How to Survive: Internship


Jason Clark
Jason Clark

on 12/4/2018

How to Survive: Internship

I’ve had many experiences in my short life, but being an intern at a design agency was not one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent many-a-hour in the Cloud. I’ve done print design for three years, created ads for the salon at which I work, and designed a brand for my tea shop, Wild Dog Rose. But actually working at an agency is a whole new ballgame! About six months ago, I was fortunate enough to be liked, accepted, and hired as a marketing/social media intern at VIA Studio. Even though I aspire to be a UX designer, I have no formal training in marketing, and little experience in managing social media accounts.

So, why marketing? To grow.

My view is one must understand (or at least grasp) the general concept of every facet of design. It’s even better if you can bring those skills to the table. This includes, but is not limited to: business, marketing, user experience, web development, psychology, branding, and so on. Today’s designer must be able to dip their fingers in everything, wear four different hats in a day, and hopefully have the ability to self-soothe. I think deep down I knew this, but I didn’t really know this until I became an intern.

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” is the my go-to mantra when I’m in a flurry of uncertainty. And this is often. Yet, this uncertainty is exciting, refreshing, and challenging in the best possible way. Without it, life gets a bit boring, no? In the last 6 months, I’ve gotten the opportunity to engage and learn from so many awesomely talented people. I’m positive I’ve learned something new each day, even if it’s just about myself. Surviving an internship is not easy, but it’s worth it and oh-so rewarding.

I’d love to share with you some tips and tricks I’ve learned for surviving an internship:

Jump on in!

Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, give it a dang shot. Be willing to dive in. You’ll definitely learn something valuable in the process.

Ask for help.

It’s tough, I know. I always feel like, “I should know this already”, “I don’t want to bother anyone”, “I’m being annoying”, etc. But, it’s better to ask and learn the right way to do something than to screw up something major, yeah?

Learn to live on coffee.

Focus is imperative. One must be alert and be able to be creative on-the-spot. Also, there is a 98% chance that there will be a never-ending supply of coffee in your office, so the temptation is strong. *Pro-tip: try to not drink it after 3PM, otherwise you may not sleep that night and have to drink twice as much coffee the next morning.

Be (and stay) humble.

This industry is ever-changing, so there will literally never come a time when you know everything. You may feel like you’re at the top of your game – and maybe you are pretty high up there – but there’s always something to learn. From everyone.

Amp up your fashion game.

Everyone around you is a creative person. And likely super fly. One must fit in. Buy some crop pants and a fancy patterned shirt. A super cool long coat if funds allow. Fake it ‘til you make it.

Amp up your wit game.

Little did I know that everyone is witty af! It might be helpful to be quick-on-your-feet when you’re breaking in as the new kid. Brush up on your stand-up comedy game. (I’m saying this to myself, too.)

Practice being curious.

Don’t really understand what the back-end web developers are doing? Do some research. Ask a co-worker (if they’re free and willing to talk about it). It will only make you a better employee, a better designer, and a better co-worker to understand what other peeps are doing and to understand their perspective.

Never not working.

Best practice is to go home after you get off work and study. Play around, watch YouTube videos, invest in Udemy classes or Coursera classes (these are free!), and research the industry. One must hustle while an intern, but preferably always. This way, you’ll learn much quicker than just figuring it out at work, and you can excel in your craft faster than the average Joe.

Be up for anything.

The world is full of whimsy and opportunity, especially in the design world. Whether it’s an impromptu coffee break and walk around the block, a sudden shift in game plan with this huge client, or a group trip to a conference in Cali, be open to any and all things. Spontaneity is what makes life beautiful, and each “yes” you utter will open doors you didn’t think were possible. So, I beg you, stop taking yourself so seriously – and say “yes”.

xo em

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