2005/11: Ask Me
Q&A 15 years ago No Comments

I am a graduate in IT [information technology] who is looking for a career change. I have always been passionate about interior designing and so at 23 decided to follow Rhodec’s diploma course in interior designing. My concerns are related to stepping into the industry once I am done with my diploma/degree. Most companies are looking for many years of experience. Where do I start” Is there such a thing as voluntary work or internships for interior designing that I could follow while I am studying” I would really like to gain some work experience while studying with Rhodec.

(submitted by Uma H. from Leeds, UK)

You are quite right to be thinking ahead and planning your strategy now for how you will launch your new design career once you have graduated. It is very difficult for recent graduates who come up against the old conundrum of how to gain experience when nobody will give you the opportunity to accumulate it. There is no nationwide internship program in the UK, but there are several effective ways of approaching design companies to ask if they can give you any work experience.

The design world is quite a small world and the key to progression is networking, networking and networking. The good news is that by starting now you will be one step ahead by the time you graduate. A good starting point is to become a student member of professional bodies such as the British Interior Design Association [BIDA] and the International Interior Designers Association [IIDA].

The BIDA is the only professional Interior Design association in the UK, and student membership entitles you to access to the Directory of Members, full access to the members area of the BIDA website ” a great resource for information and networking ” and perhaps, most importantly, access to the Continuing Professional Development [CPD] events programme, which offers a very effective networking and communication with BIDA members and corporate suppliers, as well as contributing to your design education. Members of the BIDA would be particularly open to an approach by a student member looking for work experience.

The IIDA runs an Annual Mentoring Week (the next dates are 23rd-27th Jan 2006), which pairs two students at a time with Design Practices in their area, allowing them to spend a day experiencing first hand the work done by design professionals and is a valuable networking opportunity.

Others places that might be worth looking at are IDEASFACTORY, a website created with the aim of helping you make the first ” or next ” move in your career. You could also try approaching a UK recruitment agency such as Careers In Design who work nationwide and may be able to help with voluntary work placements that could also lead to paid work.

By far the most effective approach to companies is through direct personal contact, so take advantage of any opportunities you have to network through professional organisations, design fairs etc” Don”t be afraid to come out and ask if there are any opportunities for work experience with them.

The next best approach is to mail companies you have earmarked from your research ” send them your CV and details either by email or by post. The key thing to remember when approaching a company is to be prepared:

  • Have an up to date CV with details of what areas you have studied to date and if possible some images of projects you may have worked on.
  • Get a business card made up that you hand to contacts.
  • Be enthusiastic ” if you want someone to give you a chance you need to demonstrate that you really want this opportunity and that you will be a nice person to have around the office.
  • Be flexible and take what you can get, if someone can only offer you one day ” grab it. If all you are allowed to do initially is to observe ” do it. You never know what may lead to something else. People remember people they enjoy working with and even years down the line if you”ve made a good impression that contact may be very useful.
  • Don”t be afraid to ask for written references from companies you work with.
  • Be professional ” behave and look the part. Dress to fit in with the company you are working for. Act as the design professional to want to be.