Sunday, December 20, 2009

Final Reflections - My Internship Experience

When I applied for this internship last spring, I was on a design high. After months of preparation, the sophomore portfolio review for Visual Communications Design majors was underway. My days were more filled with design than ever before; I was deliberating over which designs to include, reprinting projects that had gotten smudged or bent, and scrambling to get my portfolio website up and running, but most of all, I was no longer thinking of myself as a mere student. I was finally beginning to see myself as a designer. Passing my review and landing this great internship was a huge boost for me, and when the fall semester rolled around, I was ready to dive in.

Upon taking this internship with the Career Development Office, my goals were to apply what I’d learned in class to “real-life” design problems, develop quality projects that I could use in my professional portfolio, and become better adapted to working in an office environment. While freelancing is always an option, my ultimate goal is to work in a design firm or in-house for a company, so I felt that it was important to get a better feel for how working with others in an office was different from working alone at home and being the one person in charge of everything. To meet these goals, my objectives were to treat every project seriously, use the elements at my disposal to create designs appropriate for their intended uses and audiences, and attend meetings and events prepared, enthusiastic, and on time, participating to my fullest.

Purdue’s Liberal Arts Career Development Office helps prepare students as they transform into young professionals, focusing on issues specific to Liberal Arts majors. A writer, for example, will face a very different career path from an engineer or an accountant, and this office aims to give Liberal Arts students the specific guidance they need rather than generalized information that may not apply to them. My supervisor was Lisa Lambert Snodgrass, Director of Career Development. Graduate student Kate Agathon served as a mentor to me and my fellow interns, Stephanie Grebe and Ashley Scott, who utilized their skills as Communications majors throughout the semester. We also worked very closely with Kathy Lantz, Career Development Secretary.

My duties in general as an intern were to work with the other interns to develop a marketing plan for The Professional Forum, to design student-targeted marketing materials for The Professional Forum and other career development events, and to work Career Development events as needed. Rather than taking specific titles like “design intern” or “communications intern,” we worked together to use our different skills wherever they were needed.

This internship has provided me with all sorts of experiences, working on projects for print and web, as part of a team and flying solo, and interacting with coworkers, printers, designers, and clients, just as I would in a real job. Because of the wide range of projects I worked on and situations I went through, I feel prepared for an office job in a design firm or in the design department of a larger company. This experience has reinforced my goal to strive for such a job instead of going completely freelance; I feel that I would work well in an office environment. I have also learned the importance of branding and professional identity, and my objective now is to reflect on what I want to project with my personal branding.

My strengths as a professional include organizing and prioritizing my workload, visualizing, conceptualizing, and assessing and capturing the unspoken needs of the client for a particular design project. I am also hardworking, responsible, and resourceful, and I’ve become much better at coordinating with others and working as a part of a team. I still need to improve my communication skills a bit. I am generally a quiet person, and the ability to strike up a conversation with people I don’t know well would be a great asset. My other main weakness is that I need to be more assertive; I need to speak up sometimes and get my ideas out there instead of letting myself get trampled underfoot.

I felt very prepared for the work this internship offered me. My foundational design classes had helped me develop as a designer, giving me a multitude of different design problems to solve, and I think A&D 206 was the most beneficial in relation to this work experience. The projects in A&D 206 seemed to have clearer real-world applications than the more abstract projects of other courses. We worked on logo design as well as page, poster, and book layout, and that really helped me achieve a sound footing before moving on to the projects in this internship. The only way I might change the total program would be to take A&D 434, Professional Practice for Visual Communications Designers, a little earlier than the last semester of senior year. I know I will start looking for a job much sooner than that, and getting more of that professional experience would better help students land a job in design after graduation.

My experience with the Art and Design Internship Program has been a great one; I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to real-world design problems and expand my portfolio. My supervisors made sure to give me meaningful projects to work on, not just “busy work,” and I really feel that I’ve grown as a young professional. I am very glad to have been a part of this program, and I would not change a thing.

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