THIS IS NOT A FOOT-IN-THE-DOOR BUSINESS
Getting a job* in advertising and design is not a who-you-know business. A great book makes the introductions, not your resume. So internships are not very valuable unless you also get great samples for your portfolio. It’s not that I’m anti-internship, it’s just I don’t think it’s your best strategy. Time spent working for little or no money is time not spent working on your portfolio. (In some instances, as the New York Times recently pointed out, it may illegal for companies not to pay their interns.)
After all, your resume is little more than a conversation starter.
“Oh, you were in the Peace Corp…that’s very cool…let’s see your book.”
“Oh, you interned at an agency…that’s cool…let’s see your book.”
Creative Directors just want to see great work. That’s very good news, by the way. It means hard work is justly rewarded. It’s probably best to look at the situation this way: it’s your book that gets hired; you’re just along for the ride.
*By “job,” I mean copywriter, art director, designer at an agency or design firm. Not intern, assistant, production coordinator or any position where you don’t need to show a portfolio.
Jeffrey Epstein is a former Creative Director and copywriter at agencies in New York and Chicago and is currently the Director of the Chicago Portfolio School. The school always pays their interns.