Navigating Work-Life Balance During Your Design Internship

One thing that has become apparent to me over the course of the first five weeks of my internship is how important the work-life balance is there. I’m interning at Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy this summer as their digital & creative intern. I’m the first person to intern as a part of the digital & creative team here at Ceisler. They’ve always had more general interns that complete a variety of different types of work and tasks but never one on the digital team, so it’s very exciting for me to be the first.

Going into this internship, I was a bit concerned that due to it being a full-time position as well as on the creative side, it would take over my life and I would become overwhelmed quickly. After settling in, my assumptions were proven to be incorrect. The environment at Ceisler was nothing like I expected. It’s a very small office with only 30 or so people working there. This creates a very close-knit and comfortable dynamic as everyone gets along very well and is very friendly with one another. 

The other thing about the work environment at Ceisler is that it’s very relaxed and fun at times. The people at Ceisler are treated like human beings and not robots working a desk job expected to be at maximum productivity 100% of the time. It’s understood that people do need breaks to not only perform tasks at their best capabilities but also to simply get through the day sometimes.

There’s a lot of trust put into our hands because as long as our work is getting done and is satisfactory, that’s all that matters. However we get there can and does vary from person to person. Things are going to pop up and happen; that’s life. Ceisler gives us the wiggle room to handle these things in whatever way necessary. There’s no difficulty in deciding between work and your personal life; there is a healthy balance.

Staff are afforded the opportunity to have a true work-life balance, which almost seems unachievable in our work-focused society. This is especially unique in the creative field. As an art direction student, I’ve been told on countless occasions how stressful and difficult a field I’ve chosen to go into. Having multiple clients at once who all have different standards and needs is difficult to balance. While there are certainly busier times of year in the advertising and PR industry, I don’t see it becoming particularly toxic because of the environment perpetuated at Ceisler.

If I’ve learned anything so far in my internship, it’s what I do and don’t want in a work environment. I’ve even joked with my supervisor about how Ceisler has set my standards so high in this regard of a work-life balance that I won’t be able to go anywhere else because it simply won’t live up. At least this knowledge will help me scope out what places may or may not be for me. I know the types of questions to ask in interviews to help me determine this. I know now that a workplace that only cares about getting work done without any regard for personal matters and human tendencies is not the type of place I want to work in. Furthermore, I learned that creative environments don’t have to be hectic and overwhelming with 80-hour work weeks. They can be comfortable and conducive. There can be space to cultivate your best work while still being busy.

I’ve learned that to make the best creative work, oftentimes you have to walk away and take breaks from your work to make it the best you can. This can be difficult with deadlines and ingrained mentalities that if you keep working on something for long enough, it will improve. This is not necessarily the case with design work. It’s nearly impossible to know when to walk away from design projects because it’s never going to be perfect or exactly how you pictured it to be. Sometimes I find this is because when working on something for so long, you start to lose an accurate perception of what it actually is.

I had a really good conversation with my boss about this regarding what he suggests to do when this occurs. First, he suggested asking others for their thoughts. This can help you gain a more objective view of your work. Asking both colleagues in design but also non-designers can help achieve this best as they can give very different perspectives. He also suggested thinking back to your original concept and comparing that to where you’re at. it could be better than your initial plan, or it could not quite live up. In the case of the latter, that’s when you know to keep working to push it to the best of your ability.

The experience for your resume and work to add to your portfolio from your internship are great, but you can also learn a lot about yourself, your work, and what environments do or don’t work well for you. These are the types of things that you don’t learn until you’re there and working and can’t be taught in school. That’s what internships are all about.

One comment

  1. Emily, congratulations on being the first digital design intern, that is so exciting! I understand the fear of having your career consume your life, and I am happy this was not the case for you. It is dire for employees to take breaks and relax during the day, especially in a creative space. If it was constant work and no play, I am sure the creative minds of the employees would get strained and not produce the best work possible. When you said that you know the right questions to ask in an interview to determine whether or not a company would be a good fit for you really stuck out to me. The interview process is so important in determining whether or not you feel that it will be the right environment for the career you desire to pursue. Good luck with the rest of your internship, Emily!

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