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  • February 12, 2015

Studio Internships: A Match Made in Heaven

This week’s Cognition article is brought to you by two fantastic interns here at Happy Cog, Chelsea Myers & Courtney Sabo. Decorative Illustration

Roses are red
Zeldman’s beanie is blue
We love interning at a studio
and we think you should, too

Internships should be treated as an educational experience that can kickstart your career. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we want to express our love for being interns at a digital studio.

While searching for internships, many students in design and web development majors dream of landing a job at a huge, international agency. But bigger isn’t always better when it comes to internships. Although it may sound appealing to have a large agency listed on your résumé, you might get lost in the sea of employees. You could choose a smaller agency that provides more learning opportunities.

We started working at Happy Cog as a part of Drexel University’s co-op program, which requires students to fulfill one (or three) six-month internships before they graduate. At Happy Cog we’re surrounded by talented people who treat us well; it’s no surprise that Happy Cog won last year’s Co-op Employer of the Year Award. Happy Cog has helped us grow professionally and personally. What are the benefits of working at a smaller agency?

Everyone knows who you are.

In larger agencies, being 1 of 100+ people means you have a lot of names to learn, and a lot of people that may never learn your name during your short internship. At smaller agencies, there isn’t going to be a flood of new interns, so it’s almost guaranteed that everyone will know who you are by the end of your first week. If you speak up, your co-workers will know what you want to learn and where your interests lie. You are much more easily heard when you are not one of the ten new interns. And with less interns, you are more likely to find a well-matched mentor or two who will personally help you achieve your professional goals.

You do more meaningful work.

When beginning an internship, there’s no guarantee that you’re not going to become the next coffee runner. But at smaller companies like Happy Cog, it’s easier to carve out a place for yourself.

Taking ownership of a small project is both empowering and inspiring. We have been able to be genuine project contributors who, through our real-world work on these projects, have learned how to create logos, establish design systems, and develop site prototypes and templates for client projects. As a part of project teams, it’s exciting to see what’s being created and to offer a fresh pair of eyes. It’s even more rewarding to see something you helped create go live. And because it’s a close-knit environment, it’s less intimidating for us to offer our opinion to achieve this.

You get close to everyone in the company.

It’s much easier to make strong connections with your co-workers; instead of knowing a little about a lot of people, you learn a lot about a few. The best thing about internships at a studio like Happy Cog is the family you develop. We don’t sit at an intern lunch table; everyone at the company eats lunch together. As interns, we even attended the annual company retreat last August and spent time talking about business goals and generally relaxing, joking, and tubing.

We know our co-workers on a personal level, and they can say the same about us. We feel an immense amount of support for what we do outside of work whether it’s freelancing, creating a business, playing squash, or working on class assignments.

Good internships are supposed to be educational experiences that equip you with the skills you need to start your career. Great internships provide you all this and place you in the midst of a supportive, creative environment that gives you much more than just skills. They give you personal connections and confidence you need to reach your post-internship goals.

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