If you’re considering a career in design – or PR, Marketing, Advertising or any form of marcoms for that matter – chances are as part of your degree you’ll be expected to complete an internship of anywhere between 80 and 150 hours.
Sounds stressful, right?
It doesn’t need to be. Besides, an internship (and a good one at that) has the power to really kick-start your career by getting your foot in the door and pointing you in the direction of your career aspirations.
My third and final year at Uni arrived quicker than I anticipated and before I knew it, I was enrolled in a unit that required I complete either 80 hours as a design intern or submit a self-directed project.
While many of the other students chose the self-directed assessment option – I mean, avoiding the endless resume send-outs and awkward and somewhat terrifying interview process, why wouldn’t you? – I chose to begin applying for internships.
Little did I know that I had just made the best decision ever – I was about to learn things that I could never have imagined picking up at Uni.
The reality of life as a design intern
- Great Expectations
Ok they weren’t exactly great – but expectations nonetheless. Everybody has them. And everybody’s opinion of what you’ll get up to in an agency differs. Personally, I expected to be put to work on minor design projects for the agency itself and be restricted in access to client projects. How wrong was I.
I also expected a lot of stress – don’t get me wrong, stress comes and goes – and a lot of finding myself stuck on tasks with no help and a fast-approaching deadline. However, I am fortunate enough to be in an agency where help is right there whenever I need it (literally my boss’s desk is behind mine) and is offered willingly.
- Good Advice
I cannot stress enough the importance of doing so early. Particularly if there is a position that you are really set on. I noticed many of my peers at Uni were left with little-to-no choice of available positions close to home. So, eagerness does pay off.
Don’t forget your laptop charger! I wish I were joking. I nearly did so on my first day and it could have been disastrous. Imagine a design intern on her first day who can’t actually design anything?
Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions! Take the opportunity while you have an industry mentor who is willing to help you along the way. It’s better to ask questions and know what you’re doing than submit work completely off brief and have to do it all again.
Something I have learnt is not to expect to be able to do everything in your own style. You have to follow what the client wants – and sometimes this requires pulling back on your own ideas and opinions and strictly adhering to a client’s brief – like it or not.
Don’t be precious about your work – now this concept was a little harder to grasp, but I’ve learnt that you just can’t be offended if the client doesn’t like your work. It won’t help you achieve the brief any quicker or make your work life any easier if you do.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower (agency intern)
A wallflower? Ok, so I got a little carried away with the movie titles. A wallflower isn’t exactly the persona you want to adopt in an agency setting. It’s actually about getting in there and showing you’re interested and willing to get the work done!
However, in saying that, it is vital that you remain observant, have a keen eye for detail and act like a sponge – soaking up all the knowledge you can while you have the opportunity.
The perks of being an agency intern – particularly in a boutique setting – are endless. Working on real industry projects for a range of clients (sometimes multiple clients require your attention at once) is a skill you cannot develop at University. It’s very different being given a project with a month or two to dedicate solely to it than having an email come flying into your inbox with a deadline in the next couple of hours.
Being an agency design intern isn’t really what I expected – it’s so much better. Being eager, asking questions and having ambition helps to not only land you an internship, but one that is invaluable to the beginning of your career.
Kristin Austin Marketing Communication & Training offers internships to 3rd year PR and Marketing students. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be one of our interns, drop us a note with your CV explaining why you’re the one.
Please note: CVs without cover notes and explanations don’t get read.