Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Best Pay for an Intern Isn't Always Cash

When looking for a job, connections are more valuable than money.

And the best way to make those connections is through an internship. Even if you've already graduated.

Many of the best internships don't pay a dime. They pay in connections, opportunities and experience. And during a job search, those are far more valuable than cash.

Look at small agencies, especially one-, two-, or three-person shops. They might not be able to pay you. But they can give you better opportunities and are more likely to assist you in your search.

At a large agency, you're just another intern. At a small shop, you can become an important part of the team.

How do you find a post-graduate internship? Approach the owner at a small shop. Volunteer to go in and help with anything. Tell them you don't need money, you just want the experience of working with them. Who knows? Someone who isn't considering an intern may take you on.

Sound simple? Not really. Here's the catch: it has to be someone you have a relationship with. A small shop isn't likely to take on someone they don't know.

So, do what you can to develop strong relationships. I have several recent grads doing that with me right now. When my current intern lands a job, I'll look to bring in one of them.

How I (like other small shops) pay interns: access to my connections, a strong referral, feedback on resume and portfolio, use of my studio and its equipment, as well as active assistance from me in the job search.

And that's worth quite a bit.

(Side note: Normally I don't advise working for free. But in unusual times you have to do whatever is going to help you out in the long run.)


Hudson said...

Experience IS more valuable than money. Just being in a studio/agency for a meeting provides insight you may not have had.

To further the point, I actually PAID money to get experience with Camp Portfolio. Worth every dime.

Julie said...

We took on a design intern for 2 way too short weeks but she was immensely helpful in getting us through a really busy patch picking up some of the smaller projects.

Especially at a small shop, if you are flexible and willing, you may not get paid, but can work on some real world pieces and impress some agency people in the process.

Totally agree with your sentiments.