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Dear college design student looking for an internship,
Are you wondering how to write an email to get a design internship?
What should you include in your email?
How do you get an interview for an internship?
What if the company doesn’t have any internships?
Here’s how to prove to a design, web, and marketing agency that they need to interview you for an internship.
1) Did you provide a link to your online portfolio?
If you don’t have an online portfolio, go set up a free one before contacting anyone.
Use Behance, Dribbble, Instagram or any other free or low-cost tool. It doesn’t matter where it is, so long as you show your work.
How to impress:
In addition to showing your design work, explain your thinking behind the work. Provide a brief project background and share insight into why you did what you did.
Additionally, show your process. Show your thumbnails, early concepts, presentation, and final revisions. Process matters.
Sure it can be scary showing your messy thumbnail sketches. Showing your process and how the project evolved is a great way to stand out. It will give the employer an idea of what to expect when working with you.
Your email will go straight to the trash if:
If you don’t link to your portfolio.
2) Have you attached your resume? Is it designed?
Design your resume in InDesign. Why? Because knowing the right tool to use in a situation is important.
(Are you wondering how the person you’re contacting will know? They can press Command-D in Acrobat. That will show what program you’ve created your resume in.)
Use this opportunity to show your abilities to:
- organize and condense information into one page
- use typography
- extend the design that you’ve created in your online portfolio
What to avoid:
Please don’t have one of those bar graphs on your resume showing your Photoshop skills are at 100%, Illustrator you’re 85%, and so on.
Most professionals detest these because they’re subjective. No one knows 100% of any Adobe design program. Yet plenty of second or third-year student make that claim on their resumes. You still have plenty to learn, all of us do, and that’s a good thing.
Your email and resume will go straight to the trash if:
Your resume is a Microsoft Word template. Why? You’re a designer—create something. Show what you can do. Using a Word document template tells a potential employer that you didn’t think and took the lazy option.
(I wish I didn’t have to say that, but you wouldn’t believe the number of Microsoft Word template resumes I’ve been sent.)
3) Did you do your research before sending your email asking for the internship?
Here’s the research you should do before contacting an agency:
- look at their work to see the type of work they do
- find the right person to contact (rather than the general “info” email address)
- look through the company’s social media and LinkedIn
Why is this important?
Doing your homework shows that you care, you’re interested, and you can do a little research. That’s something employers want.
You’re not making a good impression if:
You make it obvious that you did no research. Here’s a recent example.
I had a design student start an email to me by saying “Dear Human Resources Director.”
After reading four words, I knew that this student didn’t do any research or didn’t change her email template. There is no HR Director at our company. If she looked at our about page she would have seen our company is me and my business partner.
4) How do you get an interview for an internship?
Follow up, be persistent, but not demanding. Here’s how.
Email once a week for two or three weeks. Don’t call and email every day.
If you show persistence, agencies will give you an opportunity. Many design students only email once and then give up.
5) What if the design agency doesn’t have any internships?
It doesn’t matter if an agency isn’t looking for interns. If you show your talent, follow up, and are ready to learn, you can create your own opportunity.
Last summer, a sophomore in college studying graphic design emailed me asking about interning at our company.
Now we didn’t have any internships posted anywhere—we weren’t looking for an intern. But I talked to him because:
- he sent his portfolio and resume
- he followed up with me
- and he was able to explain his thinking when talking about his portfolio
That’s why even though I wasn’t looking for any help, we hired him to do contract work for us. He created his own opportunity through hard work.
- Provide a link to your design portfolio
- Design and include a PDF of your resume
- Do your research before contacting agencies
How can I help you more?
Would you like some guidance on your portfolio or resume?
I’m always happy to talk design with students.