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How do I get an internship for web design in a small town?

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Ken’s Answer

Congratulations on being interested in web design. It takes a special person to enter this field and meet the demands which this career area presents. The first step is to get to know yourself to see if you share the personality traits which make web designers successful. The next step is doing networking to meet and talk to and possibly shadow web designers to see if this is something that you really want to do, as a career area could look much different on the inside than it looks from the outside.  

Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .

Ken recommends the following next steps:

The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
Here are some good suggestions on how you can balance life in college: ## https://www.unigo.com/in-college/college-experience/creating-a-workschool-balance-a-college-student-perspective http://www.mycollegesuccessstory.com/academic-success-tools/college-life-balance.html http://www.collegeconfidential.com/dean/000241/
Let me share an interesting story about internships: During my daughter's senior year in high school, the highlight of the year (and of the whole high school experience) was to be a several month long internship program. Everyone signed up and indicated the type of internship that they wanted - all except for one girl. This girl wanted to become a doctor and wanted her internship to be with the local EMS unit at the local fire station. So, she talked to the head of the EMS unit and got his approval and made arrangements with the school to create her own internship. Of all of the students about which I heard, she was the one who benefited the most by her internships. My daughter's was definitely not the highlight of her school career. Her first choice fell through and her final assignment was not really what she wanted and did not give her the type of exposure that she had hoped for. This shows that you can create your own internship! Locate a company that fits the parameters of the type of experience and exposure that you are seeking and work with them and the appropriate people in your school to put it in motion. After all, if there is an internship program existing today, anywhere, it had to be created by someone.

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Steven’s Answer

Hi Samantha! Great question.

There are a couple parts to this that may be helpful to consider:

  • It all depends on what companies are in or around your town. If you've been searching for web design agencies and not finding much, you might want to try looking for companies that have websites that a core part of their business (such as a store that also sells products online).
  • You will commonly experience that people have different definitions for what a web designer does. That means some companies may care that you have basic understanding of HTML and CSS, while others may not care and would focus more on your visual design skills. Both are valid requests and very useful skills to have, but I would suggest spending a little time thinking about what skills you want to improve and seek out an internship that would depend on you for them.

There are also many practical things you can do to help you get that internship. If you have not already, I would do some of these ahead of reaching out to companies for an internship:

  • Design your own portfolio. The experience of designing it is a good exercise for you, and is something the hiring manager can use to quickly get a sense of where your strengths are. It may be valuable for you to state on your portfolio that you're looking for an internship and to express what skills you're excited to learn and build on.
  • If you don't have much web design work to put in your portfolio, you can design fictional websites to exemplify your skills (just make sure you are honest and communicate that they are fictional companies).
  • (Optional) Develop your portfolio, and make your code available to download or inspect. Many people host their code on github.com, but you could also pass your developed portfolio over in a zip file if the company you're applying to has asked for development examples. This is of course if you don't have other websites you've developed, and if you're applying for an internship that would require some development skill. If you don't want to develop your own portfolio, you could use sites like Squarespace to build on a template to showcase your work. Just be careful not to lead with the expectation that you can develop a site like your own portfolio if you do not yet have the skills necessary to do it! It is better to be honest there and state what you're excited to learn during the internship :)

I hope you find this helpful!