Is completing a UX design internship worth your time? Product Design Recruiter at Facebook Carl Wheatley explains how an internship can actually help you land a coveted User Experience gig more efficiently than jumping headfirst into the job search.
Whether you’re in school or fresh out of bootcamp, getting a UX internship might just be the smartest career move you can make. Many new UX designers will rush into the job search only to realize that landing a great gig is much harder than expected. Or even worse, they take any job offer, even if it doesn’t feel like the right fit.
You’ve heard the saying before—good things take time. Don’t rush into the job search just yet and consider a UX internship first. While the nature of an internship might deter you, believe it or not, the time you invest in completing one can actually lead you on a clear path to your dream role in no time. Here’s how:
1. You’ll gain necessary real-world experience
The demand for UX designers is indeed increasing daily, and while this means more opportunities, it also means more competition. Having an internship under your belt is one of the best ways to stay on top of the hiring pool.
Most hiring managers require candidates to have real-world work experience, and an internship is a perfect alternative that will only increase your chances of landing a great role. You’ll have already worked on real projects with real clients and proven you’re capable of meeting the demands that are expected of a UX designer.
2. You’ll build a solid network of industry professionals
While real-world experience is helpful for getting your foot in the door at your dream company, what’s even more beneficial is the network and the connections you build at an internship.
One of the fastest ways to land your first UX design job is through a referral from an expert in the industry. You never know what connections your direct rapport or fellow designers have. By putting your best foot forward at an internship, you’ll be setting yourself up for a great recommendation to some of the most coveted gigs out there. Or better yet, there’s a big chance you’ll get offered a position at the company you interned for—if that’s what you want!
3. You’ll develop strong communication skills
One of the basic requirements for any job interview is possessing strong communication skills. Hiring managers are very much interested in how well you communicate because it has a lot to do with the day-to-day responsibilities of a UX designer once you’re hired.
The good news is, a UX internship will expose you to many situations where you’ll be forced to develop good communication habits. You’ll get the opportunity to work closely with an established design team, or even deal with customers directly. You might even be asked to conduct user research and present your findings to stakeholders on the team. Whatever the case may be, as a UX intern, you’ll be engaging with people daily and building those strong soft skills that product and hiring managers highly seek out.
4. You’ll practice integrating into a creative team
Your internship will help you better understand how your role as a UX designer fits within a larger design team. You’ll learn about processes, working strategy, and result evaluation—crucial experiences to have as a UX designer coming into a brand new, or even larger team. Integrating into an existing product team at an internship also means you’ll develop important team-building habits, learn how to best handle dispute resolutions, and have accountability for your work—things that will help you scale up your responsibilities when you finally get hired.
Remember, hiring managers are seeking out candidates who can seamlessly integrate and work alongside their existing team, so demonstrating that you’ve already been able to do so is a sure-fire way to gain the trust of a potential employer.
5. You’ll learn what you really want
Don’t overlook this last important point: An internship is one of the best ways to understand what you truly want out of your UX design career. You’ll get a stronger sense of what size teams you prefer working with, what kind of products you want to develop, and what your ideal daily responsibilities entail.
For example, maybe you interned at a design agency and realized you’d rather use your UX skills to help small startups get off the ground. Whatever the case may be, a UX design internship is a great opportunity for you to figure out what you really want out of your design career, what values you want the business you work for to uphold, and where you want to grow in your skill sets.
Are you convinced yet? While you can scrape the internet for tips on how to land your first job as a user experience designer, it’s hard to replace the condensed career growth an internship will provide. Remember, real work experience is one of the first requirements hiring managers look for when reviewing UX candidates—and an internship is a perfect alternative for winning the job. It’ll help you understand how the design industry works, make crucial industry connections, build your skill-sets further, and ultimately help you gauge what you truly want out of your career as a UX designer.
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About Carl: Carl is a Product Design recruiter at Facebook. Before recruiting, he was a UI/UX designer working with many tech startups to design mobile apps. Carl is also the co-founder of a Meetup called Global UXD where he helps connect designers with eachother and create new opportunities. Having completed Bloc and Designlab bootcamps before becoming a recruiter, he’s an expert at helping designers land their first design roles. Find Carl on carlwheatley.com and LinkedIn.