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Guest post by @georgios83
You graduated from the design course of your choice! Congrats! You landed the internship at the shit hot design practice you pined after, and you’re ready to show everyone how it’s done. Hopefully even learn a thing or ten. You want to do well so bad that here you are, reading my advice on how not to suck. What do I know about internships? Well…
I’ve been an intern (design assistant) and I’ve had assistants myself. It can be fun. It can be gruelling. I’ve not written this ’cause I’m smarter than everyone, in fact for years I operated on the assumption that I know nothing. But I’ve worked in teams, observed people, learned from mentors good and bad, and these are some of the things that I’d tell people that I worked with, those with less and some with more experience than me.
Bear in mind I come from an architecture background, however this should be applicable to people starting work in any structured creative environment. Here’s 6 things to keep in mind.
1. Don’t take it personally
So you showed up on time. You didn’t raise any eyebrows, and you even think you may be accepted into the social structure. You are briefed on your task to some degree of specificity and off you go drawing or modelling away happily. Then comes review time and you are told that, no, this is pretty shit. And you thought you had this nailed.
See when you design for someone, they will expect you to not only follow the brief, but also fall in line with their design values and sensibilities. Yes you followed instructions. but your superior will see your work and think “can I put this in front of the client as work that is representative of me?”. The answer maybe no, simply because it is not /them/ enough. Whatever you do, don’t sulk. Do NOT be that person that you can’t yell at and tell to re-do that piece of work because they become passive-aggressive and leave in a huff. Nobody wants to tippy-toe around your fragile ego. Note the feedback carefully and get back to the drawing board. Then repeat. Get used to this process because…
2. No drawing will ever be good enough
You will go back after your 2nd review and re-revise that drawing. Again and again. Because not matter how much attention to detail you’ve paid, there’s always one more idea. Some more tweaking to be done. Another bit to design. A presentation detail to refine. As long as there is time, you can keep working on it. I’ve seen this with architects with twice the experience I had. They’d take a set of drawings to the director for the 4th or 5th time and expect a green light. Instead they’d take back a list of comments as long as their post-review face. Expect this. Embrace it. It means that it is understood that, given more time, you can do so much better.
But, don’t take your eyes off the clock because…
3. On time is better than perfect.
Hope to god that you’re not amongst the people who have to perfect a drawing before showing their superior. Because you need to present work early and expect it to get slated. You need to give your supervisor time to review and ask for changes, then allow both of you to tweak the result through this frustrating (for you mainly) back-and-forth. Accept the fact that your drawing will get severely criticised and get your first draft done as soon as possible. Review it by yourself then put it in front of someone. They will appreciate that you allowed them the time to give you feedback.
4. Do their work for them if you can
You know how you often hear about how hard good help is to find? A good helper goes beyond the minimum effort that is expected of them. And a good intern exceeds expectations. Look beyond your task to the bigger picture, and see if you can do something to save to save your mentor some time. Who is that drawing intended for? How is it going? What do they need to know about it? A best case scenario is that you e-mail a finished drawing to your boss, write them an email explaining it everything there is to be explained, that they can then send on as is changing only the signature (and take the credit, yes). Otherwise give them something they can easily edit themselves. Include questions to your boss, or anything you’d ask the recipient. In any case make an effort.
If you are researching something, highlight your findings, make copies of whatever evidence you have referenced, present them clearly and concisely. Go the extra mile and list the implications of those findings (be careful to not make any assumptions or draw conclusions of your own that may be downright wrong). Demonstrate that you can think for yourself. Speaking of which…
5. Design boldly, Argue fiercely
You are expected to think for yourself. I assume you don’t want to be a draft monkey, so come up with ideas and, where you are afforded the liberty and time, present them clearly. Your superior may hate them, but that’s not the point. If all you are drawing is their own ideas, it will be a poorer design. Intercourse inevitably results in a richer design and you can stimulate a great idea in someone by examining a bad one.
There is a fear relating to presenting your ideas, your creative work, to someone who knows better. It is the fear of rejection. Get used to it. Love it if you can (you can’t).
If your idea is rejected but you are not convinced why, stand up for yourself. Argue. Not for your ego, that’s dumb and pointless. Make sure you have communicated clearly and, if it should come to that, understand why it can’t be done your way.
6. Make everyone a hot drink
If you are making yourself a hot drink, offer to make everyone else one too. Not necessarily everyone, but those closer to you. Either physically closer or, say, on the same team etc. Everybody likes the person that offers their time to make them a cuppa, everyone appreciates the gesture. Even if you’ve done everything else perfectly, they will remember you offering to make them tea. And if you didn’t do everything perfectly, well… as long as you didn’t fuck up royally, then they will mostly remember the tea. If you do fuck up royally, well, that’s all anyone is going to remember.
I’ve been on both sides of the internship game and I know a thing or twenty about it. Someone close to me, :coughSoniacough:, asked me for internship advise and I thought others may benefit from it, too.
For my thoughts on how to give your interns a good experience, tune in tomorrow. For my thoughts on the current trend of unpaid internships, tune in on Monday.
Now, without further ado, my top 5 tips on how to be an awesome intern.
This is the cardinal rule of interning. If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be that you listen.
Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t put music on while getting a 58-page document copied 13 times. Just listen. Listen to what current employees are telling you, listen to what they tell their colleagues, listen to what the top dog says, listen when they give you instructions (take notes, if necessary), listen when they give you feedback.
And if you don’t understand something, go see point 2.
At any workplace, communication is key. There’s a reason they need 13 copies of the document. If they don’t give you one, ask. Trust me, they’re not actively trying to give you the boring things to do because they don’t like you. They are giving you boring things to do so that they can focus on tasks they prefer.
And if you end up getting a graduate job with them, you’ll be doing the same. So if you are intrigued by something another employee is doing, ask them what it is about. Unless they’re on a deadline and/or running around like a headless chicken, they’ll explain. And you’ll know more about the company/industry than you did 5 minutes ago.
Also, if you’re assigned tasks by several people, for the love of staplers, ask which task is more urgent and do that one first. And when you’re done with your tasks, ask for more.
Which brings me to point 3.
3) Be productive
Internships have two roles: a) To give you an idea of the job/company and b) To give the company an idea of you.
So put your best foot forward. Don’t slack off. Don’t delay tasks because it’s 4.20 pm and you don’t want to start something new half an hour before the blessed 5.00 pm. Don’t look at your phone every 12 seconds and don’t take 30-minute long cigarette breaks.
I won’t lie, interning includes doing lots of boring things that more senior staff members don’t want to do. However, guess what! They do them when there are no interns to delegate to. I’ve done (and still do) my share of filing 9 months of the year. If I get an intern over the summer, I’ll spend that time answering emails instead.
Show up on time, show interest and do the work in the best way you can. (You’ll do the work the best way you can by applying the advice in points 1 and 2.)
4) Dress the part
Most corporate environments (and those are the only workplaces I’m qualified to give advice on) have either a business or a business casual dress code. The differences are small but whatever your temporary employer’s dress code is, abide to it.
For men, you shirts should always be tucked in and though you can roll up your sleeves in the summer, don’t overdo it. Some workplaces may require you to be freshly shaven every day but if they don’t, do keep your facial hair groomed. And please, use deodorant.
For women, spaghetti straps or strapless shirts are a no-no. Some workplaces don’t allow sandals. Don’t wear jewellery that jingle when you move and avoid glittery eye-shadow. And please, don’t bathe in your perfume. A spritz or two are sufficient.
Final point: if you have any potentially offensive tattoos, don’t flaunt them. Leave that for after they’ve hired you permanently.
5) Have fun with it
As I’ve said in point 3, you’re there to get a feel of the work or the workplace. So see if you can actually enjoy it. If you’re miserable being an intern there, you won’t be much happier as a full time employee for whom the top dog actually has expectations.
As an intern, no one expects you to be perfect. So be friendly, load up on coffee and you’ll do fine.
10 Tips for the Telephone Intimidated by Rosianna Halse Rojas
How to Make the Most of your Internship by Susan Adams for Forbes
Do let me know if you find the above helpful or if you have anything else to add.
Articles and Sundries:
- So you think you can multitask? There’s now a test you can take that proves if you actually can. Read all about it here.
- This was the most shared article on my twitter stream this week. If we talked about architecture like we talk about writing.
- By now it looks like everyone has read one too many thinkpieces on how Jill Abramson was removed from her position as the NYT editor. So I want to focus on another NYT-related story: The leaked innovation report. What I’ve read of it is truly fascinating.
- The Art of Self Promotion. I would particularly like to draw your attention to point number 6: Don’t be human spam. Please?
- What’s your job?
Sex and Feminism :
Articles and Sundries:
Eurovision 2014 Highlights:
Sex and Feminism :
Articles and Sundries:
Fashion and style:
- Hermes’ sandals, made in Cyprus, with free worldwide shipping. They’re gorgeous.
- Why can’t a smart woman love fashion? by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who discusses her own struggles with being taken seriously as a young, female writer with an interest in pretty clothes.
- On red lipstick. I don’t know what it is about red lipstick that makes a lot of women apprehensive, and I do want to write an essay on it but until then, if you want to, you can wear it. No permission needed. Really.
Writing and Education:
- I wholeheartedly recommend Linda Barsi’s videos on her year-long writing project. She is mostly a screenwriter but the advice and experiences she shares are applicable to a broader array of writing.
- Check out the online courses provided by Future Learn. “Start Writing Fiction” by the Open University has just started and I’m looking forward to “Managing my money” starting later this month.
- I’m thinking of writing reviews for the oh, about 50 how-to guides and writing memoirs that I’ve read in the last five years, let me know in the comments if you think that’s a good idea. Reviewing is always tricky, mostly because it is so subjective.
- The publishing news of the week was that News Corp bought Harlequin. Shocking, I know. Forbes’s contributor Jeremy Greenfield has written an excellent piece as to why.
- Mushrooms stoganoff. Delicious and light, I substituted sour cream with Greek yoghurt. It was excellent for dinner and for lunch at work, served on angel hair pasta.
- The chocolate galatobourekko at the Leventis Gallery café is to die for. Honestly the best desert I’ve had, maybe ever. It was crunchy and not too sweet, totally worth the twenty minutes one has to wait for it.
- In the “food and politics” corner, UK’s Labour party has a new anti-obesity and anti-alcoholism agenda but they still seem to ignore the, very significant, cost and free choice factors. Hmmm.
May Wreath 2014.
Beware the Ides of March.
William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
I remember waking up to a text message from a friend, reaching out after watching the late night news, half a world away.
“They’re mentioning your country on the news. Are you okay?”
I turned to social media, where Alexandra was already predicting that we’d be waking to a nasty surprise. It was Saturday, March 16th 2013 and the Republic of Cyprus had just become the fifth Eurogroup member to request financial assistance.
I remember the disbelief that followed. My parents sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee, not talking.
“Have you heard?”
An apparent nonchalance and stillness so at odd with my restlessness.
I remember the melodrama, as the media’s coverage became increasingly frantic. How everyone became an economy expert overnight. The exaggerations and the conspiracy theories.
It was supposed to be an easy-going month. Three bank holidays in a row. Looking back, we should have been wary of the Ides of March.
It was a Eurozone first: A straightforward, one-off levy on private deposits to stabilize the banks. A bail-in, the safer option to the already overly costly bail-outs. Safer for whom?
A brutal wake-up call, a punch to the kidneys. None of us had realized how bad things were until it was too late to do damage control.
I remember the uncertainty. Looking at a map, trying to think of a place to go where there would be jobs and the potential of prosperity. I remember feeling claustrophobic, nauseous. I remember people’s pinched expressions at the carnival parade, their frowns and hushed conversations, their children running and laughing in the background, oblivious.
I remember driving to work on Tuesday. Passing in front of the EU Commission premises, the Ministry of Finance across the street, the Parliament a bit to the left, two streets over. Bauhinias[i] blooming on the pavements. I remember thinking that resistance is futile.
There is much I forget. I had forgotten the insomnia, though there are pages upon pages of my thoughts, written in the small hours of the morning, when sleep wouldn’t come. My mind goes to weird places when it’s sleep deprived, amongst my notes, there is a detailed survival plan to be implemented in the event of a zombie apocalypse, including a comprehensive list of supplies and tools needed.
I do not remember the fainting spells or the dizziness or what my doctor wanted to prescribe to make the thoughts stop so that I could finally sleep at night. I refused to take it.
We grew up with high expectations. Be studious, go to university, get a job, a house, a spouse. Have children before you’re thirty. Suddenly, the life we’d been promised – or cursed with -, our Cypriot-sized version of The Dream, was no longer an option.
I feel guilty saying this, but for a moment or two it was liberating.
What do you do when you have nothing to lose?
I remember the sun, what a beautiful day it was, on March 24th, running the 5K race at the Limassol marathon. I had forgotten to wear sunscreen and by the end of the day my cheeks and nose were sunburnt.
I came to a conclusion, driving home one afternoon after work, having grown tired of the escalating desperation around me, the silence, the frowning. I’d stay at my job for as long as they’d keep me. When they’d inevitably let me go, I’d return to my ancestors’ traditions, to the citrus orchards and the dozens of family recipes for anything from lemonade to hand cream. That decision, a fool’s dream, one could say, gave me hope.
A year later I still have a job. I also have sketches of a logo and a draft business plan. I’m still uncertain. Things are supposed to be looking up yet it’s too soon to know. But I’m no longer paralysed with fear.
You needn’t be either.
What will you do, when you have nothing to lose?
[i] Bauhinia blakeana: commonly called the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. Legume tree of the genus Bauhinia, with large thick leaves and striking purplish red flowers.
A playlist for the “hopeless wanderers” amongst us. It’s a day late because this week is more hectic than I expected it to be and I suck at planning things ahead.
A pick-me-up in the form of music. Because someone, coughmecough, has gotten sick of bed-rest and is actually, sort of, looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. Enjoy.
All Systems Go.
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3 tbsps olive oil
2 red bell peppers
2 cloves of garlic
650 grams of minced pork (or beef)
400 g can of red kidney beans
500g of passata
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
chilli powder, some chilli flakes
fresh coriander for serving.
Mise en place:
Chop the onions, carrots and peppers in cubes. Crush and chop the garlic. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Gather the spices and other ingredients.
Heat the oil in the pan, put the onions, carrots, garlic and peppers. Stir around. Add the mince. Add the spices, stir around untill the mince is no longer pink.
Add the beans, the passata and the vinegar. Fill the passata container about halfway up with cold water, swirl around so that it picks up any remaining tomato sauce and then add to the pan.
Stir, add salt and pepper.
Leave to cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquids have reduced to half and the sauce has thickened.
Serve with fluffy rice and a green salad. Sprinkle with chopped coriander if so desired.