I'm a university student looking for potential ui/ux internships for the spring and summer terms of 2017, and I was wondering: Does anyone have any advice in terms of where to look, how to prepare, or any pro tips in general? I'd love to hear what you guys think.
From my personal experience I got more exposure to different areas and was utilized more at a smaller company, opposed to designing power point slide decks for a larger company.
I got a cool internship my final year simply by checking out the postings in the Student Affairs office. Usually there is a network of alumni who have openings and will exclusively post them at their school.
My internship was with a small marketing agency. It was a lot of grunt work, but it still was important. A lot of it was analysis of coupons in newspapers... and tracking their effectiveness. Our biggest client was a casino and would have coupons with unique "codes" in all the different newspapers and publications. When they were redeemed it was my job to tally up them all and produce a simple report each week about which ad-spend was most effective for them based on redemptions. They also gave me an opportunities to try other stuff around the agency.
They were great people and it was a great experience. I especially liked it because there was never any of that "get me a coffee and pick up my dry cleaning" bullshit.
Different places will offer different experiences. My one word of advice would be that no matter how crappy and "meaningless" the work may seem... stick it out, earn their respect and LISTEN and OBSERVE. Soak in as much as you can in the background and show some drive... and I bet they will start injecting you into cooler stuff in no time.
EDIT: Also remember that this is your first opportunity to have REAL references when you apply for a job later in life. Bust your ass and you'll most likely get a recommendation that might give you the edge over someone else for a hotly contested job. This is the beginnings of creating a network.
If you're looking at a smaller company or startup, I would try and find the founders or design lead's email and ask them directly. Smaller companies often need help, but don't have time to mess with an application process.
This applies outside of the design world as well. In my experience online applications are a black hole.
This post might help you to find something. https://www.designernews.co/stories/76365
When you do get in somewhere: 1. Be cool, don't have an ego. It's a small world and you will most likely interact with these people in the future. Don't burn bridges. 2. Be proactive about finding things to do. In my experience internal teams may not be eager to mentor or work with a less-experienced designer, so you'll have to seek out the work if you want to learn/accomplish anything. Otherwise you may find that you haven't gained any real experience at the end of your internship. 3. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. It will happen. 4. If you feel like you don't know what you're supposed to be doing, it's probably because you weren't given clear direction. Don't be afraid to ask for what exactly you need to be doing or have accomplished by a certain time. It may feel like you're being annoying at the time, but you aren't. Your team will appreciate it.
Good luck :)
For context, I've been a design lead for the last couple of years with a few interns up my list. Are you aiming for the agency or the product company? It's very different. In both cases, sell yourself and sell your work. Be confident, not over-confident.
-> BE PROACTIVE <-
Make sure expectations are set right for you. Internships are successful when interns know what to do. Act as an employee, not an intern. Don't be afraid to ask question. You're allowed to make mistakes, it's mostly going to be how to learn from those.
Anyways, may the force be with you buddy.
Taking a look back at my internships here in France:
First internship: Small, early stage, 3ppl startup. I did Web and graphic design along with front-end development. Very interesting to get your hands on many subjects and build your technical basic knowledge. I was hired to work on their frontpage but ended up helping them out on their apps a lot.
Second internship: Creative Studio integrated in a larger agency. I was what they called a "Junior Art Director" and UX Designer. UX Design there was very different from what you'd do in a company working around a product, it was mostly doing wireframes before visual design. Very interesting to build your sense of Visual design and have a nice clients list. Intense rhythm, poor work/life balance.
Third internship: Company (Withings). I discovered the Product Design vision and loved it. Definitely less Visual Design/Art Direction, but more focus on the functional/User Experience/Product Strategy. I'm still working there fulltime and don't really want to go back to agencies but that's my vision.
so basically: --> got a global technical understanding. --> got good at visual design and learned to justify and sell my designs. --> used all of this knowledge to build something I love that I can iterate on.
Hope this helps :)
Go to a Startup Weekend or GiveCamp, and try to work on a real project. If there aren't any events by you, then find something to design and launch each weekend. Then create your portfolio site. Then apply to internships.
I wrote an article on how to woo your way into people's inboxes. Read it
And remember, resumes are dead. Portfolios matter.
Thanks for all the responses! I appreciate all the feedback and pointers