Toronto to NYC

Hello All!

My name is Kristen and I am a Canadian studying Interior Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. Over the summer, however, I am living in New York City and working as a design intern at Kramer Design Group!

I’d like to share my experience finding my internship in NYC! It was a long and challenging process – but of course, completely worth it!

When I began my search I was in the middle of my second year at Ryerson. Typically, design internships in Canada are filled by third-years as most employers want students with as much education and experience as possible to offer. I get it, but – I was excited to get started. And I wanted to shoot for something big. I didn’t just want ANY internship – I wanted my first internship to be in NYC!

Sounds like a big goal? Well it did to me and I was unsure of how to even start. But I heard a story of a Ryerson alumni – who graduated years before me – who had a similar goal as my own. This became my first step towards my goal – networking! I dug into LinkedIn and found her contact information – turns out she is now working at Gensler in NYC – and she was the very first person I networked with (no big deal)! We connected over our similar education and she graciously gave me advice on moving forward and navigating the design world in NYC as a Canadian. Amazing! But the work was JUST beginning.

This happened in October. My next step was to put together a timeline for the next few months.
December: Start portfolio. January: Finalize portfolio, resume and cover letters. February: Trip to NYC. March: achieve my goal and a land a design internship in NYC.

Over Christmas break – sleeping in and hanging out? No, no, I spent nearly my entire break waking up early and bunking down on my portfolio. Which spilled into the beginning of my semester. Luckily, I had a lighter semester. Instead of adding another class to move ahead in my curriculum, I put those hours toward job hunting. This was challenging because I was the only one in my program doing this. Not to be secretive, but I was a little hush hush about all I was doing. I found it helped me focus my energy on what I thought was most important… Getting. A. Job. Again, survival tactics caused by the cruel psychology behind putting yourself out there and the vulnerability it makes you feel. Yikes.

By end of January, I finished my portfolio, resume and cover letter – all of which I printed and packaged physically. I decided to take the unconventional approach and send out hard copies to Ryerson Alumni who are working in NYC. Inside of my portfolio I included a hand-written note explaining who I am and stating that I’ll be visiting NYC in March during which time I would like 15 minutes of their time to ask questions about their experience designing in NYC and to receive any and all critiques they could offer on my portfolio.

I heard back from just over half of my portfolio recipients on the day they received them! Everyone was (somewhat surprisingly) very positive and expressed their excitement and surprise receiving something unique and not just more material samples!

I made a mental note to call (sometimes more than once) everyone that I did not hear from when I was actually in NYC. My mentor said how important it was to stay persistent and follow-up on everything after a reasonable amount of time. This is what ended up getting me the job. One of the firms I followed-up with agreed to meet with me on my last day in NYC – and this was the firm that ended up bringing me on!

Although, I wish I had known that quickly!

At my interview, I had an amazing conversation with the Creative Director and Senior Designer. The firm focuses on retail design – which is exactly what I spent my entire fall semester learning about and what I was most interested in. They had just completed the design of the new Chanel Beauty Flagship store in So-ho (amazing). I was able to really connect with this work because I was a professional make-up artist in a past life! They encouraged me to go check out the store and get back to them with my thoughts. So following my interview – I walked down the Highline, up through Chelsea, and into So-Ho and immersed myself into their luxury design.

In my experience, beauty is something so intimate to someone, yet all makeup stores push products on you and invade your personal space at a time when you already feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Kramer understood this and completely shifted the new and modern beauty experience! It’s a space that has a entrance adorned with inset lights that wrap floor to ceiling through the passageway, lockers, a private washroom and seating when you walk in – I am already so comfortable, a feeling I was not expecting! Their whole philosophy at the Chanel Flagship is to promote independence and individualism – a philosophy that truly represents Chanel! The whole experience was quite fulfilling for me – I could combine my two passions in life and two careers – makeup and design. It was definitely a moment where I felt like I was in the right place at the right time, and that my past in the makeup industry was coming full circle into my design world.

Following this wonderfully serendipitous experience I immediately wrote to Kramer about my experience and how I thought their design decisions were impactful for the modern young consumer.

And that was that. I went back to school and didn’t hear back from anyone. Feeling a bit disappointed I re-focused my goal on acing my studies in Toronto – a goal I considered more attainable than a second-year pursuing an internship in NYC

Then one morning in March I opened my email to an offer letter from Kramer Design Group! After figuring out the visa process (which took some time) I moved to NYC in May and started my internship with Kramer. It’s going amazingly so far. Next blog I’ll tell you the details!

Kristen Jensen

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