional employees who can cultivate your technical skills and industry knowledge. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because veteran employees are often happy to share their opinions and experiences. If possible, seek an experienced mentor who can monitor your progress, provide feedback and help you problem solve.

Portfolio Planning

A graphic design internship is an ideal opportunity to build up a professional portfolio. Be sure to first ask management if this is permissible because there may be applicable confidential or proprietary restrictions. However, briefly summarizing the projects you worked on and your assigned tasks shouldn’t be considered a problem.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) is the premier accreditor of art and design degree programs. They provide excellent resources and even offer a detailed competency index that explains the exact competencies required for each art and design specialization. Therefore, design interns should familiarize themselves with the guidelines for key areas, such as animation, digital media, video production and photography. In addition to this, interns should also consider joining professional design organizations, such as the AIGA and the Graphic Artists Guild. They both offer excellent professional development resources.

To review, internships are an excellent way to gain meaningful experiences and applicable job skills. A graphic design internship can be successful through careful selection, financial planning, proper interactions and portfolio planning.

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