Instructions for Finding Internships


First Things First

Prepare your materials and presentation by having the following ready:
1) An up-to-date résumé. Be sure to include any recent work information.
2) A cover letter introducing yourself, some interesting things about you as a designer, and why you are interested in their company. Be sure to do some research about the company before writing the letter.
3) Some projects in your portfolio and process books and website or shorter pdf document (sample of projects, not the whole portfolio). You will most likely have to submit different things for different internships so the more “modular” your portfolio is, the better.
4) Focus on keeping in touch with the company once you have submitted your application and work on getting an interview. That is your focus for now. Don’t worry about the internship yet, just get some experience doing the interview – as many as you can!

Finding an Internship

Contact the Company

Use the internship list here (put link here to full list of internships) but also come up with some ideas of your own. Start to figure out now where you want to work when you get out of school; this will help you target appropriate sites. Also, join the LinkedIn San Jose State University Industrial Design Alumni Group. You can get lots of contacts there.

You can always apply online, but often, those types of applications get unnoticed and lost in a pile of hundreds of applications. Contact the company by phone and verify to whom information should be sent.

Send the cover letter, résumé, and a few images of work you have done. This can be sent via email or through setting up a simple website (ISSUU, Coroflot, or other places). If you send work by email, you need to figure out how to stand out from the rest (there are many students from other institutions throughout the world looking for internships here in the Bay Area).

Don’t discount the power of regular mail too. Not many people do that anymore and that can make you stand out in someone’s mind. Then, follow up by email or a phone call a few days later (no more than 7) to make sure they received it and to let them know you will contact them in a few days to talk about your work. Make sure you follow any guidelines for submission.

Some Things to Think About in regards to your presentation of you and your work:
• Figure out a professional way to get noticed (you might only get 15 seconds to make an impression)
• Perfect is the enemy of the good This means, you need to stop focusing on applying for
internships or informational interviews when your portfolio is “finished”. Apply with whatever you have ready now.
• A fully finished portfolio is not necessary to get an internship. Companies understand that you are in school and that everything is in process. Show a few things first, then follow up with more when you meet and keep in touch over the months and update them with new projects you have completed.
• Show process books from some of your projects and lots of drawings. Companies like to see how you “think” and showing sketching process and mock-ups is the best way to do this.
• Projects should be one- or two-page summaries for each. Don’t show them everything at the first contact point or you won’t have anything left to show them when you actually meet.
• ALL of your materials should be clear, concise, and well-designed graphically.

• Once you have sent in materials, keep in touch every 10-14 days until you hear something that gives you an indication of what is next. That could be a “no, we aren’t interested” or it could be a phone or video interview. It could be an in-person interview too. This is your goal as getting an internship is somewhat of a numbers game. In general, for most students, these are the odds: for each 10 applications you might get 1 interview. It takes about 3-4 interviews to get offered an internship. Do the math.

• When you have done the interview, be sure to follow up immediately with a thank you note. Make this something you send in the mail. An email doesn’t make you stand out as that is what everyone does. Or send a video thank you, or an e-card, or something beyond some random, general email that just says thanks. 

Informational Interviews

These are sometimes the best way to find an internship. It takes a lot of work, but in the long run you do two things this way. You start to build your professional network for when you graduate and you get a lot of experience talking about your work and showing it to other people and hearing their feedback. Designers do not work alone, nor do they work in a vacuum. People are always critiquing our work and we have to get used to not just listening to them but engaging in a conversation with them about our work, whether they agree with us or not.

So, start with SJSU alumni from the BSID. They are your best way to get some initial practice. Offer to buy them a coffee or a snack or lunch of they would spend 30 minutes with you, looking at your work and giving you some professional feedback. You can find alumni on LinkedIn and also on the Facebook page for ID alumni. As long as they aren’t busy, they can be a great resource for you. They are also really well connected and once they have met you, if they like your work, they might refer you in the future. Get as many of these informational interviews as you can. Bring what you have, even if it is work in progress. They are not expecting you to be all done with everything. They like seeing your design process and giving feedback.

In regards to feedback, you are going to get a lot of different views and perspectives. Some will connect to your work and you, others won’t. That is life. Be professional, thank them (when you leave and with a follow up note) and then keep in touch with them. Send them updates every six months or so, to let them see your new work and how you have improved. These sessions will really help to build some confidence in you and get you used to talking to people who ask unexpected questions. It’s also fun to get to know some of our alumni – they are really great people.