Recently graduated. Internship or full time employment?

Hey everyone,

I am a fresh graduate with a B.A. and I am sort of stuck in my quest to get my foot in the door into this design industry I love. Right now I currently consider myself a designer that can have what it takes skill-wise to perform well In a full-time environment (depending on the consultancy or company) and I have a portfolio that from my knowledge could convey to an employer my thought process from brief to finalization/presentation, although I do think I could use much improvement in validating my ideas.

The only problem I’m in I feel that may have put myself on the lower ends of becoming a considerable candidate is my lack of experience. Right now I have no internships under my belt as well as any product/industrial related experience. To give a little background I am 23 years old and only have 1 job on my resume that has any relation to design which was a short term photo editing job using photoshop.

I am in great need of help from more experienced designers who know what employers look for when receiving applicant material from young designers. Should I absolutely seek an internship or are there employers out there that would hire a designer like myself In my position? Also If you or anyone else you knew has snagged a full time position with a short resume how did they go about compensating? Any advice on this would greatly help me out.

I also have an attachment of my sample work from my portfolio and coroflot page but unfortunately I am still in the works of getting more of my projects out there as well as illustrating my full thought process. Input on my work and where I could improve would be great also. Thanks!!

Hi Todd,

I was recently where you are a few years ago. Unless you’re the next Sid Mead, you probably need at least 1 internship under your belt, ideally 2-3 to be even considered for a full-time gig. I had 2 internships during school, and 2 after school before I knew what I wanted and had enough experience to quality for it.

As some IDEO person once said, ‘begin anywhere.’ If pickings are slim, consider going somewhere you might not even think you like, just for the experience. Internships are for finding your path or at least your starting point. My first internship was a small company designing air fresheners. Needless to say that wasn’t my calling in life. Next I tried medical. That was fun in its way but wasn’t quite me. Then I got a taste of consultancy and saw the pluses and minuses to that. Then I found a sweet gig at a small company doing consumer electronics.

Paid internships are obviously better, but you’ll be living lean for a bit, try to minimize debt. Internships are how you get your foot in the door. I know many people who interned somewhere that later hired them full-time, including myself. It’s a safe way for all involved to test the waters without a huge investment.

I only saw one project in your portfolio. I know you need to show only your best work, but at least 3 projects would be expected by anyone looking for an intern. If you hate all but one, use your current skills and do two quick projects in the next few weeks that are different contexts, skillets, and scales as your bike and you’ll be in a good spot.

Best of luck!


I think Cameron is right, it´d be easier to land in an internship than in a full-time job. I was on the same situation last year and luckily found an internship that helped me developing my skills a lot and making enough money to live. You’ll have to struggle, won’t make much money at the beginning but will learn a lot and, hopefully, find what you like. I think the variety of projects you can find in an agency would help finding which field you like the most, but the atmosphere is also more stressful and you will have to work hard. Some people find that unbearable, but I kind of liked that, it´s good to find where your is limit and how much you can handle.

Hey Todd,

I was also in your situation when I was close to graduating. I hadn’t had an ID internship and was stressed about getting my foot in the door at places without professional experience. About a month before graduation we had an Alumn come by to critique our senior thesis presentations who happened to work for a design consultancy. After meeting him I asked if he could review my portfolio and we talked for close to 45 minutes or so about my work and what I wanted to do after graduating. He told me his firm was in need of an ID intern and that he would be in contact with me. A few weeks later, I had an interview lined up with the team at that consultancy. Literally the day before graduation I received the internship offer and, needless to say, I was probably more happy about that then the fact that I was graduating the following day.

Halfway through that internship, I received an email from another consultancy who I had applied to after meeting the owner at the IDSA conference. I had my portfolio on hand, and again, asked if he would sit down and and review my work before the next lecture started. They were in need of an ID intern and I was able start directly after my current internship. During this internship I worked on re-doing my portfolio after work and on the weekends. I knew I could now start applying for full-time or intern-to-hire opportunities. It was a lot of work balancing my intern and portfolio work, but it was definitely worth it in the end. Once completed, I posted it to the Core77 boards for feedback, not knowing this would lead to my first full-time job. Michael Ditullo saw it and contacted me about a possible internship position with frog at the time. I remember running around my apartment with excitement after reading that email by the way. After a few months of interning I was offered a full-time job with the firm.

For me, the lessons learned from my experience is the power of putting yourself out there and networking with people within the industry. I’ll always be grateful to all three of those guys who helped me out along the way. While a strong portfolio is a must, networking and having a positive attitude is half the battle. Put yourself out there, share your work on the boards, get a drink with professionals in your area, and always ask for feedback - eventually something will come your way. Good luck!

Thanks for the input and stories. It really does give me some reassurance hearing from your experiences. I apologize for not responding sooner because I was having computer issues while I was trying to post this topic and thought it didn’t get posted until I finally came back to this discussion board today and happened upon it lol. Anyways I am almost ready in fixing up and getting my full portfolio online and plan on applying to any internships I can. Thank you!