Over the course of my schooling career, I had a full-time job. Most of which were not in the field of study I was entering or required I work 40 hours per week and didn't leave much time for anything else. That's stressful! Especially when students truly need to be focused on their craft and not about money. However, if you're an adult student like me and need to create income while in school to pay bills, you're in the right place.
After scouring the internet, no one seems to be giving advice on good jobs to help students in the design field. Why is that I wondered? It's as if design majors are overlooked but that shouldn't be the case because everyone needs some sort of direction.
In the beginning, things are scarce. One thing you truly want is to be surrounded by those who speak the language so you can hear and learn firsthand how things are handled in the real design world. The first thought to pop up maybe to check out a design firm. It's a great thought and great connections or a great mentor may emerge there, however, the lack of experience, knowledge, connections, and portfolio work will open hardly any doors at a traditional design firm if you wanted to go that route for an internship from the jump. Fret not though, there are plenty of other options that will certainly get the ball rolling and get some money in your pocket while making meaningful connections in the design world. Let's take a look.
1. Design Retail Stores
Now, if you look at these jobs only as a paycheck, this recommendation sucks. If you're able to look deeper, you'll see why this is a great start. First, the people who frequent these places are obviously into design or else they wouldn't be there. This gives you a chance to talk the language consistently with people who are actually interested in what you have to say and can understand you. The number of resources available to you cannot be overlooked either, albeit, not as many as a design firm but still great nonetheless. Second, if you're a full-time employee at say a place such as Crate & Barrel or CB2, they have tuition reimbursement. Major win!
2. Local Design Stores
These places may be tougher to crack but if you have a niche skillset or want to put that SketchUp or CAD class to practice, walk into one of the local design stores in your area and show them what you can do. Maybe this means designing a showcase or a room OR showing them how their customers can benefit from seeing their space in digital form with the products they have will boost sales. Who knows but it's worth a shot. Your best bet? Go in there with an already made example of what you'll bring to the table.
3. Working at a University
This may not bring you in touch with those who are in the same field as you but it could still be beneficial to you in the long run. If anyone knows how to balance school and work or at least what it may entail, it's the schools themselves so your schedule may be more lax or forgiving. Also, the universities want people working for them who can speak to others about how great the university is. They want students and alumni! Most schools offer tuition reimbursement and are willing to pay for a portion of grad school. Please take advantage of that, especially if you're planning on going to a school in-state.
4. Social Media
Social media has its time and place and here is one of those exact times it may come in handy. Opening a social media account to showcase your work is a great idea because it places eyes on what you can do or what you stand for. It may not bring money right away and will take effort but it may get you a client or two to build that portfolio. This can be added to a part-time job or even a full-time job if you have the time. Social media also allows you to build a community of like-minded individuals who are interested in what you're interested in as well.
5. Internship/Front Desk/Mailroom
Let's bring it back to the internship at a design firm. For those who have a portfolio and experience, this is a great option. Old fashioned as it may be, it still works. Being an intern builds great connections and often times leads to a job later on. Working the front desk or in the mailroom does the same thing (with higher pay) but it won't allow you to be immersed in the flow of the action to see some nuances firsthand. However, what it does do, is allow you to be in the building and meet those same people who may help you later on. The only downside is most firms are still 9-5 traditionally so your schedule may be more rigid than other options but once you're in the building, people assume you're interested in the field. That's the key; get in the building!
Honorable mention goes to Pro Bono work (working for free) to build a portfolio. Asking family and friends to let you showcase your skills is never a bad way to go.
Hopefully, this gave some ideas about how you can gain experience while still being a student in the design field. Again, these are only my opinion of the best jobs for design majors after searching for jobs myself. Are you an interior design or architecture student? Are you a design professional? Have something to add? Let's connect!