This is a big question I get every semester from my interior design students: "How do I find an internship?" It isn't easy to find an internship, but the hard work you put into finding and completing an internship will jump-start your career.
It is important to recognize the need for an internship. The interior design market is competitive. You are competing against possibly hundreds of other design students for a job. An internship may be the very thing that sets you apart.
Why Interior Design Internships Go Unfilled
Unfortunately, students often shy away from pursuing an internship. In my experience, it usually has to do with three things: time, money, and know where to look. If an interior design student wants to excel at this new career, then time needs to be made to find an internship and complete it.
Students often can't afford to leave their current jobs to complete an internship, even though the current job isn't related. It comes down to money, and unfortunately, some internships do not pay or pay very little. Before you take an unpaid internship, be mindful of the value in which you bring. A student may feel they do not have much to offer, but I beg to differ. A fresh set of eyes, an enthusiastic go-getter, and a deep desire to impress are all excellent traits.
Related Article: "Why Pay Your Interior Design Interns – 5 Reasons You May Not have Considered"
The last reason many students don't get an internship is not knowing where to find an internship. I have heard from designers that are screaming for interns and can't find them. I have also heard from students that can't find an internship. It is as if they are missing each other completely. I have eight ideas that you may not have considered.
8 Ideas on Finding an Interior Design Internship
#1 Search General Job Boards
This is an excellent place to start. Most job board sites, like Indeed.com, allow you to set up job alerts. Make your job search broad enough to see a variety of interior design jobs. Don't limit yourself to just internships in the search terms. Also, be sure to upload your resume to these sites; this will help you get exposure to hiring managers.
#2 Ask your Network via Social Media
Ask those you are currently connected to if they have heard of any internship opportunities. You never know who may know someone. Even though your aunt Nancy isn't an interior designer, Nancy's best friend might be one.
#3 Connect with Interior Designers on LinkedIn
If you haven't already, be sure you create a LinkedIn account. It is the best social media platform for business purposes. Start with connecting with people from school, including your instructors. Then use the search to find interior designers in Colorado. Use the connect button, but be sure to add a quick note of who you are and why you're are connecting with them.
#4 Ask your Instructors
Your instructors are typically interior designers currently or previously working in the industry. They may have connections that they are willing to share with you. Merely asking your interior design instructors may point you in the right direction.
#5 Check the College Job Board
Along those same lines, companies will contact local colleges searching for new talent. Most colleges have a job board, either electronic or a physical board, that will list students' opportunities. Keep an active eye on these boards throughout the semester.
#6 Cold Call Interior Design Studios
I can almost see my students cringe when I say this, but it is effective. Make a list of 5 to 10 firms that you would love to do an internship. Start searching via Google, LinkedIn, and Company websites for decision-makers that work at the firm. Call or send them a note asking if they are accepting applications for internships. Be sure to do your research. You need to know as much as you can about the studio and the person you are contacting. Read the history of the firm. Construct a message that explains why you want to work there and why you might want to work for this person in particular. Not just that they are the director of interior design, but that you find their work amazing and you want to learn from them. Yes, flattery does help, don't let anyone tell you differently.
#7 Network at Interior Design Associations Events
If you are not a student member of ASID or IIDA, you should become a student member. The cost is minimal for students and gives you discounted pricing for many networking events. In the current environment, where networking events are canceled, reach out to board members and past board members. Connect with them and ask if they hear of an opportunity, to please keep you in mind. You may find a quick phone call will get you more than just an internship.
#8 Contact Hiring Agencies Specializing in Architecture and Interior Design Community
This one may be a stretch, but it is worth trying. Hiring firms are in front of hiring managers at interior design studios and architecture firms every day. If nothing else, building a relationship early with firms specializing in the AEC community will help you when it is time to find a job.
It isn't an easy task to find an internship. However, it is worth the hunt. Pick a couple off this list and go for it. Craft your message ahead of time, and start trying.
Here is something to keep in mind. In a recent study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 70.4% of interns receive a job opportunity at the conclusion. Now this statistic is across all industries, but it is something to consider. That internship you worked so hard to get may pay you back more quickly than you realize.
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