How to successfully navigate your design internship
5 tips and 2 reflections
5 tips and 2 reflections
Internships have become a staple of college education and essential qualification for many jobs, yet many students are unsure how to navigate through the sometimes-intimidating professional environment as an intern. It might seem a bit daunting to be in a real office with real professionals working on real projects when all you have is a partly finished college education with little to no experience. Rest assured, you are not alone in this thought. Internships may seem nerve-wracking, but they are an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience and build new skills.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to intern at a design-driven innovation consultancy called EGGS Design, in Stavanger, Norway. So far, the time I’ve spent there has opened my eyes to the many benefits that an internship can offer you during your studies.
I'd like to share my reflections and give you some advice on how to get the most out of your work experience for those either about to start or are in an internship.
It is essential to understand your role as an intern, which might mean different things in different companies, but not being afraid to share your thoughts is a valuable trait common through all industries. You might be wondering what you are doing at the company and how you could contribute to the highly skilled work of those around you. Companies are not expecting interns to replace full-time employees.
Interns are meant to provide a new mindset to the team and perhaps even challenge others to think differently.
Dare to Share is one of the EGGS’ mantras and I think it has a great application here. `Dare to Share` is the idea of creating an inclusive and open environment where all ideas are welcome, and encouraging people to share methods, thoughts and ideas. During my internship, I felt comfortable sharing my point or ideas even if I wasn´t the most experienced member of the team. Don´t be afraid to share your thoughts, ideas and work because that is what you are there for and how you will get the most out of your experience.
As an intern, you should dare to explore and not be afraid to dive into something outside of your comfort zone. My comfort zone was product design, but during my time at EGGS, I did a lot of service design, something I did not think I would like. To my surprise, I ended up loving service design, including the process and impact it can have on people.
An internship is a perfect time to explore other industries or disciplines as you will not be able to do this in a school environment.
You’ll probably be in a professional setting for the first time in your life, so it is important to take advantage of that opportunity and learn from others. Everyone in the office has a story and experience to learn from. Many of them probably started out exactly where you are now and can relate to your situation, so it is okay to ask them questions. This is also one of the best places to network! Grow your sphere and meet people around the company even outside the local office. You never know where a new connection can lead you!
One of the most crucial things I learnt about the professional world as an intern at EGGS is the importance of company culture. Your main concern when choosing your first job may revolve around reputation, location and salary. However, I´d like to argue that company culture should be at the top of your list.
They made me feel like a full-time professional designer even though I was just an intern, all as a result of the awesome company culture.
It was apparent by the first week, even the first day, which EGGS was a special place. My first day was filled with hugs, jokes and even a champagne bottle. However, company culture is not just about spoiling your employees; it’s a matter of trusting, respecting and appreciating them. The designers gave me onboarding sessions, responsibility in projects and encouraged me to share.
The designers at EGGS were encouraged and felt comfortable explaining their feelings and opinions about issues in the office, creating a great collaborative environment. I came to realize that the people that you work with are just as important as the work you are producing. A great culture will motivate you to work harder than any salary or company reputation will.
During your internship, pay attention to the company culture because it should be a significant part of choosing your job in the future.
These points are just a snapshot of my time at EGGS. It has been an excellent experience that I am so fortunate to have had. I hope this knowledge gives you a better picture of what an internship could look like and makes you feel less nervous about it. An internship is an excellent opportunity to educate yourself in ways that school can´t so make sure you take full advantage of it and most importantly have fun!