Monday, June 22, 2009

Internships: Don't Give In!

For a lot of industries/professions/jobs/vocations, internships can be beneficial, but for people looking to get into graphic design and/or web design they could just be a waste of time. I will admit that I am lazy, but with that I try to be as efficient as possible and not wast any time. Time management is important and can bring you success. In a lot of cases, for graphic and web design, internships pay very low (and sometimes nothing) and are just a great way for a businesses to get inexpensive labor... which translates to inexpensive creativity that they would otherwise have to pay a lot of money for. A well trained graphic or web designer with really no portfolio still can be very capable to output fantastic work at the quality of someone who would cost a lot more and businesses know it and businesses take advantage of it.

We have all seen those CraigsList, or other listings, for people who want some sort of creative service done for either free or next to nothing. They always say something like: "great for a college student or someone building their portfolio." This is what an internship can be but for many projects and many, many hours of your time.

Everybody starts at some point and everybody needs to take on experience and have examples of that experience (a portfolio) in order to move forward and gain more work in the future and/or make a career out of it. A typical starting point is to start taking classes for it. Photoshop, and the long list of graphic and web design software tools used by graphic and web designers, are not super easy to learn and can take many, many years to learn and master.

So you might start by taking a class or two from a local college or some workshop at the convention center and decide that this is what you want to do. The you enroll in a college to obtain a certificate and/or degree in this. Then you graduate and your portfolio is littered with mediocre class projects you did within school. So with no experience or portfolio with real projects, you have the knowledge of how to work the software and the principles of design in your head. You see all these internships and figure that working next to nothing, or for free, will give you that extra experience and add to your portfolio. Internships do add to your portfolio and do give you experience but they are not the greatest stepping stone in your quest to become one of the more successful designers in your area with a great job and/or list of great clients which is able to pay you enough to live off of or buy you that new Nintendo game.

Graphic and web design is not like being a plumber or being a person who installs roof tiles. I am not saying that those other lines of work do not take skill that needs to be learned but am saying that design takes a lot more experience and training and is not something that should be improperly compensated for. I get so disappointed when I see these listings for people who are only willing to spend $50 on a logo design or an internship paying minimum wage. I know that there is someone who will end up taking that and when that happens, is lowers the overall value of the work all graphic and web designers do. I won't go into that much, but you can see an earlier blog post that talks more about that. We all want to make money to pay the bills or take that trip to Hawaii next summer with the wife, but nobody should work for a small fraction of what their services are really worth.

I have some suggestions that do not include seeking an internship. While you are obtaining your certificate/training/degree in graphic and/or web design, go out there and grasp your own experience. Work extra hard to obtain experience and be properly compensated for it. You do not need that diploma to gain extra work so why start gaining experience once you have it? Force yourself to act as a professional and pull off fantastic work for your clients. Do not act like a student who is just trying to gain experience.

In the beginning, you will not have the speed and quickness that a 10 year veteran has and things will take you a long time to complete, but work through it and study what makes great design what it is. So often I see people who are in school to obtain a degree in design and they graduate with no experience and just a portfolio full of fake projects for fake clients. Your time of training may take years and limiting yourself to only learning from what your instructor shows you and not actively furthering your skills and experience during this time period is only holding you back. Once you graduate, you will be so far ahead of others graduating and get the work before they do... and better, higher paying work.

The job market is very rough right now and so many people are out there competing for any job or freelance gig. there were several instances where there were close to 300 people responding to the same job listing that I was. You need to elevate yourself and show you are worth more than your competition. When finishing your training/certificate/degree, why not already have that experience and not have to go out there to work next to nothing to gain it? You will save yourself a lot of time and be that much stronger in the job market.

Internships can also be very positive but it is always a gamble. It can lead to obtaining a job at that company and with that can come decent pay. All of that is never certain and more often than not, I see that these internships end up benefiting the company more than the individual.

Gain that extra experience by working hard at it in the beginning. In the long run, you will be much better off... and a lot sooner.


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