A lot of us have been in that awkward situation, fresh out of university or college looking for work, but all positions require 1+ years’ industry experience. So, how are you supposed to get this experience when junior positions (sometimes advertised as ‘perfect for graduates’) require this magical year in industry?
The frustration of applying for job after job, but only receiving the same old feedback “we are looking for someone with more experience” can be demoralising.
This is the struggle I had for months before I chose to venture into internships. I had heard many stories of people claiming that interns simply made coffee, or were used as cheap holiday cover, so I was definitely apprehensive.
However, I took the first design internship opportunity that arose. For me, this was certainly a big risk, especially as I was moving to London, from Chester, but I thought that in order to make that progress I would have to take risks.
Rob Pomfret, Designer, Ejigsaw
I was relieved, to say the least, when I was given client-facing work, alongside a supportive team, from day one! As much as I enjoyed my time at the company, sadly, London wasn’t for me so, once again, I was on the lookout for work.
I was told by a couple of freelancers, who I met whilst in London, that I should put my internship down, on my CV, as a junior position as they claimed that employers don’t care much for internships; I disagree.
I felt that an internship shows that you are willing to prove yourself, sort of a statement that tells people ‘let me show you what I can do, and prove my value.’
Internships can provide that magical years’ experience that all of these companies require, by giving you a chance to learn, in a real working environment, whilst also giving you and the company the opportunity to see how you work.
When I was offered an internship at Ejigsaw, I was eager to show them what I could do. They got to know me, and how I work, and I was sure that this was the company I wanted to work for. So, when I was offered a full Designer position, I was ecstatic.
As a designer, there are many ways to gain experience when starting out in your career, but it seems that internships are an ideal way to improve your skills and also make sure that the company is the right fit for you, and you are a right fit for them; it’s very much a two-way street!
There are a few things to consider when looking for an internship which will help you get the most out of it:
- Criticism – In the design industry, there is nothing more valuable than feedback, so having to report your work to someone with more experience, who will then offer their help and advice on how to improve. This means that you need to be willing to take some criticism, in order to improve the quality of your work.
- Push Yourself – Don’t be afraid to ask for more work. If you push yourself to do more than you (or your employer) expect then you will be more likely to impress.
- Learn – Use your time as an intern to learn as much as you can from everyone. People expect that you’re going to be asking questions, and you can get away with asking those “this might sound stupid, but…” types of questions.
- Relax – Lastly, and I know this is a cliché, but be yourself. If you are relaxed and get involved with the team, then not only will you enjoy your time more, but it also gives the employer another reason to offer you a job at the end of it.
Whilst my experiences with internships have been very positive, you don’t want to be stuck doing internships forever. So, it is ok to ask the company whether they have any intention of employing you full time. Also, be aware of the length of an internship; 3 months is usually a good amount of time, but some may be longer.
When it comes to extending an internship, try and use your own judgement on whether you believe that an extension is justified, and if it is worth it for yourself, or whether the company is just trying to get a bit more out of you, for cheaper, and without committing to a full-time role.
I can’t speak for all industries, but all in all, I would say that internships are definitely the way to go if you’re looking to gain serious working experience in the industry, just make sure that you still know your worth and are pushing yourself to progress, and you won’t go far wrong