Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby rach6311 » July 11th, 2012, 8:16 pm


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Hi Everyone,

In one of the recent discussion boards, yo mentioned this idea that the post-grad internship seems to be a popular "trend" and I was wondering if anyone else has opinion about whether this is really a trend or the new reality post recession for fledgling designers? I have also noticed that lots of people are being picked up as contractors or freelancers after the post-grad internship and before being officially hired at a lot of consultancies. Is this the new norm or am I just noticing the few exceptions?

I know there are still people who get hired full time right after graduating but I am wondering more about the career path of people who are still finding their footing in industrial design...

Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby yo » July 12th, 2012, 12:44 am

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I'm interested in what everyone else has to say as well.

To expand on my previous comments, there are a few benefits for the company. If they are short on budget, this can be a good way to get a talented person they don't want to pass up in the door while keeping the personnel budget down for a few months until they can get approval for a full time position. It also obviously gives them a chance to try out a person they might be on the fence about with relatively no risk. The pitfalls for the company are that the individual has no real responsibility t the company and can leverage their experience to get a better job quickly. I don't talk about it much but I was an onsite freelance to a small firm right out of school. They pretty much used me for cheap labor for a few months and I used them to build experience to get a great full time job at Evo Design. Still, they seemed surprised when I left...

The are a few benefits to the employee including getting the experience I mentioned above and trying out a work place. The risks are if you have to move to make this post grad internship work, it may not turn into a permanent gig and you could be left holding the bag in a far away place. Not to mention the fact you won't be getting benefits like health care... the key is to get them to convert it as fast as possible to full time employment and to renegotiate salary based on your new market value with this newly minted experience.

Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby Lmo » July 14th, 2012, 11:08 am

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Well, if it's a trend it's repeating itself. The economy was a mess when I graduated in 1973 as well.

I was able to start working as a freelance in the ID department of an stereo manufacturer. The "job" lasted about six months and then I was invited to come on board. I stayed there another year and then moved on.

As a freelance I had no insurance. But being young, chances are that you're reasonably healthy and don't need catastrophic medical care ... knock on wood. Getting your foot in the door is the objective.

I'm unclear on what the difference is between a "post-graduate internship" and a "freelance" is. If you are a graduate, you are a graduate; I associate internship with "student". One is either an "employee" or a "contractor" aka. freelance(r).
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Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby rach6311 » July 14th, 2012, 8:58 pm


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To the best of my knowledge, the difference is that a freelancer can charge a lot more per hour... An intern's salary on the other hand caps at $15 but its a lot easier to get a foot in the door as an intern.

Other industries don't restrict internships as a "students only" thing but it also seems unpaid internships are more common in those fields (take journalism for example). Maybe its just an issue of supply and demand. There are more recent grads with comparable ID skills and fewer full time positions?

Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby yo » July 15th, 2012, 10:58 am

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It typically has more to do with an HR classification. It is easier to get an additional intern through a lot of systems than it is to get a contractor. A contractor typically has to be justified on a per project basis, while and intern you can justify more easily as extra help. A good place will pay you in their contractor pay range vs their student intern pay range. I think you can safely list it on your resume as contract work because that is what it is.

Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby Travisimo » January 18th, 2013, 3:57 pm

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It was a big trend in early 2000s too. Microsoft, IBM, and a many other big companies did that to keep a flexible workforce (and allow layoffs without alarming stockholders).

The good side is that without experience, it's hard to land a secure FT position, and contracting/interning can get you that experience. Do good work and you can look pretty good. Plus there's the extra pay, but in my contracting experience, you do need it for the layoff times or for vacations, which you pay for. You get to bill hourly, which can add up to a lot of money if your travelling to Asia and places like that. Overall, IMO it does give people experiences in places that just can't add another full time employee and would ordinarily be inaccessable. Some stay on as contractors permanently as it gives them more flexiblity

Bad side, you are not like the people you work right beside in the office though you are often doing exactly the same thing, and it can mess with your mind. You don't have benefits, employee rights & privileges, security, etc. One place I worked at wouldn't let you join the sports team with your colleagues, even if you had been working there for years. Another didn't allow corporation cash rewards for patents/design awards while FTers with minor roles did . You couldn't go to company lunches, or events. You can be perceived as a 'less valuable' employee by some.

You have to balance your opportunities available, your experience, and what you need to get where you want to be.. then choose accordingly

Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby mroh11 » February 10th, 2013, 12:59 pm


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I recently completed a short internship in New York as a recent graduate. I found the experience to be mixed due to my lack of total knowledge of the company. However, I still appreciated the opportunity and was able to make a decent amount of connections while I was there. I had to leave due to personal/family financial issues, but I did not really ask for a contract position since the company budget seemed too tight as it was. At any rate, I did not mind not having an internship right away, but does anyone here think schools should push for more Co-op internships during school? Or is it really up to each student to do the work and find the experience?

I am personally pretty mixed on the situation. I am sure I would have appreciated coming out of school with some type of internship experience even if it was at a place that I do not necessarily gravitate towards design wise. My mindset is that if I prove myself capable as a designer through an internship, I would hope that as said above, the company would make considerations for full time employment. But given the current state of the economy or whatever situation, seems like contracting work is the way they get around money issues temporarily. Anyways, I am very very new to this field as a profession, so reading topics like this help give me insight. So I wish the best of luck to everyone who is still searching or hoping for the step up to full time.

Re: Post grad intern, Contractor & then?

Postby yo » February 10th, 2013, 9:58 pm

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A lot of places "extend" their permanent team through long term or regular contractors. I have several friends who have been operating as contractors in various cities to a multitude of design firms for over a decade. Some people prefer to work that way, and some place prefer to hire contractors.

I graduated in a similar situation (albeit 15 years ago). I didn't have a lot of experience, and it was tough to get the first gig. I contracted at various places, which built my network, my portfolio, and my confidence, until I found that golden first job.

The most important thing is to keep moving. Keep reach out, keep building your portfolio. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself fresh in the eyes of others and for your own personal motivation.


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