Lets be real, there is nothing more terrifying than facing the real world after graduation. You're handed that diploma and left alone to brave adulthood. And if you're like most of us, then you're completely unprepared. All you know is last weekend you were having difficulty deciding which frat party to attend, and now you're aimlessly scrolling through job applications trying to figure out how you're going to get 5 years of work experience in the next week. Having a plan is unrealistic, but I'm here to tell you that there is an upside to this seemingly distressful situation.
As a recent graduate, and current design intern, I thought it may be helpful to share the reality of life after college. I'll be the first to admit it hasn't be easy, and I haven't exactly made it to Forbes just yet, but it's a start. So here are 10 things on being a design intern:
1. The interview
There's nothing comforting about an interview. The overwhelming idea of being interrogated with questions about yourself can draw your mind to a blank. So the best way to avoid that is to be prepared. Whether it's practicing mock interviews with others or writing down answers for questions you might expect, just don't forget to be yourself. That's important. The point of an interview is to get a feel of who you are, not just on paper, but as a human. And remember that an interview goes both ways, so prepare questions for them too. After all, these are the people you'll be dealing with everyday.
2. Fake it till you make it
Congrats you've got the job! You've survived the interview process and managed to convince someone to hire you. Now what? Well, the worst is over. For real. Show up to the job with full confidence and be prepared to work. It's normal to feel a little freaked by the pace or the directions you're given. So ask a lot of questions, and there are no stupid questions. Learn from people around you, observe and listen. Basically: drink some coffee and pretend to know what you're doing.
3. Be prepared
I'm someone who's constantly over-prepared and its never failed me. Whether it's bringing the necessary materials or doing some research on the company, brand and people you're working with. It's important to know and understand what you're getting into, and if you're anything like me, then it may be comforting to be well prepared and ready to go beyond your job description.
4. The waiting game
This is the one thing I did NOT expect as an intern. Waiting. I assumed that interns wouldn't have a minute to spare, running around trying to get things done. But no. I mean don't get me wrong you will be given a good amount of work to keep you busy, but since you're on the bottom of the food chain, there is usually a process to actually getting your stuff approved. Speaking for design interns in specific, once you submit your work it will have to be passed around the office, then you may receive some notes to make a few tweaks and it's the same process till some gives it the seal of approval. So it's a waiting game, a lot of awkward hours twiddling around in Illustrator and waiting for an e-mail to pop-up. It's a lot permission seeking work that follows strict guidelines, which may be an adjustment, especially when you're fresh out of design school.
You're going to be surrounded by adults, all the time. That sounds like a silly note to make, but seriously. You graduate feeling old enough to live in a retirement home, and as soon as you get into an office you can't find one person that has heard of Stranger Things. This is totally dependent on where you work of course, some offices hire many young creatives but others prefer to hire more "experienced professionals". Unfortunately, in my experience, that's been the case. And I've founded it difficult to make friends at work. My only advice is to take advantage of their adulthood, discuss, listen and learn from their experience.
As I mentioned, making friends with people at work has not really been my strong suit. It just so happens that every person I've worked with is old enough to be a parent. However, I did eventually learn to enjoy their company. Turns out adults, even if they are parents, aren't as mature as they seem. They still like to chat, laugh and gossip. I mean these people don't have to be your best friends, at least just people to sit with at lunch.
7. We ain't in design school anymore
I touched on this before, but honey, we ain't in design school anymore. Companies or brands usually have strict guidelines, rules and regulations that they use. Especially for design. You'll have to follow standard measurements, specific typefaces, colors and programs; as well as, special file formatting and naming. Yea, it's a LOT to get used to and a LOT to remember. Depending on where you work, your creativity may be limited and you'll feel much more restricted compared to design school, where your curiosity was encouraged and pushed outside the box. Especially as an intern, you have to earn the privilege to create something of your own. My only tip is to have your own creative outlet during this time, make sure you're still making, using your hands and innovating. Doodles, illustrations, drawings. Even if you make your own (improved) versions of things you're doing at work, do it. It's important to feed your creativity. It's important to break the rules.
8. Don't hesitate to ask
Rule of life: if the worst answer you can get is no, then always ask the question. I can NOT stress this enough. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Especially when you're starting out, you want to be clear and sure of the instructions so that you can do your best. Don't let anyone make you feel insecure for being curious. My dad always says that the more you ask, the more you listen, the more you learn. "The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering, idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing."
This point sort of speaks for itself. Whether it's an internship or full-time job, you gotta grind. Do the hard work. Flaunt yourself and your work. And whether it's your dream job or just a stepping stone towards building your career. You're making something of yourself, and that alone is more than enough to be proud of.
10. Do your best, no more, no less
This is one of my favorite lines, and I remind myself of this in everything I do: do your best, no more, no less. As long as you know that you're giving it your all, then there's no chance you can lose. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Everything you've got is all you've got to give, so leave nothing behind and pour your heart into it.