Be the Best Intern Ever!

Be the Best Intern Ever! Today's post comes to you from one of our newest Student Outreach Committee members, Nicole Zigmont, Assistant Designer at Family Circle. You might remember her from last year's March Madness event or from her honorable mention in 2010's Student Design Competition. Thanks to her awesome interning and working experiences, she's got great advice for those of you interning or starting entry-level jobs:

Since I've been working as a full time designer for over a year, I am really understanding the flip side of the work relationship between interns and the art department. Interns are not only here to gain professional experience, but they are essentially becoming key members of the magazine. 

Here are some examples of what you may end up doing as a design intern and how much your contributions are impacting the art department:

1. Updating the Mini Board (or Wall)
It may end up being 100% of your responsibility to update these every month. It's very important because if stories drop, or if pages get added, we usually refer to the mini board during meetings, and it's important that they're up to date. Also we check the flow of the magazine by referring to the mini board, so design choices could end up changing based on the order of the pages.

2. Doing Photo Research
Sometimes when deadlines are coming close or ideas are changing for stories, we may ask you to do some photo research to get us what we're looking for. If we are doing a complicated story where we need a giant handful of photos to choose from, we'll ask you to help the photo department with that search as well. It could take you the better half of the day! 

Yes, that's a lot of searching, but this is very important because sometimes the designer has something specific in mind, or the subject is sensitive and we want to make sure we're choosing the most appropriate photos. There are plenty of reasons why we need a lot of photos handy, but basically don't think we're giving you busy work. It's a very important part of the magazine to have great imagery, and stock images can be a tough thing to get right.

3. Doing Administrative Tasks
We may ask you to get the mail everyday. Or distribute the art department's new issue plans or manuscripts. Honestly, it may not be super exciting, but it will only take you about 10 minutes, and it's crucial to keep everyone updated and as orderly as possible. If members of the art department have different documents, it can put meetings at a standstill and wastes a lot of time figuring out what to follow. Also it's something that an Assistant Designer (like myself) does as well. So it's a taste of what you would be doing if you were an employee.

4. Page Layouts
Obviously this is what you wait for when you get a design internship at a magazine! But here are some things to keep in mind:
- The better you perform at doing the non-design tasks (updating the mini board, distributing paperwork, etc) the more we will want to test your abilities. 

- Once you start working on design layouts, it's important to give us options or show us that you're really thinking about all the possibilities. 

- Also don't feel like you can't ask your art department questions. We want you to learn how to create a layout that's perfect for the mag. It's pretty cool when you see your page in a magazine that millions of others are looking at as well. It may end up in your portfolio too!

5. Your Overall Attitude
Personality is HUGE when you're working in a creative environment. You have to be able to communicate your thoughts and respect the thoughts of others. You'll probably be working with some awesome people, but keep in mind that we're still your colleagues (even though some of us may only be a year or two out of school). We probably don't want to hear your stories from when you were at the bar last night, or topics that could be inappropriate in the slightest. You should be able to judge what that line is depending on who you're working with. It's important to stay professional because it not only impresses us, but it makes us want to give you great recommendations. 

Your full attention towards your internship really says a lot too. We love when you take the initiative or go the extra mile to really polish your work. Asking if anyone has anything else that they need for the night is also greatly appreciated. It shows us that you want the whole experience and are willing to stay a few minutes late to do so. The art department may stay another few hours working on layouts, so we can honestly use your help to the very last minute of your day.

Some of these pointers might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how closely your art department is paying attention to these things. We want you to progress and learn to the fullest. I mean, that's the point of a design internship (besides the awesome portfolio work that you could get of course!). 

- Posted by contributor Nicole Zigmont, Assistant Designer at Family Circle Magazine

Thanks to Nicole for these awesome tips! Got any tips or insights of your own to share? Comment below or email us.
  • Neil Jamieson

    essential reading!! thanks so much for posting this nicole! Such a great time to be an intern with so much hands on experience available working on both print and tablet versions of magazines! Interns rule!

  • JJ

    Any advice from Nicole is great advice!

  • Josh Klenert

    Very valuable information! My best piece of advice... anytime your boss asks to see you: bring a notepad and pen.

  • Student Editors

    Excellent advice, Nicole! Great point about non-design tasks: They're often assigned to see if an intern is ready to take on more responsibility. When we visited Maxim during our last Pub Crawl, Creative Director Paul Martinez told us that a useful test is asking an intern to take a coffee order and then sending them out to get it. He was impressed by someone who came back and had labeled each cup with the name of the person who ordered it.

    Your advice to be profession is good stuff, too! Interns: you may still be students, but when you're in the office, you're expected to act like grown-ups.

    Also check out fellow student committee member Joseph Caserto's advice for interns that we posted here about a year ago.

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