To nab a creative job you need experience as well as creativity. I studied an MDes in Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam University and now work as a freelance Illustrator. During my degree I was on a mission to get as much experience as I could, both to help me gain the skills I needed, and to help me figure out which paths were available to me as an illustrator.
It all starts with searching for an internship. Make no mistake, you will send hundreds of CVs inquiring about internships, and then will find yourself obsessively refreshing your inbox to check for responses. Don’t be disheartened, be aware that only around 10% of companies will reply to you, and fear not, a phone call can sometimes push employers in the right direction. Perhaps this is due to disorganisation, or perhaps because you’re putting them on the spot, either way, a follow up phone call shows them you mean business. Another titbit of knowledge I stumbled across during the application process is that a lot of places don’t actually have the office space for an intern, so always enquire if they would alternatively be interested in a mentored project, where they could send you past briefs to work on. This way you get experience without the cost of commuting.
At Lemonade Illustration Agency the main thing I wanted to find out was the dos and don’ts of artist submissions. The first thing I was told was the importance of writing a good enquiry email. Always make sure you write a little about yourself and your artwork, but more crucially, make sure to mention the agency/company you’re applying to, and maybe name drop a few of their artist’s too to show you’ve done your homework. A big submission faux-pas was the use of a nickname, you may be known as Miss Scribbles, but addressing yourself with your real name is seen as more professional by this particular agency.
Another internship I completed was at UK Greetings. The main thing I learned here was the importance of knowing how to make ‘print ready’ artwork, so if you’re going into an internship in a similar environment, make sure you have read up on the basics of supplying print-ready art. Secondly, be aware that ‘special editions’ can be code word for Christmas, and be prepared to get festive from February onwards. Another thing to be aware of when approaching the greetings industry is glitter. You will go home covered in the stuff!
I also carried out internships at clothing label Hantu and Moonko, a creative platform supporting emerging designers. Here I learnt you should use an email header, as simple as it may seem, this will help you get noticed among a barrage of emails. I also discovered that you should always contact a company by email or phone before you pop by in person with a business proposition.
Be willing to show initiative and creativity by throwing together a quick style guide to get inspiration from. At almost every internship I was asked to show my design ideas, they don’t need to be fancy, they could be anything from a Pinterest board to a PDF of collated imagery, just be ready to research.
Finally, when thinking about interviews, a major concern is always how to present a portfolio. Throughout this process I was asked for a website link, digital portfolio, physical portfolio, and even if I had a blog, showing that it really differs from job to job, therefore my advice would be to ensure you are prepared with various portfolios to meet the requirements of any position.
Overall internships can be both a good and a bad experience, but they are essential to help you figure out where you want to be in the future. Always keep in mind though that if the work you are doing feels like the job of an employee, and you have specific duties and work set hours then you are due an employee’s wage!