As part of the registration process for recruitID this year, students had to agree to the following disclaimer: “I recognize that recruitID is an opportunity to meet companies. RecruitID does not guarantee my employment. Furthermore, I accept responsibilities to meet all deadlines and I accept all consequences and implications of not meeting these deadlines.”
David Ofori-Amoah, recruitID co-chair, said “the disclaimer was more about reminding students that getting a job still takes action on their part. RecruitID is just a start.” In fact, many students find great jobs outside of traditional recruitID interview requests. Alumni Joyce Chen and current students Alex Cheek, Laura Franek, Sarah Jones, Irene Chong, and Alexis Baum give advice and anecdotes about finding an internship:
Know Your Strengths
The most important thing to know when searching for the right job is not what kind of job you want, what title you are seeking, or even what field you definitely want to go into. Instead, knowing certain important details about yourself should be of primary importance. The four main things you should think deeply about and be able to articulate at any time are:
1) what you are very good at
2) what you are totally passionate about
3) what you are insatiably interested in
4) what you understand that others don’t
Network at recruitID
If you didn’t get an interview with the company you wanted, don’t fret because there are other opportunities to connect during recruitID. Some recruiters will host open tables on the first day, which gives you the opportunity to go talk to them. Be prepared with your resume in hand. It’s not unusual for them to have unbooked time slots, so if you’re interested in speaking in greater length, don’t be shy about asking for an interview. The evening cocktail reception held on day one gives companies the chance to mix and mingle with students, so be sure to attend. It may not be as convenient to carry around your resume at this point, but a small stack of business cards in your pocket could definitely come in handy. A student once told me he landed an interview through a chance run-in on the elevator with a recruiter, which led to his first summer internship.
Follow Every Lead
Look in every area possible for work and allow yourself to follow all leads, no matter how far out in left field they seem. Look at companies whose mission and goals inspire you and worry about discovering (or creating) the right position within them later. Chances are, if you remain open to a wealth of possibilities and stay focused on who you are and what you want to be dedicated to, you will make connections that otherwise would be passed over.
Persistence Pays Off
Alex Cheek got an internship at design firm Insitum through persistence and dedication: “It all started in foundation when I received an email from Luis Arnal congratulating me on the relaunch of the student newsletter. Once I figured out that Luis is an alumnus of ID and the owner of a design firm in Mexico City, I responded to him with ‘Thanks.’ and ‘Do you have any internships?’ He declined my advances. That spring, I met Luis again at the Strategy Conference. I asked him again. This time he said, “No, but practice your Spanish.” I felt that I was making headway. Finally, I heard that Luis’ partner Jose Tapia had opened a small satellite office in Chicago and decided to call him. After a few interviews and a little negotiation, I finally got the position.”
Finally, at this stage in the game, with the kind of intelligence, creativity and experience you have as a graduate student, remember that your job search is not a process of hoping and getting lucky or getting get down. Instead it is a pursuit of the right match (kind of like dating). Finding any old job is not difficult at all; there are plenty of fish in the “blue oceans”. Just make sure you only try out matches that feel right from the start, learn how to not settle for less than a seemingly good match and move on from any given one when it stops challenging you or forcing you to grow and be inspired.
Getting your Foot in the Door
When times get rough and you keep getting rejected by companies that you really want to work for (I think I’ve been turned down by IDEO 5-6 times), the most helpful thing you can do is have informational interviews with people inside the organizations you are interested in. The assumption is that you’ll do whatever it takes to find a connection to someone in that company who will grant you some time to chat in person; the goal is to use that time to ask whatever questions you have about the people, processes, culture, projects, etc. at that company, and—if s/he is a designer—get feedback on your portfolio. Don’t forget to thank them profusely, and now that you’ve gotten your foot in the door, you can follow-up with a polite reminder that you are in the job market and that they should consider you for future openings.
Check your email
Many companies that don’t come to recruitID send emails to the bulletin instead, so keep your eyes peeled for postings. Irene Chong found her first internship at McDonald’s through the bulletin. Laura Franek found her internship as an ID research associate through the bulletin as well: “My decision to apply last summer was based on my curiosity about the project. I saw a rare opportunity to be fully immersed in the research phase of an ongoing project. In the end, because I worked in a small team, I was able to experience first hand all of the nuances, such as doing the secondary research, performing interviews, understanding better ways to organize our data, learning how to create a new framework to reveal insights about our research. Because of that experience I was much more comfortable navigating this part of the design process. If I had not taken that chance, I would have less confidence in my ability to get through this very tough part of the design process.”
Don’t be dismayed
In the chance that you are unable to secure an internship through recruitID or your own efforts, don’t be too dismayed because there still are silver linings in the cloud. Take advantage of the fact there is no summer school at ID, and do things you normally could not afford the time to do, like traveling. Once you graduate and start working, it’s rare you will ever find such a large chunk of free time. Alternatively, you could spend your time to continue building your design skills by creating your own projects, or entering design competitions. These outputs could become portfolio pieces, and included on your resume to help you land that next job.