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How to Find an Automotive Design Internship

Mon, Jun 11, 2012

Internship Information

If you are interested in a career in automotive design, rest assured you’ve chosen a fantastic field. The automotive industry has made great strides in coming back from the market crash of 2008, and top designers are in demand and well paid regardless of what company you end up with. In addition, you can travel the world, working for top designers in Japan or Europe. It’s a diverse and rewarding line of work, but it won’t be simply handed to you. Automotive design is highly competitive, and you’ll have to work your way into it with long hours and the right connections. The best first step may be landing an internship with a well-regarded automotive manufacturer. If you’re entering your third year of college, now is the time to start looking. Here are a few tips to help you find a great internship in automotive design.

First off, make sure you’ve got a solid background in the subject matter. Have you taken the right courses, or signed up for relevant courses at a university that has an accredited program? Automotive design is very specific, and though you may have a high interest level, you’ll have to show companies that you already have a solid understanding of the basics and a certain aptitude for them to take a chance on you.

Next, reach out to the career center at your school to see what they have available. Large companies will go there directly to find the best talent, so scour their listings or talk to an advisor about what sort of opportunities may be coming down the line in the next two semesters. Talk to advisors or professors in the design department as well. Many of them probably worked for corporations doing design, so any references or recommendations they can give you could prove invaluable.

You should also hit up the university job boards as well. Most schools have physical job boards posted in the career center, as well as online postings. Check outside the university at internship and career databases as well. You may end up finding the perfect opportunity doing a larger search. Start with ‘automotive design’ as your keywords for searching, but branch out with related words as well.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the knowledge of students who are further along. Upperclassmen you’ve been in classes with or know socially may already be in contact with great companies, or even work in places you would like to approach. See who can give you a suggestion. They may have some inside knowledge as to what companies are looking for interns, and if they’ve successfully been through the internship process, they may be willing to refer you to the hiring manager at their company.

Finally, reach out directly to automotive manufacturers that do design. Consider if there is a specific area of design that you are particularly interested in, and reach out to those departments at each company. See if you can set up an informational interview, to find out about their opportunities and what they are looking for. It may turn into a chance to interview, but at the very least you’ll get to know how these places look for and choose their interns. In the end, be willing to create your own opportunities. You may be passionate about Toyota engines, but they may have never taken on interns before. If you can prove to the department heads that you’ll bring real value to the table, they may be willing to explore having you as an intern, or at least recommend you on to another department.

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