March 5, 2006 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a short-term web design job for the summer (appx. May 20-Aug 30), preferably in a large city, and have some questions on the feasibility, practicality, and logistics of my plans.

I'm a 20 year old student studying in a non-IT field (psychology). I also don't really have much professional experience, aside from a few small-scope projects for local businesses. That being said, I really know what I'm doing with front-end design. I know my way around Photoshop, have toyed with flash, write (by hand) clean, standards-compliant, and accessibility-driven XHTML and CSS. I also have a working knowledge of PHP and am familiar with both the MySQL and Oracle database backends. Summary: I have the skills, just not the experience or schooling. I'm working on a portfolio website (not quite complete, excuse the mess) to show to prospective employers to demonstrate that I truly do know what I'm doing.

I'd like to get out there this summer and find a decent-paying job in the field. If I am able to leave at the end of August at the end of the summer a few thousand dollars richer (after living costs) with a great experience, I'd be happy. I would love to (and would almost prefer to) travel for the job. I'd prefer it to be in a large city somewhere in the US. Some of my top choices would include Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, DC, Austin, and Chicago, but I'm open to just about anywhere. I'd like to rent a simple studio apartment near the area where the job is.

I'm sure that by now it is apparent that I've never done anything like this before. I'd greatly appreciate any generic advice that might help with this endeavor. Some specific points I'd appreciate being covered:
- Is this even feasible?
- Will I be able to find a job that meets my needs, given my lack of schooling and experience?
- Where would I begin a job search?
- Would the cost of living be for somebody with limited needs like myself?

Lastly, if any MeFites work for (or know of) a company whose needs I might meet, please let me know! I'd love to work with or for a MeFite.

Thanks for any help!
posted by charmston to Work & Money (3 answers total)
Since you're just starting out in the world, in some ways your needs are far greater than average. For instance, if you rent a studio apartment, you'll either need (a) one that's at least minimally furnished and with basic cooking supplies or (b) to buy/move that stuff at the same time. Either way, that's a big expense for a mere 3 month visit. You're better off just renting a room in a furnished apt/house. Anywhere around a university, you should have no trouble finding rooms available for summer break. With a toothbrush, laptop, and a suitcase of work clothes, and you can get by for 3 months.

I'm not familiar with how many summer jobs exist for web design, but know that summer jobs are not that exciting for many employers. From their perspective, it's 3 months of paid orientation/training for naught. Unless there's an expectation on both sides that this is leading to a more permanent role within the company, you'll need to find a company that either has a temporary surge of work during the summer months or else make a compelling case for why hiring you short term is profitable for them. (Or, uh, lie about your intentions. Not recommended.)

The market is glutted with web developers who have mad coding skillz plus practical experience managing clients personalities, juggling insane project requirements, etc. What you have are basic technical skillls -- which is not nothing, but is not the complete package needed to secure a competitive wage. If you can earn (gross) a few thousand dollars in 3 months as a novice, that's something worth being proud of. Though with the expensive towns you want to live in, you'll be hard pressed to net more than a few hundred altogether. Still, you'll have work experience and valuable portfolio pieces, as well as the travel memories.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:56 PM on March 5, 2006

Is there a specialized agency you could temp with? I don't know the market for web stuff, but I can't think of an industry where there are many three month contracts to match summer break that pay a good wage. Summer jobs tend to operate on the " we'll train you a little and pay you a little" model (if you're lucky) You seem like you want a regular job, not to be on a placement, or training program.

When I did print production/presentation design type work there were specific agencies that paid very well for people with good skills. Hiring seemed to be based almost totally on tests of your abilities, but you needed to be able to jump in and be productive immediately - there was no training in those positions. Is there a coding equivalent?
posted by crabintheocean at 7:34 PM on March 5, 2006

You should definitely do contract work. Personally I don't care nearly as much about work history as demonstrated proof of ability when it comes to contractors. Contractors rarely deal with clients directly and usually are dedicated to one project, so those kinds of skills aren't relevant.
posted by nev at 8:50 PM on March 5, 2006

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