Want a Design or Marketing Job? Get an Internship.

Dear Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed Grads-to-Be,

Let me get right to the point: stop what you’re doing right now and go apply for an internship. Seriously.

Why? Because college, it is NOTHING like the proverbial “real world.” And as much money as you’re paying in tuition, nothing will prepare you better for your first job in graphic design, advertising or marketing than a good old-fashioned internship. (In fact, I won’t hire any recent grads unless they’ve had a least one internship under their belt.)

Still doubting the necessity of an internship? Here are just a few real-life things that you just can’t possibly learn in a classroom setting:

How to work with people not like you.

In college, all of your “coworkers” are your same age and, most likely, still hungover from the night before. In agency life, you’re going to have to work with people {gasp} who are nothing like you. In fact, they’re probably the age of your parents. Or grandparents. Lucky for you, peeps in the marcom industry tend to, ahem, “mature” a li’l slower than, say, bankers or executives. But still, don’t be that annoying young whippersnapper who can’t relate to people of another generation (or religion or ethic background). I’m not saying don’t be yourself, but just know that working with a diverse workforce is different than the homogeneous environment that is your senior marketing capstone class.

How to work on a deadline.

In college, I had to design a magazine spread in one week. And it stressed me the eff out. Nowadays, I do that same amount of work before I leave for lunch. In other words, in order to survive in this industry you need to work f-a-s-t. Learn keyboard shortcuts. Ask for help if a simple task seems to be taking forever. Odds are, there’s a better way to do it. And, if you’re not that annoying whippersnapper, your diverse group o’ coworkers can point you in the right direction.

How to work within a budget.

The average cost to produce the typical invitation set in a student’s design portfolio is about $3,568. Each. Clients do not have this type of money. Stop relying on unrealistically expensive bells n’ whistles to impress me in your portfolio. I’d much rather see a solid creative concept in a more affordable format; when you present this piece, say that you considered budgetary restrictions during the creative process.

How to create work that’s driven by marketing.

Young graphic artists always have a “redesign” piece in their book. (You know, take a boring brand and revamp the visual image.) Problem is, they’ve almost never done any market research. So while that new logo or packaging may look really nice, it totally misses the mark with the intended audience. Take the extra time and figure out who’s buying your product, what’s the price point, etc. and base your concept around those requirements instead of some creative whim.

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This post was originally written for the "Speak for Yourself" column in the AAF-Cleveland's December 2012 newsletter. Download a pdf of the entire original publication here.

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Topics: Career Advice

Jen Lombardi

Written by Jen Lombardi

Jen Lombardi is the Head Honcho and Creative Genius at Kiwi Creative, a creative marketing studio for B2B technology companies. She has an award-winning background in print design, but is also a marketing maven, wizard of the web, grammar geek and all-around fun person.

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