The Ultimate Guide to Landing The Perfect Creative Internship

These tips will you help you gain invaluable industry experience, the opportunity to grow your network, and in some cases a full-time job.

You are currently studying your passion, the one thing you want to do for the rest of your life and make some money at the same time. Your daydreams are filled with ideas of designing for a boutique studio, on set photographing your favorite musician, or filling pages with whimsical illustrations. Your nightmares consist of sharing a room with your younger sibling at your parents’ house for the foreseeable future or working at a last resort desk job that sucks the soul out of you. You’re determined to make the daydreams a reality and avoid the nightmares as much as possible. So how exactly does a creative soul, like yourself,  do just that? The answer lies in a single word: internship.

Internships are such an important part for any young creative or emerging artist’s career. Internships can lead to invaluable industry experience, the opportunity to grow your network, and in some cases a full-time job.

This article will act as a resource to return to for when you are looking for that ideal creative internship with where to start looking, how to reach out, and setting yourself up for success with your resume, cover letter and initial email.

The Value of an Internship

Internships are a vital part of becoming a working class professional in any industry. This is especially true for creative industries such as photography, design, video, fine art, etc. These are the industries that are widely known to be challenging to break into, and a great way to get your foot into the door is to work as an intern. 

In an internship you can learn how specifically you want to share your work with the world as well as learn what creative environment works best for you. Think of an internship as a committed trial period, not only for your employer, but for you as well.

Internships also offer the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills that are simply not taught in a university, or high school settings. They teach you work ethic, the importance of deadlines, real live consequences for actions, time management, business hierarchy and how to improve your craft in the best way possible. All of these things will establish you as an entry level professional in your industry and make it that much easier to either find success. Then the last, and maybe the most valuable, thing that internships can offer is the possibility of the internship translating into a full time job that you love! 

To summarize, internships are important.  But how do you get started?

Where To Look

Where to look for a creative internship

There are multiple sites for creative brands, agencies, professionals, and newbies like yourself to find new and existing talent and businesses to connect with. The list of websites below will offer you a solid start into checking out what kind of creative internships are out there and which ones are currently accepting applications.  

  • LinkedIn
    The “go to” for every working professional in this day and age, no matter the industry. There thousands of job and internship postings that are offered here daily. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you should have get on that- right now.  
  • Behance
    Here you can not only showcase your portfolio, but you can also check out their job board which has creative job and internship postings from all over the world. 
  • AIGA Design Jobs
    This site boasts over 25,000 member and  is the oldest creative designer job opportunity platform on the web. 
  • WorkingNotWorking
    Here you will be able to read the WorkingNotWorking magazine which is filled with interviews, how to guides, industry news, and pretty much everything you need to help you get a creative internship or entry level job. You also have access to the job board to find talent,  hiring businesses and brands. 
  • Coroflot
    Here you will find opportunities and resources to fill your little design dedicated heart! There are past projects from other designers you can check out, internship and job opportunities you can pursue and a salary tab that allows you to see what other creative professionals in your industry are earning. 
  • Dribbble
    Love design? Looking for a more specific opportunity within a certain field? Dribbble organizes its design opportunities by category. This includes typography, animation, print, branding, product design, mobile, web design and illustration. 
  • It’s Nice That
    First established in 2007, this newer site covers a lot of different areas for budding creative professionals including art, design and photography. There is also a space where you can show off your portfolio.
  • TopTal
    The go-to site for finding “elite” independent contractors and freelance creatives. It is a rapidly growing freelance network that is solid start for starting your professional creative career. 
  • Art Jobs
    This is the perfect site for creatives searching for that next exciting opportunity. Their job postings cross multiple industries and channels so that they have something for every soon-to-be or existing creative professional out there. You can filter your search by location, type, category and tags. 
  • Authentic Jobs
    Here you will find the big guns like Apple, New York Times, and Twitter, to name a few. Creative professionals rely on this site to see what’s new and happening in their field, you can too!

Another great starting point is looking at companies, media outlets and brands you already love. They may be offering opportunities on their own websites or there may be a contact page that can allow you to get in touch with someone directly. You may also be able to connect with one of their representatives at a community event made for their targeted audiences.

You can find these events by following the brand’s or company’s social media or utilizing sites like meetup.

Where, When and How To Reach Out

Finding The Right Information

Most companies will have a “careers” or “jobs” section, which is the first place to check out. There may be a contact page in this section that is specific for job applicants and their questions. 

There are also amazing resources available at your high school or university that can point you in the right direction. Check out school job fairs, the career center or ask your TA’s, counselors or professors for advice on where to start looking for internships. 

Listen and learn how photographer, Jeremy Cohen, found an internship at Saturday Night Live through his school department in his podcast episode here from season 1. 

Wellfed Podcast with Photographer Jeremy Cohen

You can also utilize your connections! If you are in possession of a business card or any contact info from a current or former employee, use it! They can help you get in touch with the right people to pursue your goals at that company. 

Timing is Everything

When reaching out to a given company via a personal contact or the HR manager or via an online application, timing is important. 

If you are currently enrolled in a university, the best time to apply for internships is during your junior and senior years. By this time you should be finished with your GE’s and will have a better idea of what you want to pursue when it comes to your career, thus you can find a more fitting internship. 

Listen to motion director Magnus Atom and how he found an internship right before he graduated school and eventually went full-time on his podcast episode here.

Wellfed Podcast with Motion Director Magnus Atom

Most companies will start looking for summer interns between January and March. The earlier you get your application materials together or the earlier you reach out to the company the better. There are also internships during the school year that you will have to apply to a year ahead of time, you will usually be given school credit to pursue these opportunities. 

If you have recently expanded your professional network and met a current employee from your dream company, firstly, congratulations! Secondly, it is time to figure out when is the appropriate time to contact them about an internship opportunity. It is recommended to wait one or two days after you’ve met them to send them an email. If you wait much longer, they may forget who you are and how they know you. This way you can quickly refresh their memory, be seen as a “go-getter” without seeming impolite, and ideally get into an internship position faster. 

Sending that email to your internship

Email, Phone Call, Letter by Carrier Pigeon?

Now that it is time for you to reach out to that connection at your dream company, you need to figure out what the most appropriate way to do so. These days, a concise, professional email should do the trick. Reintroduce yourself, your credentials and the personal interests you would like to pursue. Be polite and make sure you check your grammar and spelling!

Tools for Success: Resume, Cover Letter and Initial Email

If applying to an internship with an application they will likely ask for a cover letter, resume and samples of you work. 

If applying to an internship through a connection, you will probably also need a resume, samples of your work and, in a sense, a cover letter. In this case, your initial email to the former or current employee of your dream company will act as your cover letter. 

In either case you will have to sell your abilities and your art. Remember to triple check all three tools (resume, cover letter, initial email) to make sure they are coherent, concise and easy to read. Quadruple check your spelling and grammar to make sure there are no mistakes. 

Lastly, be confident in your writing. You already know you’re amazing, you just need to share why you are to the world!

If you need help crafting the perfect resume and cover letter, check out our templates here by signing up for our newsletter. 

Ensuring Your Internship Leads to a Full Time Job

Going full time with your internship

So you got the internship and you’re loving it! You know this is how you are going to share your passion with the world. But you also need to pay the rent and you’d love to go out for bottomless mimosas with your friends at some point. So how does this internship become a full time job?

You need to want it. You need to want it more than anything you’ve ever wanted before and pursue it accordingly. This means rising to new challenges that go outside your expertise. It means arriving on time with a strong work ethic and a determination to succeed. It means taking on feedback and improving yourself daily. It means finding your advocates and establishing your reputation as a professional in your field. It also means stating your intentions with this internship to your superiors the minute you walk into the door on the first day. 

To learn more about how to go from an intern to a full time employee. Listen to creative director Lydia Pang’s podcast episode here. 

Wellfed Podcast with Creative Director Lydia Pang

Conclusion

Internships are a vital part of the career path for any creative professional. As stated before, they can expand your network, offer invaluable industry experience, and, most importantly, they can potentially lead to a full-time, promising career, which for most of us creatives, is the end goal. 

Now you know where to look, what to look for, and how to take that first step into securing THAT creative internship that you’ve been day-dreaming about.

Feel free to comment below or email us directly with any questions you may have regarding taking that first step to find the right creative internship for you. 

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@ari_irwin
A lover of peanut butter toast and comics first, a writer second and an editor third.

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