Most students know that the right internship can get them on a path to the right job after graduation. Internships provide valuable work experience that help you get an idea of what daily life as a graphic designer looks like—and what skills you need to be successful.
The main difference between an internship and a job is the temporary nature of an internship, which is limited to a specific time frame or a number of hours worked.
The challenge with internships is that not all of the “jobs” are posted in regular job search locations, although some companies do post internship listings on job search websites. So where do you begin your search for the perfect internship? You’re going to have to do some homework.
1. At Your College or University
Landing a great internship is about building relationships with working graphic designers at all levels.
The best place to begin your graphic design internship search is at school. Talk to the career center at your college or university or use internal job boards or networking groups such as Handshake to see information posted by companies to your campus community.
It is a common practice for companies to seek interns from certain colleges or programs, giving career counselors access to internship descriptions and information that you might not find anywhere else.
In addition to talking with counselors and looking and college-specific job/internship boards, make sure to attend job fairs, where you can talk to company recruiters and human resources professionals from actual companies visiting campus.
Finally, pay attention to your college’s calendar of events. Attend talks from professionals in your field and always make a point to stay after and say hello and get their business card if you can. Landing a great internship is about building relationships with working graphic designers at all levels.
2. Online Job Sites
Google has a new and pretty robust jobs tool that pulls job and internship listings from a number of locations right into a single search query.
Like with almost any other research project, going to the Internet for information can get you on the right path.
The most popular places to search for quality jobs online include Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor and LinkedIn. Each site allows users to search for specific types of jobs by location or company name. If you know exactly what you are looking for this type of general search can be helpful. You can also try more specialty listings from Internships.com.
You can also Google it. Google has a new and pretty robust jobs tool that pulls job and internship listings from a number of locations right into a single search query. (Make sure to include keywords such as “graphic design,” “internship” and a location where you want to look, if applicable. Otherwise, Google might default to the most popular listings or only listings near your current location, which might be different from where you want to intern.)
The tricky part about looking for an internship via online search is that many employers don’t actually post positions, even when they have internships available. Because these jobs are temporary and different than normal positions, employers often don’t pay to publish listings with major job sites.
An online search can be a good starting point, but it shouldn’t be the only way you look for a graphic design internship.
3. Via Direct Contact
Do you know what kind of company you want to work for? Do you have a specific location where you want to spend your internship hours?
Start the conversation with a polite email introducing yourself with a copy of your resume.
Target specific companies and reach out directly to ask about internship opportunities – even if there isn’t a specific internship noted on the company’s website or in job listings. (You’d be surprised at how many smaller companies are willing to and love to take interns yet don’t actually seek them out.)
Look for a company that you have a connection to and ask a friend or family member to connect you with someone that you can contact directly. Start the conversation with a polite email introducing yourself with a copy of your resume. Clearly state your intention – that you are looking for an internship – and who helped establish the connection for you.
4. At Networking Events
Nothing will help you find a great internship like your professional network.
Start networking now, talk to mentors or friends, and attend a networking event. You can also contact professional organizations and ask for assistance. Many groups, particularly local or regional chapters, will allow you to come to a meeting and get involved even as a college student.
Nothing will help you find a great internship like your professional network. (Yes, we know you are looking for an internship to expand your network, but you have to start somewhere.)
And when you start networking, you need to actually talk to people. Put down your phone and say hello. Ask working professionals about their jobs and companies. Express genuine interest in what they do. These are the connections that might help you find the perfect internship.
Then after the networking event or opportunity, follow up. Send thank you notes to emails to people that gave you good advice. Even if you don’t land an internship right away, these connections can be valuable in the future.
5. Fortune 1000 List
Graphic Design Degree Hub has a list of and links to internships at some of the biggest (and most desirable) firms in the country.
The list is a complication of graphic design and web design internship opportunities at companies from the Fortune 1000 list, including Apple, Facebook, Nike, Hershey, Google and so many others. (You can call these the dream internships.) Most of these positions will have pretty strict competition, but because programs are well-established, you can look at the listings to get a good feel for what you might be doing.
Most of these internships are best suited for those with some previous internship experience or post-graduates looking to add to their resumes. (But what the heck … you should still apply if you see a company that you’d love to be a part of.)
While most students think of summer when it comes to internships, many companies have year-round internship programs. Whether you are working for credit or a paycheck, it is worth checking into available internships near your college or university during the fall, spring and winter terms. (You might find it easier to land an internship during the “off” season.)
When you are applying, remember to meet all deadlines and provide all necessary information. Some internships can get hundreds of applications and failure to follow instructions will get your resume tossed immediately. And good luck, internships are a great way to start building your professional and person graphic design network.