Dominika Gemra, a current DPS student, shares some excellent insights into landing that first creative placement.
After long and fruitful preparation sessions in the last term of 2 year I thought I was prepared for the year to come. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The real work started for me in the summer preparing my portfolio, building my online presence and searching for internships. To manage the applications I created an excel spreadsheet with all the relevant data. I tried to learn from every application sent, but it become extremely hard due to the fact that creative industry can be really unorganised. I wasn’t receiving any replies from most of the companies. Searching for offers themselves was hard since 90% of them was missing vital information like whether the internship was paid / when is it going to be / what length etc. I even received one response saying they don’t do any internships even though my application was sent directly in response to an add that was posted online.
For every designer entering the industry will look different. However, there are certain things we all face / will face. Couple of things that really annoy me about our industry and couple of tips to handle that mess:
1 // You
If you don’t know who you are no one will. Have those bespoke business cards ready along with your up to date website.
Essentials: Website, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, The dots. Additional: professional Facebook page, blog, Behance etc.
2 // Before you start
Probably you all heard that dozen times: research the industry. Identify the companies you would like to intern for. Who are they and what are they all about along with contact to them (always try to find email to actual person rather then email@example.com). Take your time with that – there is nothing harder than to reapply to the same company over and over because you’ve sent mediocre application at the beginning rushing with it.
3 // Organisation
Ok, so the industry is extremely unorganised – it doesn’t mean that you have to be too. Create an excel with all your applications.
My collumns: Where (London/USA etc.), What (studio/editorial/festival etc.), Firm (Name of the company), £ (what pay), Length (how long is the internship for), When (start and end date), WWW (link to their website), Contact (mail to the person you sent the application), Status (sent), Date (date you’ve sent it), Cover letter (done/working on it), Portfolio (done/working on it), Follow up (date of the follow up email/call), Interview (date of the interview), Outcome (unsuccessful/successful/non available atm).
Furthermore, have a system: finding the internship > research and preparing cover letter and portfolio > follow up (after 2 weeks?) > interview > getting feedback
4 // Search
We all have a long list of places to look for internship – use them. Sign up for newsletters that will really annoy you, sign up for updates. Write to the company for more information that is not included on the add (never be afraid to ask). It happened to me twice that I was almost at the final stage of the application and then heard “Oh but btw it is an unpaid opportunity, hope you are ok with that?”. Am I ok with that? Hell no. Not paying your interns is inhuman and disrespectful. Looking deeper into the subject I found that Young Creative Council issued a Placement Poverty Pledge. Signed by many companies it promises to pay the interns the current Living Wage (at least £9.75 per hour in London and £8.45 across the UK). I was delighted to see the problem has been seen and addressed by the industry. Yet still much is to be done. For it to work we need spotlight (share the PPP across all social platforms) and unity (we don’t accept – they don’t offer).
5 // Making you
Make them remember you (but be honest – don’t pretend). To leave something more after the interview than just a business card I designed a little follow up print.
6 // Be resilient
Don’t let nothing bring you down. Always search for more ways to get out there. If you are filling stuck go outside, see an exhibition (Basquiat at Barbican – on till January – amazing and a definite must-see), go running, visit a random city but above all experience – this is what this year is all about. Besides, nothing good ever happens from sitting on your ass.
Last but not least, I got an internship at VML London (completely in love) and will write about my experience in the next post.