James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
So you are on your hunt for a web design or graphic design internship at an innovative design firm, with a great client base, award-winning design work, steller G5's, and nice hourly pay? You are not alone. You are in a crowd of student graphic designers the size of the crowds from the Taste of Chicago. In this economy, a graphic design internship like the example above, with pay, is extremely difficult to find. Not impossible, but difficult.
First ask yourself, would you work without getting paid? Are you truly looking for design experience or are you looking for a part-time job? If you are willing to work unpaid, mention this in your cover letter (and always send a cover letter please). Some companies assume that you want pay with your design internship and don't have it in their budget.
Second, consider all options. Are you looking ONLY for design firms, ad agencies, and web development companies? What about in-house marketing or creative departments at Fortune 1000 companies? Or newspapers? Magazine companies? Many multi-million dollar organizations have superb in-house creative departments and potentially more opportunities. There are many large companies in the Chicagoland area: AllState, Sears, Boeing, McDonalds, Chicago Tribune, etc.
Third, consider local printers. Is there a Minuteman Press or AlphaGraphics near you? Small printers offer design services to their clients since many of their clients cannot afford the design studio prices. Maybe you could walk in and introduce yourself to the owner and offer your services for the summer? This could become YOUR graphic design internship.
Finally, make your own graphic design internship. Okay, so it's not exactly an internship, but you could offer your services pro-bono (free) to your favorite charity or not-for-profit organization. Get involved in your community, practice networking, and build your design portfolio, while at the same time building your community. After all is said and done, a design internship will not guarantee you a design job when you graduate. An internship helps give you some real world experience and keeps you ahead of the competition. There are many excellent designers out there, and in order to compete, look at the best student in your class and realize that he/she is your competition, and the beginning of your networking base.
DO NOT email attachments of your design work if you are not asked to. This means NO list of 10+ jpegs of your work, no multipage pdf files of your work, and no attachments that are close to 1 meg or more. I got 5 MB worth of attachments from a student designer, and he sent it twice to make sure I got them all. What a job search mistake! DO NOT email your resume every week. If a company or design firm is interested and has a design job available, they will call you. Sending your resume every week for a month or two will not help you ever.
DO NOT email your resume to every email address you find listed on the company web site. This isn't a lottery. If a company is interested in accepting resumes or has a design job open, they will generally have an email set aside for it.
DO NOT email your resume without a note or cover letter in the message portion of the email. I won't ever open an attachment if I am not expecting one, let alone one from a random designer who didn't take the time to write me a personal message or tell me anything about themselves.
DO NOT call without having an idea what you want to say. We understand you are nervous, and it is tough to make the call, but practice first. You need to sound professional, this is our first impression of you. Also, don't demand a call back, if you leave a message, leave a time when YOU will call back. Most companies don't have time to call back designers, let alone take down your phone number, and your name, etc...
DO NOT email a resume that is 1 MB or more. You'll clog up mailboxes. Better yet, your resume should be 250K or so... bonus points if it's smaller.
DO NOT call and just leave your name and phone number. You won't fool most of us into calling you back, and even if you did, we wouldn't trust you anymore anyway!
DO NOT give up. Your dream design job may only be a resume away.