The design intern – nurturing young talent

The design intern – nurturing young talent image

We have all experienced it, applying for that first job straight out of university, only to be turned down due to lack of experience. Uhm, hello…. How am I supposed to get experience if you won’t hire me? Design agencies and other companies alike need to realise that the only way we are going to increase the standard of design out there is if we nurture the upcoming pool of young design talent.


University and college fees are higher than ever before and increasing annually, yet students or young designers, when they graduate, still don’t have the hands-on experience they need to really break into the industry. How can we as design professionals help the young talent out there? Simple, hire interns while they are studying!


The burden isn’t all on the ‘already working’ design professionals out there though, students and interns listen up, here is what you can do to help your situation.


Do your homework

As important as it is to choose the right company, it is even more important for you to do research on any company or agency you apply to. An easy checklist would be to go through their clients, projects, portfolio, history, team members, and to make note of any questions you have. Remember, knowledge is king but preparation is queen, and we all know who wears the pants.


What’s your bottom line?

This is as plain and simple as it gets, can you afford an unpaid internship? If it is paid, is it enough to cover your expenses? Can you manage a full-time internship or does it need to be part-time? And if your dream company / agency offers you an unpaid internship with the chance of cracking the nod, can you borrow, budget and struggle along for those few weeks or months? These are the things you need to ask yourself because money really does make the world go-round.


Timing is everything

Not only is this important for you, but the company / agency must be ready for it as well. There is no point doing an internship when the business is so stressed about a project or deadline, they completely forget about you. Same goes for you, are you ready for the extra work?


Dress for the occasion

As important as the interview, you need to dress correctly accordingly for the job. It’s no good looking like a bumped-out hipster in a suit and tie company or rocking the ‘Harvey Specter’ look when everyone else in the agency is in board shorts and slip slops. If you did your research in the beginning you should know what the correct dress code is. Trust me, you’re going to have more than enough on your plate to still worry about what you’re going to wear.


The force is strong with this one…

Find a master, I mean mentor. You aren’t there just to fill a seat and do meaningless tasks designed to waste the hours on the clock. The whole point of an internship should be to learn new things, get the nurturing you need and grow under the wing of your mentor. Be a sponge, soak up as much as you can in the time you have, it will all be worth it in the long run.

Be part of the team

It is so easy to get engulfed in the day-to-day tasks that you forget to take part in all the other things going on around you. Try chatting to everyone, especially senior members in your role, and even schedule some one-on-one time with team members. Interact, listen, learn, communicate and get involved as much as you can. Be professional and try to connect with the people around, who knows what might happen as a result.

Fill your portfolio

If you’re able to, include some of the work you did during your internship in your portfolio. People would rather see real-world examples as opposed to assignments and projects done at university. But don’t take what isn’t yours, remember, everything you create while employed is the property of your employer, so get permission before you use anything.

Stay in touch

Once all is said and done, remember to stay in touch. You never when a position will open or if the company / agency is expanding. As in advertising, top of mind awareness is key.

As for the design professionals out there, remember to motivate your interns through passion and skill, and above all, keep on hiring and nurturing the design talent out there.


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