Don’t be the 9 to 5 guy

My two months as an Intern.
By Patrick Pyka, Design Intern, Wonderstuff

I was a second year, more than half way through his Graphic Design degree, looking forward to a semester which I would later learn to be the busiest few months of my life. The imminent tasks of finalising portfolios and applying for internships lingered in the back of my and everybody else’s mind. I believe it is extremely worthwhile to look for an internship in your second year that is longer than the popular one week placement – as valuable as they can be, they are not long enough for a new up and coming designer to absorb what there is to learn from the design industry. Take what you can get and always be a ‘Yes Man’.

Don’t just contact every design agency that comes up on your Google search.

I already have a few aspired ones in mind – so give yourself a lot of well considered options, but at the same time apply to places that create work you are interested in. The companies you will contact are extremely busy and get these kind of emails nearly every day, so don’t be afraid to follow up with another email or phone call – also don’t forget to check your junk mail, I nearly learned the hard way. With a bit of luck, you should receive and invitation to an interview.

I think it’s important to show that I’m a human during an interview. Sounds silly, yes, but too many people turn into robots and take it as a matter of life and death – often mistaking that only their skills and abilities are being tested. Thus they become too nervous and show no emotion. When I got invited for an interview at Wonderstuff, I went into it with the attitude that I would be assessed 50% on my abilities as a designer and the other 50% would come from my personality. A statement which coincidentally complimented a framed piece of print hanging on the wall across my shoulder which read “Work Hard & Be Nice To People”. To put it bluntly, no matter how good you are, if you’re an a**hole, people will not want to work with you. How to show your human side? Talk equally about your hobbies and interests as you would about your skills and achievements. Smiling has been proven to be contagious and you can instantly put your interviewer in a better mood with something as simple as having a genuine smile on your face. If you seem like you are having a good time, in what would generally be perceived as a stressful situation – you will instantly come across more confident.

Being prepared is key – know your work and decisions inside out.

Bring your development sketches – to a creative they are often more valuable and impressive than a brand spanking new logo. They show how you think of ideas and arrive at solutions. Personally it helps me to talk through my work, using my sheets of development as ‘notes’ reminding me of the ideas I explored and the decisions I made in a particular project. After my interview, I was very happy to hear that it had been successful and my journey as a Wonderstuff intern was about to begin.

The first week at Wonderstuff went by in a flash – if you can go a whole day at work without checking your watch for the magic ‘five o’clock’, it can mean two things: you’re either super busy, or you love what you do. I was lucky – it meant both in my case.

As anyone would expect, the first few days is all about familiarising yourself with – you guessed it the ‘Wonderstuff Way’. No it’s not a secret design superpower – I wish. It’s getting to grips with even the simple things like folder structure, project management software, daily meetings and of course an honourable mention does not escape the famous Wonderstuff Coffee – but ‘It’s not about the coffee…’ (check out our recent blog post where Linda explains why hiring interns can benefit your organisation).

Time management has always been my personal weakness, and one thing I learned at Wonderstuff – something we are all guilty of at some point – is a perfect example of design procrastination.

During the design of a logo I found myself dragging, scaling, rotating and skewing elements of a single idea – sitting back in your chair to admire this creation which looks like a lot of work, when in reality it’s just multiple variations of what could be a bad idea. A waste of time. It doesn’t necessarily help that universities give you around six weeks to create one logo. By all means, I’m against quick meaningless logos with no solid ideas behind them, however the industry is unpredictable, and unlike the customer, the client isn’t always right, but the trick is to make them feel that they are. I will remember a conversation I had about clients with one of the experienced designers at Wonderstuff. What university doesn’t teach you is what to do when you find yourself in a situation, presenting a blue logo to a client, because everything in the brand’s vision suggests that blue is the right colour – but the client wants to make it purple – and you’re going to have to find a way to make it work. It is these valuable ‘industry insights’ which make an internship an essential part of any degree.

Before I end this blog, I wanted to talk about two more things. One directed at people who are serious about undertaking an internship at a design agency. The other dedicated to everyone at the Wonderstuff family.

Perhaps I will begin at the end, with explaining the moral and my title: ‘Don’t be the 9 to 5 Guy’. What do I mean about not being a 9 to 5 guy? It’s a mixture of care and responsibility. Remember, you are undertaking an internship out of your choice – to better yourself as a designer and gain valuable industry experience. It should never become a chore, and more importantly, you should never feel like you are being made to do it. Not being a 9 to 5 guy also most certainly doesn’t mean being a 9 to 9 guy either – but it means being one sometimes. The keyword here being ‘sometimes’. We work in an industry where staying back as a team ought to be the part of the job description. Working together and having each other’s back on a deadline is what makes a successful design team.

This leads me to my final message. It’s about the wonderful feeling of friendship I experienced during my two months here. The wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting, working with – and of course having the perhaps ‘too occasional’ drink with (you know who you are). Thank you for making me feel an important part of the team and I have fully enjoyed every day from 9 to 5 and beyond.

Patrick Pyka
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