5 min read
Early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable.
This meeting is the first sign of what working with you might be like. If you can’t show up on time for coffee, I won’t trust you on a deadline, period.
Take the time to research the person’s background. Come prepared with a few questions to make the most of your conversation. Be prepared to go off script and roll with the conversation, but having questions you definitely want answered will help you dig deeper or transition topics more naturally.
Be respectful of time, and the fact that this person probably has a few projects to be working on, some team members to be talking to, way too many unread emails, and a life outside of work. (Read that last sentence as: “Yes, most definitely send a thank you note.”)
My thank you note.
Bring your thank you notes with you so you can run to a coffeeshop/your car and write them a short, personal note after you’ve met. Go back and leave them with the front desk for people to pick up when they leave for the day. This way you can trust they’ll open it and it won’t get buried in their inbox.
Why this is important:
Your interviewer(s) will typically need to provide their feedback on you quickly so that HR may either proceed with next steps of your application or bring in more candidates from their pipeline. (There’s always a pipeline. Resourcing people is the lifeblood of all agencies; we forecast our needs weekly and have candidates lined up to ensure we have all projects and team needs staffed.)
Internship is another word for “Learning”.
…learning what aspects of a job you want to further pursue and if the work the company does is the type of work you enjoy.
If you find out that an intern’s day to day involves getting coffee, run. NOW. There is a lot of work to do. This whole world needs more smart people designing what tomorrow looks, feels and functions like. Any company that has you fetching coffee doesn’t have work you’d want or need to do. While a recognizable name on your resume looks great, it is more important for me to be able to understand the work you’ve produced. I want to see a valuable contribution and your growth as a result.
Understand that you are a liability.
Think about this job you want with a user-focused mindset. Your user: The hiring manager. Want to know what they want and need? This question keeps them up at night:
“Do I have enough work to support the people on my payroll?”
They work damn hard to attract talented people who think, make and do for a living. The way to keep that talent happy and productive is by offering them meaningful & complex problems to solve for sexy causes, organizations & brands. Whether it’s $60k or $160k, every hour you’re working — billable time (client work) + non billable time (department meetings, lunch, time you spend answering emails, tracking your time, etc.) — the company will be responsible for paying your salary.
Go in strong and clearly demonstrate the value you bring. This includes (but isn’t limited to) the skills you possess, your work ethic, values, and the ability to listen. Your humbleness and willingness to learn. (You might have just finished school, but you’re about to embark on a whole new education— strap yourself in.) How do you communicate your conviction and your unique view while still coming across as teachable? I’ve always loved the way the fine folks at Etsy phrased it in a job requirement for designers they hire: “Strong convictions, loosely held.*” Amen.
I will also need to depend on you and trust you to get work done. Answer any and all questions I might have, so I don’t even have to ask them.
To get the internship, don’t position yourself as an intern; aim for the desired outcome—a full time position. Understand that while the purpose of an internship is learning, the purpose of a job is to provide value to the company. Employees are hired for a reason, and I want to see performance. Of course, great companies are learning environments as well, but now I depend on you to produce results. 😵
I don’t hire interns.
Code and Theory doesn’t have a separate job description for interns, since what you’ll be doing is the same as what’s expected from a Junior designer. I’m actually hiring a Junior designer, with a higher tolerance for fucking up.
I’ll be totally candid with you: I want you to succeed and be one of my best hires. It takes a lot of the team’s time and energy, as well as company money recruiting great talent (add up all of the hours that each employee is paid when they weren’t producing billable work). Researching and screening candidates, coordinating schedules, interviewing, writing up our thoughts on your potential to thrive and contribute to what we’re building here everyday… We put the work in upfront in hopes of finding our next best employees. Sometimes I interview 3 in one day, in middle of all of the other work I’m responsible for.
But I want to know that you are just as committed. I’d love to know you actually moved here already (or will in 2 weeks if hired), and are looking for a company where you can grow. I want to know you didn’t just finish a 6-month or a 1-week accelerated UX course and think you are a designer (sorry, not sorry). I want to see you finding and solving your own problems, asking your own questions, developing your voice and a point of view. I want to understand any transferable experience — running school projects & organizations, rallying your peers, finding your own clients, pitching and defending your ideas, gracefully accepting critique of your work, the ability to respectfully tell someone when they are wrong, and keeping your design intention pure from the conception of an idea to the final output, because I don’t hire interns…
I hire Senior designers,
5 years early.
Shout out to Alison Taffel Rabinowitz, Michael Newcomb for reviewing early drafts.
*I believe this phrase is originally attributed to Paul Saffo.