Starting a career in interior design can be a challenge: you need the experience to get the job type you want, but you also need someone to give you your first opportunity to get that experience. This is where interior design internships come in.
An internship at an interior design firm is a great way to get your feet wet, gather knowledge from real-world situations, and be mentored by someone who has already worked in the industry for a while. Having an interior design internship can also lead to full-time employment after graduation. In fact, here at Allison Smith Design, we have had interns that came back to join our team when they finished school!
When Should I Apply for an Interior Design Internship?
Some students can balance having an internship with classes while school is in session, while other students prefer to do their internship during the summer months. If you are in school full-time, working at an internship is more challenging, but it is still possible. Summer break is a great time for an internship, where you can focus solely on it without having to juggle schoolwork too.
In some interior design internship programs, interns can count their time for credit hours. If this is the case, an internship may be manageable during the school year because it counts as a class. Talk to your advisor about this possibility if you are intent on having an internship during the academic year.
How Can I Find an Internship in Interior Design?
There are two main ways you can find your own internship. First, check with your interior design school! The career center or your advisor likely has some leads for you. You are not the first student to seek an internship and it’s possible that your school can help place you or has already established relationships with various commercial and residential interior design firms.
The other way to find an internship is to do your own research and reach out to interior design businesses yourself. Use Google to find firms in your geographic area. You can use the contact forms on their websites to reach out and inquire about internship opportunities.
What to Expect as an Interior Design Intern
Internships are great for both the student and the interior design business. The student is exposed to many real-life scenarios that can help them build competence as a designer, while the design studio benefits from the fresh perspective of the student.
As an intern, you will be expected to be a problem solver. You have knowledge and skills that you have gained through your education that you can apply. However, interior designers are often balancing many projects at once which have various demands and competing timelines. Your mentor will be happy to answer questions and teach you things, but they will also expect you to figure things out for yourself as much as possible.
Interior design firms often work at a fast pace, and you may feel overwhelmed at first as an intern. This is natural! It is okay to be honest about this with your mentor, but you should also know that as you learn more and gain more experience, with time you will begin to feel more in control.
Resume and Interview Tips for Interior Design Interns
Preparing an attention-grabbing, memorable resume is one of the first steps toward getting an interior design internship.
To create your resume, first, familiarize yourself with the position you are applying for to get an idea of what the interior design firm is looking for in a candidate. Then use your experiences to demonstrate that you can perform the tasks the firm wants you to complete.
People who hire interns expect that you will have limited interior design experience. You can use other life experiences to demonstrate competency in the skills they are looking for. Is there a school project you worked on that shows your skills? Maybe a summer job or volunteer experience can speak to your abilities.
Next, use “power words” to paint a vivid picture of your experiences. Describe your experiences and accomplishments with active language. You can find a list of powerful verbs to use on your resume here.
Your resume is doing its job if you get called for an interview!
One comforting thing about the interview process is that interviewers tend to use the same types of questions. If you have been through one interview, you have a good idea of what most will be like.
If you spend time preparing responses for questions ahead of time, you will be more confident and relaxed during the interview. There are many websites that share lists of potential interview questions, and you can use them to do your own preparation. You can find a list of potential questions here.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Internship
If you want to reap the rewards of everything an interior design internship has to offer, the first thing to check is your attitude! Treat your internship experience like a real job title. Take it seriously, keep your commitments, and be reliable. Businesses want to know they can rely on you.
Do some research on what kind of job you might want after graduation and be familiar with their requirements. Maybe you prefer to specialize in residential design. Then ask your mentor if there are ways to shadow those tasks or take some of them on for yourself.
With a positive outlook and a commitment to high-quality work, your mentor will be much more likely to give you a positive recommendation upon graduation.