I’m a recent grad who finally managed to land an industrial design internship. The company said that they might be able to hire me in a few months, depending on how things go.
Does anyone have any advice about how to be a great ID intern / a valuable coworker? This company seems like a really cool place and I want to do everything I can to try and stay there. Thanks in advance for any tips you have!
When I was at frog I brought Quinn Huffstetler (Behance) on as an intern. I had an inter opening, he had been out of school and working at a firm but applied anyway. I told him I couldn’t make any promises about it turning into more and he told me he didn’t care, just wanted the opportunity to prove himself. A few weeks in it became evident that he was worth his weight in gold and I began the process of politicking hard to convert him to full time. Before the 3 month span of the internship was over I was able to bring him on full time.
What did he do that convinced me so quickly to do this:
- took every possible task as an opportunity to over deliver no matter what
- got to work early, left late
- took the time to get to know leadership and understand what we needed
All of these things made it easy to convince the company to open up a headcount for him
I also recommend you be clear with your expectations. Ask for a review at the 3 or 4 month mark and ask for the opportunity to be made a full time employee at that time. Putting in a little extra isn’t bad as long as you get what you need in return.
Michael is offering great advice.
Being on the job and hungry is important and you’ll find that the designers around you will gladly share their skills and experience if you are showing willingness to learn.
What I would also like to add is to find a balance.
Let the prospect of a fulltime hiring motivate you but not paralyze you. It can feel daunting. It certainly did for me.
The important part is to just push through that and to show that you fit well with the team.
For me and a bunch of other interns at the agency that hired me after an internship, it was the fact I “won” a project.
In other words, my concept was selected by the design director and the client.
If that happened during your internship, it usually meant you were being kept on.
Good point. You don’t want to be overly aggressive and turning everything into a “see, you should hire me” moment. You don’t want to be a happy dog barking at their heels. Just do more than is expected humbly, check in, and try to fit in as part of the team.
When I have been assessing people in these situations I look for what I call “new guy smell”. I worked with a designer for years who never shed that “new guy smell”. Other designers came in and clicked and just got how we worked and he was still asking where the bathroom was. If you can shed that ned guy feeling as intern that would be a huge step.
Good advice from Han:
I have two interns right now that we are looking to bring on full time but we are waiting to get our headcount approved. Sometimes it’s not up to you no matter what you say or do.
That said, it is much easier for me to make a case for them if they are already acting like full time employees. Do they have the strategic thinking behind their decision making that makes their work communicable to the business leaders in the organization?
When I was a post-grad intern my internship kept getting extended month by month for almost a year (for the same very low pay) with the dangling carrot of a full time offer that never came. It was terrible. Eventually I quit and found a job that provided proper structure and pay where I didn’t feel like I was getting taken advantage of.
I went from internship into full time position and this is my advice from my experience:
Align yourself with the right people : I quickly became friends with key people inside the org, and honestly I didn’t do this on purpose but it really helped me. I found myself gravitating towards the people working really hard and most interested in pushing the company forward, and quickly found that in many organizations there is a small group of “change makers.” One thing about this is that none of these people were in design. I tried to align myself and understand what was important to the heads of our engineering teams, R&D Director, marketing, and even sales.
The classic “Come in early, stay late”: This is important, but don’t confuse it with “Wow he comes in early and leaves late, hes such a hard worker.” I know so many people who implement this tactic, yet get less work done than some of us who work closer to 40 on average. I will admit, I often work more than 40, but I do try to keep a balance between work and life and the right employers will understand this importance. With that said, if I have to work over 40, its usually because I am making that choice because it needs to be done, not because i’m being asked. Dedication matters, especially if you’re a millennial, everyone thinks we are flakes
Don’t require a babysitter : Collect your mentors, listen to your boss, but don’t require them to constantly micro-manage you (unless they do that naturally, which is a whole different conversation).
Get lots of sleep and work hard: Some people don’t need a good nights sleep, but it helps me a TON and definitely impacted my good work while being an intern. I know school can make this difficult sometimes, but try your best while at school to just push through the day and utilize every minute possible to get work done. It will be tiring, but the sleep will be worth it.
Just don’t follow an infamous White House intern’s example.