Internship search not going well! HELP!!

I am a 23 year old design graduate from Ireland and in september I am relocating to San Francisco because of the lack of opportunity available to me in Ireland at this present time. I graduated last year at the top of my class and was recognised nationally for my achievements in design where I was presented with a Design award for my final year project. Since then I have not had much luck with my hunt for an internship hence the reason I am relocating.

Ideally I would love to break into the footwear design industry but at this point in time I have very little experience in the design world and that is what is hampering my progress. Realistically I just want to get into any type of design firm for a while so I can gain experience and prove myself but any jobs I have applied for haven’t even taken a second look at me. Its just rejection after rejection and its hard not to lose hope.

Does anyone have any advice for me? Or does anyone know anyone in the San Francisco area that would be willing to take a chance on me? Thats all I need.


Best bet to get any feedback would be to post some of your work. That will help us give you better, more targeted, feedback.

The $60,000 question is, do you need sponsorship? That’s a major hurdle, especially if you are not a software programmer.

Sain is correct. Posting your work here would be a great way to have a lot of important people have that “second look”.
Even better, you would have a chance to discuss and further explain your work here in the boards opposed to passively having a design director flip through it.
You are asking for someone to “take a chance” but without knowing more about you or seeing your portfolio, there is not much help that can be given.

What do you mean by “relocating” to San Francisco? Do you have a visa to work in the States?
Personally, I would not make plans to move unless you have a sponsor and a visa in place, this also applies to the internship visa a.k.a J-1. These things take months to plan and clear.
Most likely no reputable design firm will let you work as an intern, let alone pay you without a valid work visa.

If you want to gather some experience in the Bay Area, which is a great idea, I would not relocate but rather plan on a quick visit for a couple weeks and schedule some informal interviews and chats with the designers there. Lay a foundation and build a network.

EDIT: For everyone else’s reference. I found your Coroflot in another thread Kenneth Patterson, Product Design Graduate in San Francisco, CA
Is this up to date and what you are applying with?

As both I and bepster know, you need a work visa even to intern in the US. This can cost you a fair bit of money and you are tied to your ‘host’ company.

For example if you get offered a three month internship then thats all your visa is valid for, you will have to get it extended and pay more money to stay longer. If this does not happen you won’t be able to transfer it to another company - you will have to apply for a new visa by returning to Ireland.

I would research the J1 visa extensively before you even think about moving, you need to be as clued up as possible because an employer won’t be doing the work for you.

Also, you say you’ve only looked in Ireland - why not the rest of the UK or Europe to find an internship? If you’re willing to relocate to SF then surely somewhere on the continent won’t be too far. I’m not really in to footwear but I know Adidas has an office in Germany…

VISAs/sponsorship are the hardest thing for foreign work, and even more so for internships since the company isn’t getting a long term commitment from you usually so they’re less inclined to spend the time/money to get you in the country. If you decide to pursue this path, I highly suggest scouting out the market first instead of moving and being stuck with living expenses while looking for a job/internship. The ideal scenario is to have the job lined up before you make any relocation arrangements.

Would you perhaps consider sharing your experience with internship search? Seems you have your heart pretty set on moving to the Bay area, but perhaps there’s improvements to be done (either in your portfolio, your search methods, your approach etc.) that could facilitate you finding an internship? There’s plenty of really good, knowledgeable and experienced folks here that could give you some great tips. I notice from the coroflot that you’ve done an internship already, is there any reason you can’t return or ask your prior employer for references/connections?

There are internship companies that for a fee (sometimes hefty) will arrange an internship, visas, accommodation even. A lot are run through universities so you might want to check with yours. For example:

If you break down the cost of going to the states, living etc while searching, compare to this the sunk cost of paying for an internship company, it might make financial sense, even if you are paying for the security to have it all arranged for you.

As an Irish citizen, you are eligible for Erasmus stuff right? I met a lot of french students when I was in San Francisco who had great internships (year long) with big name firms all done with Erasmus scholarships.

The other thing would be make a stepping stone to the US via getting an internship with a good Euro firm. Many have offices in the states and vice versa.

Tell me the easy way to get a good internship and you wont see the door hit my arse on the way there.

Just to clarify for Kenneth and yourself, the company does not pay for the visa - you do. The J1 runs through a third party company and the firm you work for is called a ‘host’.

Your ‘host’ has to fill out a form that lets the Department of State know what you will be ‘learning’ whilst with them and that you won’t be there to supplement real work that an American might. There is also the risk that you may be required to stay in your home country for two years after your internship before you qualify for any other US visa. Usually those from the West (EU etc) are exempt but those from the East (China, India) usually get this slapped on them.

It cost me roughly £1300 for a 12 month visa which also covered limited healthcare insurance. Unless you can get a firm to sponsor you for the full 12 months (18 months if you have a years experience) I wouldn’t say it’s worth moving all that way just for a 3 month internship…

Thanks for the clarification, I must have confused with H1B or some other VISA. I assumed in the OP’s case since he’s doe with school that he was seeking more long-term employment situation though, but you’re right. Do you know from experience if a J1 can be extended if the internship duration changes or do you have to re-apply for one?

You can’t re-apply for a J-1. If it has run it’s course, you can’t get it again. H1B is your only option after the J-1.
12 months for interns, 18 months for trainees. The difference between these two are in most cases already gathered professional experience before the J and a Masters degree.

Technically, Sketchgrad is correct. You, the intern, will have to pay for the visa process but I’d say that any decent, reputable firm will refund the cost.

I will have to disagree on the other hand on the statement that H1Bs are easier to get than J-1s.
Since there is no quota and the can be applied for year round, J-1s are infinitely easier to get.

Long term commitment can be a good or a bad thing. If you are an American employer looking to hire a talented young international designer, you probably will not want to commit to a much more expensive visa and 3 years (H1B) where it is even questionable if the applicant can even get it. A J would be much more attractive. It’s cheaper, no lawyers needed and the period of commitment is much shorter with a max of 1 year for interns and 18 months for trainees.

Personally, I love the J-1 as a cheap, dependable way of getting international designers into the country for what effectively is a trail period and during which both employer and employee have ample time to decided if a H1B makes sense.
I should also mention there are no restrictions on salary in the J-1 system so it is up to the employer to be decent and pay their intern/trainee a living wage.

Just FIY you will need to get interviewed at your home country US Embassy anyway. It’s not like you can get a job, fill out a form and start working. It’s a very tedious and bureaucratic process.

Not technically, I AM correct :wink: Some firms may pay the fees upfront or later on but for the OP and any other recent grads I’d say it would be highly doubtful that this would happen. Mainly given that there will be more than enough freshly minted young US grads willing to take their $10 an hour without the extra cost, paperwork (even though its minuet) and 2-3 month period before they can start.

To answer Christodang’s question you can extend your internship but it has to happen VERY quickly. For example you have a 3 month internship with Company A, they need to decide to keep you longer and get the extension paperwork in within in the first month. They can’t leave it until the last week before they decide on an extension.

You would not be able to finish at Company A and start a new internship at Company B on the same J1. If you are on a 12/18 month J1 and want to leave Company A for Company B this is possible however the third party company makes it extremely difficult, which is what happened to me when I wanted to leave my small firm where I was being used a free labour to move to a much larger, reputable and respected firm.

Like Bepster said the J1 is a great way for international people wanting to experience working in the US for a low cost. The only downside is that if you wanted to stay longer its currently a problem given the cap on the proper visa (H1B).

EDIT: Just a side note that OP might not qualify for a J1 visa. From what I can tell it seems as though he has been out of university for over a year. The 12 month intern J1 can only be applied for one year after graduation. The J1 trainee valid for 18 months requires 1 year of work experience. We might have a problem here…

Thanks everyone for replying to my post.

First of all, my visa has been granted. I don’t need a company to sponsor me. I land in San Fran on the 10th of September. From that date I have 90 days to secure an Internship in a field related to my course of study in college. So I don’t need any company to sponsor me or anything. All they have to do is sign a form to say I will be working for them.

Secondly, the visa I have is a J1 graduate visa which allows me to stay in the US for 13 months. The host company I went through cover my health insurance and all that as part of my visa package.

Thirdly, I can change jobs and go between companies as I please, once the job I change to is again directly applicable to my college course in some form. The only thing is I can’t hold down two jobs at once. is the link to some of my work. In terms of a portfolio I have the better pieces from my coroflot account in that. Yes I have done an internship in Ireland, two in fact but due to the way the Irish economy is suffering here still both of those companies went out of business. Since I finished college last year I have just been working selling phones in order to save money to go to the states and do an internship. I am also fully aware of the high price of living in San Fran but I do have enough money saved to keep me going for a while.

At this point in time I would gladly take any internship I can get my hands on in San Fran. I just have a huge desire to work in a place that allows me to be creative and does not feel like a monotonous job. I still am new to the whole design world, again its just a case of getting my foot in the door of a design firm. I am a quick learner so anything I am lacking on my resume I can and I am willing to learn in order to provide my potential employer with what they need from me.

Thanks for jumping back into this thread.
This is interesting. I did not know that you didn’t need a company already secured in order to obtain the J-1.

So if you don’t get anything within 90 days? You have to move back?
Will you get the money back you already paid to the host company in Ireland? Since you say your visa has been granted, I assume you have already paid for the J-1.

This is very confusing…

Either I or you have been duped…I was not aware you could already obtain a J1 without having a host organisation secured - mainly because the document that the company fills out and signs is the one you take to the US embassy in your home country for your interview. At the end of a successful interview they take your passport where they stick in a US visa in one of the pages and then mail it back to you 1-2 weeks later.

Also when entering the US the agent at the boarder will check you have all relevant documents in order to enter the US on that visa - believe me its more difficult to enter the US with a work visa than it is as a tourist. Finally I had a hell of a job trying to switch host companies so I also am confused as to why you are allowed to do it freely…

Anyway, before you get your flight please double check everything is in order as from my experience, and bepster’s something is a little bit strange here.

Can you post the third party host you used? I used IST Plus which is based in the UK and associated with CIEE in the US. My experience and yours sound very different and I’d like to learn more. Thanks

Yeah if I don’t have an internship within 90 days I have to return home to Ireland. I have my visa paid for, I have had my embassy interview, my passport stamped and its been granted.

The third party host I used was USIT, they too go through CIEE. Did you get a Graduate Visa Sketchgrad? On my visa you can 100% go over without a job secured. My friends have done this previously with literally zero hassle.

I have a form that my employer (fingers crossed) will have to fill out, which I will then have to email back to my host company so they can check it and make sure its suitable.

As far as I am aware Ireland has different visa agreements with the US because in Ireland it is hugely popular that in the summer Irish college students will go and work and live in america for three months before returning home to college.

Thanks for the info Kenneth!

It looks like this particular form of J1 is only available to Irish citizens. It’s crazy how the US gives preference to other nations for visa’s and not others. At my place in NY there were quite a few Australians there on E3 visa’s which is apparently a walk in the park to get with no caps.

Good luck when you hit the States! There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening right now so hopefully you’ll be able to find something. Perhaps it would be a good idea to post your portfolio in the folio section so everyone could offer some feedback, you’ll then have a month to work on getting it top notch for when you land.

Thanks sketchgrad, hopefully it goes according to plan too!

Does anyone know of any good websites to log on to that specifically cater for internships, apart from the regular linkedin etc…

As Sketchgrad, I also didn’t have an idea that there was a special deal with the J-1 in Ireland.
You wrote that the J-1 was “paid for”. By you or is your government helping you out with this as well? I am really curious if the cost gets refunded to you in case you have to go back after 3 months?
I would assume so otherwise this sounds like a crazy gamble.

That your employer only has to sign the paper and that there seems to be no processing time will most likely help you. I would stress this in your application and interview. The fact that you can start work right away without having to go home will make you more attractive than other international applicants who have to wait months to start.

I am not quite sure if there are any specific websites that cater to internships apart from the obvious Coroflot job board.
Otherwise, I would approach the companies and studios directly with a .pdf portfolio (incl. resume) and a cover letter in your email.
As far as I know, my previous firm in SF has never advertised for internships as so many applicants would apply anyway.

My advice would be to make a list of your top choices and familiarize yourself with their bodies of work, then you can steer your own offering into that direction.
I had a quick glance at your portfolio and to score a quality internship in SF you have quite some ways to go still. If you like, I can send you a few portfolios of previous and current interns at top firms in SF as a reference.

In regards to your work though. I think you really need to put together a much more polished portfolio and clean up your Coroflot.

There is no reason for your year 1 & 2 work to be in your portfolio.

For a comparison. This is another recent grad trying to get a internship in the bay area. Your work and presentation needs to get on this level of polished-ness. Since you will be competing with countless other grads that are looking for internships as well.

I agree with Skecthgrad. This thread has become a bit Visa heavy. Might be best to start a new thread in the portfolio section for more target feedback in terms of your work .

I’m on the same wavelength as bepster and Sian with regards to your work as well.

I’m not going to judge too quickly but the overall presentation isn’t quite there for me. I’m wondering if you have some sort of PDF/presentation that you might have shown your tutors to get your grades during university. I would have hoped they made you compile it all together with a beginning (research), middle (ideation&development) and end (execution). Post that up for us to see.

In the mean time the thread Sian suggested is a great example and also have a look through this one too: Favorite portfolios

Those are the folios that we are openly reacting to so yours needs to be close if not better than those.