5 Tips to Make Your Internship Count
Here it is. The secret list you have been searching for to make your internship a success. For interns, by an intern.
You made it through the interview where your prospective boss asks you questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or if you applied at a trendy start-up, “If you were a fruit, which fruit would you be?” But you answered well, and you landed that internship for the semester. You probably aren’t sure what to expect. Maybe this is your first “Big Boy (or Girl) Job.”
Everyone says that an internship is the best way to get real experience, it looks great on a job application, yada, yada, yada. You’re different than most people, right? Wrong. You are in the exact same position that literally thousands of students and graduates across the nation are in, and if you are fortunate enough to be interning at an advertising agency, the pinnacle of field experience, you need to make the most of your time. Here are some pointers I’ve picked up during my first month as a B&Cer:
1. Be humble – your coworkers know more than you do. Walking in on your first day confident and ready to tackle any job your boss gives you is awesome, and will make a great first impression. But be teachable. You are there to learn and gain experience, and the best way to do that is to let the people around you teach you. Be transparent about the things you don’t know or aren’t familiar with, and be willing to put in an honest effort to learn them. Show that you are eager to learn and you will be rewarded.
2. No job is below you. Working on the big presentation for the new Coca-Cola campaign is every advertising student’s dream, but sometimes a light bulb needs to be changed. And when it does, you better be the best light bulb changer in the office. Agencies thrive on teamwork. It’s what makes the dream work. (Someone should coin that.) Make it clear that you are eager to help in any way you can. Show that you are a team player, and more exciting work will come your way.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but don’t ask every question that pops into your mind. Perhaps the most valuable skill I have learned during my time with B&C is how to problem solve – particularly in areas outside my comfort zone. If your boss gives you instructions that you are unclear on, ask him to clarify. But don’t bother him with the mind-numbing minutia of every task. He probably doesn’t care if you single-space or double-space your report. If it is concise and contains quality content, he’ll approve. If you ask him if you should use Times New Roman or Cambria, you’re doing it wrong. Show him and your coworkers that you are capable of following instructions while thinking like an adult, and you’ll be golden.
4. If someone offers to let you sit in on a meeting, do it. I remember on several occasions sitting in meetings thinking that my time might be better spent working on a job for a client. Often I felt lost in a meeting because, as an intern, I did not posses the same level of familiarity with the projects as my co-workers. But even through just sitting and observing, listening to the language during a client proposal, or creative brief, my knowledge and understanding grew immensely. And in reality, the only way to gain the knowledge and insight necessary to contribute in meetings…is to sit in and actively listen during meetings. It’s a crucial part of the teamwork that makes agencies successful. So sit in on those meetings, take notes, and offer to type them up for your boss afterward. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll learn from it. (Win, win, am I right?)
5. Set goals. Internships are about growth, and the best way to measure that is by setting goals for yourself, and evaluating those goals at the end of your semester. Start by setting three goals for yourself, each slightly more specific and more challenging than the last. For example, your goals might be:
• To gain a better understanding of how an agency operates
• To gain experience working on accounts with clients
• To obtain a job at the agency as an account coordinator
By setting goals for yourself, you accomplish two things. The first is that you give yourself a clear and objective rubric with which to evaluate your time at your internship. At the end of the semester, you can look back at the goals you set and decide based on the results, if you think you benefited from working there. The second is that by writing these goals down, you bring them to life. They become real, and you will strive to achieve them. Side note: One of my goals for this internship was to have my writing published. Check.
There they are. The Big 5. By no means is this an exhaustive list of how to be successful at an ad agency, but it’s an excellent jumping off point for interns who are unsure of what to expect from their new job. These are what I have deemed to be the most important nuggets from my first month at Barker & Christol. More will undoubtedly follow, and some of these may even change by the time my internship here is over. Look for a follow-up article to this one in the coming months. Because it’s one thing to take this advice from an intern who has been with the company for a month. But before long, I will be an intern who has been with the company for three months— so you’ll know you can trust what I say.