Internships. One word with so much stigma attached. Here, shred these papers, get the coffee, staple this, etc. I am fortunate enough to not have one of those internships. Here at Black Lake, I’ve been given actual projects to work on. My first day, I wished they had just asked me for coffee. Instead, I was thrown into the deep end and told to swim. It was scary (which is weird, because I’m a great swimmer). Through a flurry of varying emotions and learning the beginner’s ropes, I have compiled a list of nonexclusive qualities to look for inside as well as outside of an internship. I am no expert (even though I should be, since this is my third internship and I still don’t have college credit for any of them), but here is what I have found throughout all of them:
1. Choose Well.
Find an internship that will challenge you. I could have chosen an easier internship or no internship at all. Instead, I opted for one that would push me outside my comfort zone as a designer and as a person. See it as an opportunity to grow and learn more than you could by just getting the coffee.
2. Be Willing to Look Stupid.
I know its been said a thousand times before, but this is key in an internship setting. Be humble. It’s better to look stupid first and get the task done right than to look smart for a moment until the task is done wrong.
Often, I’m scared to try my hand at designing a piece because there are much more qualified people here. Nine times out of ten, my design won’t be chosen. Internships aren’t about getting your piece published. They’re about learning, and you can’t learn if you don’t try.
4. Ask Questions.
Those you are interning under are experts in their field. Take advantage of the opportunity of being constantly surrounded by them. Conversely, ask questions that aren’t work related at all. You will learn interesting fun facts and get to know your coworkers better.
5. Have a Go-To Person.
Chances are you won’t be able to interact with your boss over every small problem that arises. Find someone who isn’t annoyed by or too busy for your questions, or even your small talk, and utilize that. They will be a great asset, and you’ll make a friend!
6. Negotiate Hours.
A part-time internship ranges from ten to twenty hours a week. Instead of working three full days a week, I work every morning Monday through Friday, freeing up my afternoons and evenings to work my other job. Figure out what fits your schedule and simply ask for that.
Internships should be more flexible than a job, especially if it’s unpaid. Just the other day, I asked my boss if I could come in late on Tuesdays so I could go to yoga on the beach with my mom. He said yes. If an opportunity arises, talk to your boss about it. Don’t just assume the answer is no.
8. Have Supportive Friends.
Most of my friends from school all check in and ask how my internship is going. Some days, I tell them it’s over my head. They tell me it’s not and to keep persevering. A good support system is of inestimable worth.
9. Have a Routine Outside of the Office.
Get on a particular sleep schedule. It’s much easier to get up early every morning if you go to bed at the same time every night. I don’t do this because I work late at my other job some nights, but its a goal of mine. Figure out an exercise schedule so that sitting at a desk for hours isn’t so bad. Schedule in time for just yourself so you don’t get burnt out by constantly working. Whatever it is you need to do to be your best self, do that.
10. Have Goals.
Figure out what you want to accomplish in your internship and then accomplish it. Make goals outside of the office. You don’t want your entire summer revolving around work.
So, there you have it. As much as I have learned hands-on designing skills here, I have also learned practical life skills that will carry me much further than a career in graphic design.