The spring semester is often an important and demanding time for students as they prepare to secure summer internships, get ready for graduation, and navigate job interviews. For IIDA Student members, it’s also an opportunity to participate in the IIDA Student Mentoring Program.
This year, on top of the quick transition to virtual and online learning, students must also navigate the possibility of entering the workforce remotely. While being flexible with change and uncertainty can be disorienting, it can also be a useful exercise in adaptability and resiliency that are crucial skills for any interior designer.
We’ve updated our IIDA Student Mentoring Guides for mentees and students to reflect virtual mentoring sessions and tips for how to maximize the experience. For entering the professional world and connecting virtually beyond academia, we’ve also gathered some tips and best practices to ensure that you feel confident and prepared moving forward with your meetings, networking, and interviews.
When you arrange a virtual interview or meeting, whether it’s a job interview, informational interview, or mentorship session, setting yourself up for success is key. Preparation will help you look and feel confident.
Once you have a date, time, and method set, test your technology. Have you used the program or app that your contact has chosen before? Do a test run, paying attention to your audio and video quality. Test your camera out and if you have a headset with a mic use it so that you can better hear and be heard.
Find a space where you can focus and create your own ‘studio’ to avoid distractions from your housemates or your pets. Position yourself in front of a neutral wall or background with your light source facing you. If you’re using your laptop or phone, set them up on a stack of books or another stable surface so that the camera is at about eye level and make sure that your head and shoulders are visible.
Prepare your talking points and any visual presentations that you may have ahead of time. If you’ll be sharing your screen, make sure that the only apps and files you have open on your computer and visible on your desktop are relevant to the conversation.
Before your meeting, make sure that your space and technology are set up, and that you’ll have the space to yourself for the amount of time that you’ll need it. Have your resume available, and gather the tools necessary to take notes.
Prepare yourself by taking a short brisk walk to get your blood flowing and your mind activated so that you’ll sound and feel more engaged in the conversation. You will also want to dress how you would if you were meeting in person so that you feel put together and project professionalism.
Turn your phone off and put it away so that you can fully focus on the conversation at hand—if you’re using your phone, be sure to mute any notifications. Similarly, turn off any sound or visual notifications on your computer that may distract you from the discussion.
When the conversation, interview, or meeting is over, be sure to reflect on what was covered and identify any opportunities that you noticed. You’ll want to send a thank-you note within 24 hours, but allow yourself enough time to identify any lingering questions or comments you may have. If the situation is appropriate to schedule a follow-up conversation or connect on LinkedIn, you should do so within 24 hours.
This is a challenging time for everyone, so remember to be gentle with yourself and patient with others. A great follow-up to an interview is a phone call to a friend or family member so that you can discuss your successes, and consider ways to adjust and or improve for next time. It’s important to reach out to your community to keep you grounded, especially when you may be feeling socially disconnected.
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If you are a design student currently struggling or preparing for your next steps as you graduate in an uncertain time, reach out to IIDA for support. We are your community and we are here to listen and help.