Spring break is just around the corner with summer soon to follow. This is not just wishful thinking to help you survive the winter; this is a fact. So while time is still on your side, start thinking about how to secure an internship, job or volunteer opportunity in order to gain practical experience to enhance your valuable design education.
It doesn”t matter where you are in design school, finding a position connected to the profession can provide valuable information and important experiences to support your growth and development as a design professional. Pursue opportunities that make sense for your current level of education and skill set.
While some of you may be qualified to pursue intern positions in architectural design firms where you will be required to have specific drawing and computer skills, this is not the only way to gain valuable industry knowledge. If you have clerical, sales, customer service or other basic skills, consider other options. There are great opportunities for learning at the local hardware store, paint store, Home Depot, etc”
Apply to be a receptionist or other support position at any business in the industry. If you are interested in hospitality design, find a position at a hotel and learn all you can about how they operate. Or if you want to know more about healthcare or senior living design, find jobs that allow you to work in those environments. If your lifestyle allows, don”t limit yourself to paid positions. Unpaid internships or volunteer opportunities give you a chance to gain knowledge and experience…isn”t that payment enough”
Finding A Good Fit ” Ask Questions
As you interview, remember that you have every right to ask questions just as the potential employer is asking you questions. You want to make sure you have clear expectations of the types of tasks and exposure this position will provide. You want to make sure you will be comfortable in the environment so you make this a successful experience.
- What are the intern”s responsibilities”
- Will you be assigned to work with one person or a team of people”
- Are there limitations to the type of work you will be allowed to do as an intern”
- Will all of your tasks be design related or will there be other support staff functions (cleaning, coffee runs, etc.)”
- Does the company have a track record of hiring interns after graduation”
- Ask for a tour of the company if it isn”t part of the interview. This will let you get a feel for the type of people, the energy level of the work environment, how people dress, etc. In other words, information that will help your gut determine if this is a good fit for you.
Make The Most Of Every Opportunity
Is there really a task too menial for an intern” While we hope organizations will expose you to life as a designer through a variety of tasks and shadowing opportunities, you are taking a position that is at the lowest level of the organization. Acting like you are too good to take out the garbage will leave a lasting impression on the people you are trying to impress.
How you tackle each assignment, the attitude you show, the timeliness and the manner in which you complete every task communicates aspects of The Brand of You. The more pleasant you are to work with, the speed and the accuracy in which you complete tasks, and your drive to ask for more work will send a message and most likely lead to more opportunities and different levels of responsibility.
If the team feels they can trust you to help them get more work done, and they won”t have to re-do the work, the more you will be asked to help. This first job, internship or even volunteer position is a stepping-stone, but it is an important one. This is a place to start building your network and the perception others will have of The Brand of You.
The Resource Library
In many internships, organizing samples and keeping things clean in the resource library is a right of passage. While many design interns grumble about this task, it truly can serve as a building block of your education.
The latest and greatest materials and furniture catalogues are right at your fingertips. Learn the manufacturers” names, read some of the product information as you put it neatly away. Touch and feel the samples; understand the information on the labels. Ask designers questions about why they chose to use one product over another, or why the client didn”t like it.
You may also be asked to call manufacturers and/or the local reps to order samples. This is a great way to expand your network. The local reps are a wealth of product and industry information. You will find that some reps even have a background in design. Take the time to get to know these professionals and their products. Find ways to support them, ask them questions and enlist their support in building your network.
Be a sponge in the resource library, and it will pay off in the long run.
The Worst Experience Ever Is Still A Lesson Learned
Surviving the worst internship ever…whatever that means to you…still teaches you a valuable lesson. You now know exactly what you don”t want to do. And the next time you interview, you can ask thoughtful questions to prevent you from finding yourself in a similar situation.
Every job, volunteer experience, internship, etc. teaches you something about yourself. All of these experiences are part of your career journey. They will collectively shape you as a professional.
Life is full of ups and downs, as are jobs and internships, but these opportunities are necessary for your growth and development. Start adding these valuable experiences to your resume now. They will enhance your education. You will think about things differently in the classroom as you gain more real world expertise.
Are you ready” Remember that time is ticking; spring break and summer are just around the corner. Start looking for opportunities now.
Jenny Schrank, Allied ASID, and Aga Artka, Allied ASID, LEED AP, work together to educate and motivate young design professionals to take charge of their lives and build careers of their dreams. They started a career building newsletter and are working on a career development publication, which is planned to be released in 2014.
Sign up for a monthly series of The Career Hungry newsletter. Don’t wait another day!