From Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, some of the brightest minds in business have had valuable internships in their careers and with good reason. Internships offer young, inexperienced professionals a great way to try their hand at a real job and learn as much as they possibly can. As an intern, you will get to see how work is done, ask questions without being judged, collaborate with senior professionals, and if you’re good, you can even get a full-time job at the end of it. If you’re an aspirant in a creative field like user experience, a UX design internship might just be the leverage you are looking for.
In today’s competitive economy, it’s not easy to land an internship. To make it a little bit easier for you, we asked Springboard’s UX mentors for their advice on finding and excelling in a UX design internship. Here is their best advice.
UX Design Internship: How to Find one and Make the Most of it
For any job search — be it for full-time work or internships — you need to have a strategy. Carpet bombing with a generic CV might land you an internship by chance, but having a strategic approach will ensure you get the internship you want and grow your career from there. We recommend that you structure your internship search strategy in three parts: Preparation, application, engagement.
Step 1: Preparing for UX Design Internships
You might think that an internship is a place for you to learn. This is true. However, unless you can demonstrate that you will offer value for the time that your potential employer is spending on you, they have no reason to hire you. Companies hire interns to get specific work done. Preparing yourself to do that work will help immensely.
- Complete your UX design education. Whether you are self-taught or have a formal degree/certificate, learn the foundations of UX design before you apply for internships.
- Get a UX design portfolio. Even as you are studying, start building a portfolio. Create mobile phone screens, redesign screens of popular apps for better usability, write UX research reports, etc. This will set you apart from applicants that only have theoretical knowledge.
- Create a UX design CV. Write a clear and confident resume/CV that you can use to apply for UX design internships. Also, create an online portfolio page with your work and add a link to that in your CV.
Step 2: Applying to UX Design Internships
The preparation stage was about gaining the skills and presenting them clearly. The application stage is about matching those skills and interests to the right internship opportunity.
- Identify your areas of interest. UX design is a vast field. Depending on the industry, size of an organisation, location, etc., you can be a specialist or a generalist. Read about the roles available and identify what interests you the most. It doesn’t have to be your dream job — you can try 3-4 internships and pick what you like best. But identify what those 3-4 areas are first.
- Find organisations that have internships available. UX design jobs are available in a wide range of companies. It could be a UX design studio, the UX team of a small product company, or the mobile app division of a large company, etc. Take your time to research all possibilities. The first port of call will be on job sites or listings on LinkedIn. You can also visit the careers pages of these company to check. Remember that if there is no internship publicly-listed does not mean you can’t get one.
- Apply to internships that interest you. From the research in the previous step, list the top 5 internships that interest you. Even if an internship opportunity is not listed on their website, you can email the HR or UX design team members enquiring if they are willing to offer you one. If you can’t find their email IDs, send them a LinkedIn personal message.
- While doing so, keep the following in mind:
- Don’t send a bulk email to everyone. Customise the application.
- Write a covering letter explaining why you’re interested in the internship.
- Customise your CV to showcase relevant skills.
- Include a link to your UX design portfolio.
- Mention how you can help them, while you’re learning.
- Remember to follow up diligently.
Step 3: Engagement
Most young professionals are satisfied when they get an internship and stop there. Therefore, they end up spending their time as an intern clueless and swayed by what comes each day. Don’t do that.
- Set goals for yourself. Based on the internship profile and your conversation with your hiring manager, set specific goals for your internship. Discuss these with your hiring manager so you’re both on the same page.
- Monitor progress on a daily basis. Internships are short — ideally 1-3 months in total. During that time, every day is precious. So, at the end of each day, keep a journal of what you have learned and how to continue the next day. At the end of each week, use these notes to plan the next week.
- Actively seek feedback. For any work you’ve done during the internship, show it to the members of your team and ask for feedback. This doesn’t have to be formal. You might ask them, “Hey, did you like the button animation I made” while having tea. But actively seek feedback from the team you’re working with.
- Get a reference or testimonial. At the end of your internship, if you’re not able to get a job offer, ask for a reference or a testimonial. There might be various reasons due to which they didn’t hire you — like they don’t have a vacancy, they don’t have a budget, etc. But, if you have done a good job, they should be happy to give you a reference. You can use this to find your next internship/job, or even negotiate your UX design salary. If you’ve built a good working relationship with any UX designer at your internship, perhaps even request them to mentor you in the future.
Because mentorships are fundamental to making a smooth career transition into emerging technologies like UX design. With mentors, you can avoid common mistakes and accelerate your career progression. This is why all of Springboard’s programs are mentor-led and project-driven. If you aspire to build a successful career in UX design, check out Springboard UI/UX design career track program. In addition to 1:1 mentorship and career coaching, it also offers a job guarantee! Check it out now!