The age old saying goes that you have to ‘get your foot in the door’ if you want to get a break into any industry – especially the design industry. With entry level positions becoming increasingly competitive, agencies are forced to ask for 1-2 years prior experience. An internship provides the perfect opportunity for students and grads to make a start in their career, gaining crucial insight into what goes on behind the scenes while gaining valuable experience along the way.
If you’re a student and you’re reading this, I understand. It can sometimes feel like endless emails and phone calls to make companies even aware of your existence. Nowadays, if you really want to make an impact or stand a chance at getting hired, don’t just get your foot in through the door – make sure you kick that door down!
With eighteen months of University studies under my belt, I embarked on a search for an internship; it was time to get some experience and a taste for the real working world. No more 11am lectures and free afternoons! Lucky for me, I managed to land myself six weeks working with the talented design team at Bulletproof, taking part in live briefs and sitting in on meetings.
With my time coming to an end, it was time to reflect on what I’d learnt. And I thought I’d share some of my top tips for students looking to get their foot in the door at a design agency…
1) Fail to prepare. Prepare to fail.
This applies before you even start your internship! You need to know as much as you can in advance about the company. Don’t let yourself get caught out by not knowing what brands they work on or what their specialisms are – it’s embarrassing and not a good first impression. Plus, the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel. It’s extremely helpful to brush up on your Photoshop and Illustrator skills too. You will learn, but just make sure that what you can do, you can do well.
2) Cut the attitude
Your attitude is the second thing people notice after what you’re wearing. First impressions are everything and whilst I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what to wear, there are dos and don’ts when it comes to presenting yourself. As a rule you should express your energy and passion for the opportunity. People can read and thrive on your energy, so show everyone it’s what you love doing and that will make a positive impression.
I don’t want to sound like a parent or teacher, but really listen to all the feedback you get. The designers have heaps of experience in the career you’re trying to get into! Don’t ignore criticism and take on board what they say to you; whether it’s advice or discussions, you can learn a lot. Make a note of everything you learn including any pieces of advice you are given. It’s always good to read back over at a later date and reinforce the memory.
4) Working 9-5
Don’t just do the internship, live it. Pretend it’s your day-to-day job and imagine yourself working there (you never know, one day you might be!). This way you get a real feel as to whether this is something you want to be doing day in, day out. As much as it’s useful experience, it’s also helping you decide where you want to be working and what style of work best suits your abilities.
5) Making the most of it
Seize the opportunity by exploring different tasks, asking lots of questions and trying not to stay in your comfort zone. Don’t give yourself the option to come away unhappy and looking back wishing you’d done things differently. Take each week as it comes and look at what you’ve achieved well and what you could do better. Don’t expect to be the best – work to be the best!
Above all, I’d say the most important thing is to have fun. Cliché I know, but relax and enjoy yourself and the rest will follow. Everyone had to start somewhere, so although it’s good to push yourself, ensure you learn at your own pace and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
I’ve learnt a hell of a lot in such a short space of time during my internship, jumping in at the deep end and getting crucial experience that will help me when applying for graduate jobs next year. Thanks a million to all at Bulletproof!