My first internship was one year ago in Montreal. It was the first time that I was using what I learned at my design school for doing real work for real clients.
Like everyone who is reading this, maybe you know how it feels:
I was freaked out.
I was suffering from the Imposter syndrome when I received an email saying that I was taken as a design intern.
Did they read my CV? Did they understand that it was going to be my very first work experience? I should warn them that I don’t know how to use Photoshop…
Yes, I really asked myself if they had read my CV.
To be honest I was going to delete the email but my mom stopped me (U’re da best mom).
As soon as I entered the agency, my hands were shaking. My first work was, to be honest, awful. But then I did something way better. And better than the previous one. I received advice, compliments and also… critics.
What I learned from great tutors and from great colleagues is that they are not afraid to tell you that you did not do good. You should do it again (and again). But in a great way. With encouragement, kindness, and sincerity.
However they are also not ashamed of saying that you rocked that project. That poster. That icon. That line of code. My Montreal mentor would always take time to say “You did great”. It would encourage me even more to do amazing work.
When I was in the middle of my Canadian internship, my tutor said to me something that I will never ever forget:
Louise, you are talented.
It may seem obvious. But I needed that.
Well, I wanted to give some advice for the tutors as well:
Be honest. Be encouraging. Be there.
Your intern may not be listening, may not be doing good work. Tell them.
They may be scared. They may be impressed by your projects, your clients or by you. Especially if this is their first experience.
They may also be lost with adjusting to a new country. They have left their friends behind, along with their family, for you. Because they want to work at your agency for 4 months,6 months or a year; to show your team what they are capable of.
I am currently doing an UX design internship at FLUID Design, Munich. Well, guess who went to the Oktoberfest with the all team three days after having arrived at the agency? Me! It was amazing.
Of course, not every office has the chance to have an occasion like this one for their people. However, it seems important to me to let the intern feel like they are valuable thanks to events for example.
When it is their first day, introduce them to some or every member of the team. Take a coffee (or a beer) with them. Summon a meeting with their soon-to-be close co-workers. I deeply think you need to take time for them, even though we all know how busy you are.
I put a single foot in my current agency and Stefanie, who is part of the human resource & office management team, was there for me. She helped me getting through all the administrative papers, presented me to each member of the team. She showed me every corner of the agency with kindness. With this being the starting point, I knew I was going to have a great time here in Munich and so far I am!
This internship is balanced between responsibilities and discoveries. On the one hand, I have to do wireframes, prototyping, visual design for well-known clients. But on the other hand, I don’t have to feel ashamed of asking one of my colleagues how the Symbols functionality in Sketch works.
I also did a three-day onboarding project at the beginning. I had to do quick interview with the new colleagues, ask for user-testing… It definitely helped me break the ice.
Interns are not free workers. They are here to learn and discover design methodologies, new tools and a whole new culture.
Let them know when you are available. It may seem stupid: they need to learn how to be autonomous and spontaneous. Give them some time, they will. But for now, be there for them. I am sure your last internship is not that long time ago.
And remember: they are not only here to learn but also to give.
Thank you so much for reading 🙈
Thanks to my moon of my life, Diane, for the correction 🌙
Also huge thanks to every member of the FLUID Design team for their kindness and for their trust.