There are some important things that you can do now as an interior design student to get you prepared for the interior design world when you leave University. Here are my top 10 tips to get you started.
1. Work Experience – Summer Internships
Actively look for work experience – summer internships, particularly at the end of your 2nd year going into your 3rd year. The experience will be invaluable to you after you have completed your degree as it will open more doors to potential job opportunities. I cannot put enough emphasis on how important and valuable this will be to you.
Obviously make sure that the internship is relevant to interior design and the industry that you would like to work in when you leave University. An internship is a great opportunity that will help you secure a job somewhere after University as you will have the experience.
I did a Summer internship between year 2 and year 3 of University and I am still working there part time. It is the most valuable thing that I have done and I have to say that you will learn a lot more in the industry in conjunction with studying than you ever will through University alone.
2. Start a Blog
Starting a blog is important – you should do this from when you start in year 1 as it showcases your portfolio and your interests in the interior design industry. It can also help to get you noticed – even by companies that you hope to work for some day. This can be achieved by blogging about them on a regular basis – they may notice you.
Don’t be afraid to blog about companies that inspire you, don’t be afraid to get noticed (in a good way obviously). Just call it”professional stalking”. Your blog is also FOR YOU as well as others to see your work and interests.
Also it helps you keep everything that you have done and everything that inspires you in one place. And it’s an easy way for your tutors to see and understand what you have been doing and how you generate ideas.
I didn’t know anything about how to start or use a blog when I first started University, however I tried a couple of sites and ended up here. I chose to buy my own website domain rather than having a standard blog domain as it is more personal to me and makes me more visible. Blogging is a really easy thing to pick up and it’s also really fun.
3. Join Linkedin
Get a head start and join Linkedin to get connections in the industry that you want to be a part of. It’s completely free for a standard account and you can make some great connections.
Make sure that you fill in as many sections on your profile as you possibly can. Show off your skills and get endorsement of those skills – a lot of which will be essential to the industry – hey someone might notice you as companies actively use Linkedin to advertise for jobs and sometimes head hunt through Linkedin.
I use it and yes initially I started off with only a few links – my University colleagues – but after a few months I have many many links to people in the design industry – some of who I know and some of who I don’t – but you never know when you will need that connection. (Above is a Screenshot of my Linkedin Profile as I see it).
Feel free to have a look at my full Linkedin Profile as an example:
4. Visit Shows and Exhibitions
Any opportunity that you get to visit a show or an exhibition – make sure you take it. It keeps you up to date with the latest trends and gives you so much inspiration. There are many different ones each year and they are generally free to get into.
I have been to as many as I could during my time at University and intend to go to many more.
You can see some of these that I have previously blogged about:
A full set of blogs about my inspirational visits can be found at:
5. Exhibit Your Work
From time to time your University may hold an exhibition for your course which people from the industry and other Universities often attend. Make sure you put something of quality on the wall for people to look at. You may get noticed by someone in the industry ans simply showing your work could lead to something new.
Here is a link to some interior design exhibitions that I showed my work in last year and this year:
6. Work on Your Portfolio
Start early on your portfolio that you would like to take with you when you go to job interviews after you finish University. Even if you have completed a project, if you are not 100% happy with it, work it up some more so that it is reflective of you and the rest of your portfolio.
Buy a nice case to display your work in for interviews as it will make you look more professional, and make you come across that you care how your work is displayed.
7. Know Your Design Packages
It is essential in industry that you know how to use your design programmes. You may wish to focus on a couple, but it is also good to have some basic knowledge of as many as possible.
For example, I use Vectorworks, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign which I should be able to get by with in industry. Also because I can use Vectorworks, I have a basic working knowledge of AutoCAD because the skills are more or less transferable. I have dabbled a bit with 3D Studio which I personally find a little more complicated, but it may be because I’m trying to teach myself with the help of YouTube.
I would also recommend a powerful computer with a reasonable amount of RAM for using design packages effectively. For more recommendations, please read the link below to a previous blog post – Essentials for Interior Design Students:
8. Invest in a Suit
When you have some spare money, invest in a suit that you can wear for interviews and work if you get that well earned job that you’ve applied for. It is important to look professional. Having a suit or two is also very useful if you get a Summer Internship.
I started off with some basic suits and shirts that fitted with my student price range. But through earning throughout the Summer, I’ve been able to buy myself a more expensive suit and shirts that I can wear to interviews when I have finished my degree. Still they are nothing too expensive, my new one was around £80. And remember some smart shoes to match.
Personally I also like to wear a suit or some professional clothing when I do my presentations at University as I believe it makes me feel more confident when presenting.
9. Build a List of Suppliers and Contacts
It is good to start early in building a list of suppliers for different materials and accessories that you would consider using in your real interior design projects when you are in employment or self employed.
It is also good to collect as many material samples as possible so that you can get an idea for the type of materials and the suppliers that you like.
I have my own materials library at home for all of the materials that I have collected. I now have an idea of which suppliers I would use in the future.
10. Save some Money
I know that it may be difficult as a student, but I would encourage you to try and save some money for after you leave University. Even if it is only a few pounds per week, it will help. And if you can get some paid work while at University, that would be of huge benefit in helping you to save. Obviously the amount that you can save depends on your situation. Having One Less drink or one less take away at the SU or in Town every time you go out could give you a huge saving at the end of the year.
Additionally, you will need to save some money for your final exhibitions, although the degree show is mainly paid for by the University. If you want to exhibit your work at the Free Range Show in London, you will need to find some money towards transport and food while you are there, or alternatively a hotel and food because it would be ideal for you to be at the show for the duration as potential employers will be at the show looking at your work.
Personally; I am trying to consider both by saving a bit for the future as well as saving for my final year shows.
What Do You Want To Do?
You need to consider what part of the interior design industry do you want to work in. You may not know right now, but after a few projects at University and internships if you have them, you will develop a clearer idea of what you would like to do.
I used to think – “it’s important to have your fingers in as many pies as possible” – but now I think it’s better to pick a sector or two sectors to consider.
For me it is Luxury Yacht Design and Luxury Hospitality Design – They are two sectors that can possibly lend themselves to each other as they are both in the Luxury sector.