UX Internships | Thinkful
You’re here because you’re interested in learning about internships in UX, and you’re in the right place. But before we get into that, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what UX really is.
UX or User Experience is the way a person feels while interacting with a system like a web or mobile application, a website, or desktop software. UX can be denoted through some form of human-computer interaction (HCI). So, UX design is the process that design teams employ to create products, technologies, or services that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to their users. In addition to design, UX can involve the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including branding, adaptability, ergonomics, usability, and function.
As a UX designer, you should understand a diverse range of fields like consumer psychology, computerized and aesthetic design, technological tools, market research, business strategies, and even copywriting. You should be able to gauge the consumer’s exact needs and develop a product that matches or surpasses their expectations.
Another term called User Interface (UI) design tags along whenever we discuss UX. Though the terms are used interchangeably, UI is a subset of UX. While UI deals with the design of interfaces and how a user interacts with them, UX is focused on what the user experiences. If you want to break into UX, UI, or one of the many subspecialties, an internship could be an ideal way to gain hands-on experience. We’ll break down the different types of internships you might apply for, and help you plan out the beginning of your new career in design.
Landing an internship with a good organization can spring your career forward dramatically. Even if you have a solid academic record and expertise, nothing compares to having real-world, industry experience. When companies hire, they often place a lot of focus on practical industry exposure–which in some cases beats out education. In any event, there’s a chance that the company you interned for might hire you full-time once you complete your studies. This is a win-win situation for both the intern and the employer; the intern benefits by getting hired full-time, and the employer benefits by not spending extra money training a new person.
Paid or Unpaid?
Luckily, most internships these days are paid positions. This is because most students can’t afford to work unpaid with all their student loans and tuition fees looming over their heads. Interns are also more affordable than full-time employees, which is still a benefit to the employer. However, if you can afford it, some companies still offer excellent unpaid positions with incredible learning opportunities.
Narrow Down Your Target Companies
Before beginning your internship application, you must be clear about the kind of company you want to work for. Organizations are generally divided into the following three types:
Product-based organizations: These companies are involved in creating either physical or digital products for both B2B and B2C clients. Product-based ventures run the complete product life cycle and have in-house workforces. Examples include Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Samsung, Google, etc.
Service-based organizations: Service-based organizations work on providing software to clients according to their needs and priorities. The design process is more client-driven rather than user-driven. Examples are Wipro, TCS, and Accenture.
Design studios: Here, the focus lies on collaborative design work. However, there are often budget constraints and tight timelines to juggle to deliver the best products. Examples are Designit, IDEO, Frog, and Cooper. Another factor to consider for an internship is the size of the organization. Big organizations have huge, well-defined teams and established product design processes. This means you’d mostly work on a specialized part of the design. In small companies, on the other hand, you might be involved in all design phases from start-to-finish, which gives you more exposure.
You can also choose where you want to intern depending on the specific skill sets you want to work on. If you’re interested in the tech and software domains, it would be a good idea to get internship opportunities with software giants. If your area of expertise is more aesthetic or ergonomic, then you’d likely choose a design-oriented organization.
Experience You Need to Land A UX Design Internship
Now, you’re likely wondering what an employer looks for in a new intern. Well, there are a few key factors to keep in mind.
School: Though this is the least impactful when it comes to securing an internship position, many employers look at the degrees, universities, or schools you’re learning UX design. This is because students getting an education know more about industry practices and tools which makes them easier to train. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to go to university to make it in this industry. You can also learn from bootcamps and online courses like ours at Thinkful, or Lynda, Coursera, edX, Hackdesign, Eventbrite, etc.
Impactful Design Project: This may be the most crucial factor that defines your portfolio. A well-rounded, impactful project that you’ve worked on from start-to-finish lends incredible value to your internship application.
Unicorns: Unicorns are designers with strong skills in programming, product thinking and visualization. They’re quite rare to find. If you’re interested in coding, train yourself in these domains to significantly boost your chances of an internship in UX.
What You Need to Succeed in a UX Internship
There are a few key skillsets you can work that will improve your chances of getting hired as a UX intern.
A study by Adobe unveiled that 42% of recruiters consider the knowledge of UX design tools the most important skill in designers. So, sharpen your technical skills like HTML, CSS, and Java, as well as other UX tools like Flowmapp, Wireframe, Treejack, Figma, UX Pin, Sketch, InVision, and Adobe Experience Design. Other hard skills like the ability to do in-depth research and analysis, organizing information in digital product design, wireframing, prototype and testing, and Visual and UI design are other important skills to sharpen.
Critical thinking, passion, enthusiasm for your work, collaborative attitude, excellent verbal and written skills, abstract thinking, and a problem-solving attitude can help your land a UX internship.
Good illustration skills show your attention to the craft and your ability to execute. You can leverage free resources like YouTube to develop your illustration Skills.
Another great way to add value to your knowledge base is through motion skills. You can highlight your attention to detail and expertise by creating high-fidelity prototypes. Motion principles will also help you to learn micro-interaction.
Showcase Your Talent
It’s a good idea to build an engaging online portfolio that highlights your best UX design projects. The portfolio should be easily accessible, convenient to navigate, and attractive. However, don’t overload your portfolio with projects; instead, choose 3 or 4 of your best projects. Having a one-pager about your personality and interests on your portfolio also gives prospective employers a sneak-peak into how well you’d fit in with their organization.
It could be useful to write articles about UX design in blog posts or on your LinkedIn page. This shows your interest and passion for the field.
Even if you’re applying for internships, you can always volunteer for side-projects, unpaid assignments, or freelance assignments on Upwork or Fiverr. These can sharpen your skills or add to your portfolio.
Networking Events and Career Fairs
Attending local UX events of virtual meetups meetups, career fairs, or networking programs are wonderful ways to connect with other design professionals and students. They’re also useful for finding out about potential job opportunities. Meetup.com is a great website to find these events.
LinkedIn and Job Portals
LinkedIn is one of the most popular platforms for professionals. Prepare an engaging LinkedIn profile, attach your latest resume, and link to your online portfolio on your profile. When you apply for a posting on LinkedIn or any other job portal, the employers have access to your entire candidature and contact details. AngelList, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Monster, and Indeed are some other popular job portals. You can even find information about an organization’s culture, salary scales, and employee ratings on these sites.
Join Online Communities
Social media platforms like Medium, Facebook, and YouTube offer several online networking opportunities like interactive sessions or online programs. You can use these to expand your UX skills and professional network. Many organizations often post about open internship positions on their social media handles.
The Internship Is Just The Beginning
Securing an internship in a good organization might be difficult, but it’s possible. Persevere, apply, and interview wherever you can. There are plenty of coaching centers and career counseling services offered for those in UX. To complement your internship experience, an accelerated bootcamp could help you transition into a new career track. Our UX/UI Design Immersion comes with 1-on-1 mentorship, career counseling, and a job-guarantee. Check out our outcomes for some inspiration, and we wish you the best of luck on your journey.
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