Internships: The Hunger Games for promising advertising hopefuls. A handful of chosen ones, competing for the ultimate prize: a job offer. The winners advance on survival instincts, ingenuity and strategic alliances. But the interns aren’t the only ones with something on the line. For many agencies, like Carmichael Lynch, who is re-launching its program in 2013, internships are the pipeline for fresh, young talent. And just as college grads must compete over a finite number of internships, agencies must also compete to land the most impressive and promising candidates. And it doesn’t stop at recruiting. Agencies need to train, inspire, and challenge interns in order to truly evaluate the long-term value they can add to their agency. As a head start, here are 13 tips for the 2013 class of interns.
Ultimately, interns must remember that this opportunity is as much for them to test-drive an agency and the industry as it is about an agency to evaluate them. And the more immersed you are, the easier it will be to make that determination. The best agencies will invest time in their interns because the pay-off is not three months of cheap labor, but rather a sustainable talent pool for years to come.
Stand out by fitting in. Today’s best agencies favor teamwork. Defer credit to your colleagues. Your work and attitude will speak louder than anything you can say about yourself.
Dress for the office, not the club. As an intern, you’ll be making many first impressions. And despite the casual working environment, don’t let what you’re wearing distract from what you’re doing. Ladies, reserve the micro-minis and low-cut tanks for the dance floor. And guys, no one wants to see your jagged toenails. Ditch the mandals.
Impress the Chief Mailroom Officer. Treat all agency employees with the same respect and courtesy. Greet them by name. Ask about their day. Often it’s the people that work in the mailroom or at the front desk that will make your job easier.
Avoid a TWI (Talking While Intoxicated). Another benefit of agency life is frequent access to alcohol at parties and happy hours. But when the beer flows freely, so tend the conversations. Watch what you say and don’t become water cooler material.
Don’t let your smartphone make you look stupid. A notebook and pen are your best weapons. Be engaged in meetings. Close your laptop screen and don’t be distracted by social media. The retweet about Amanda Bynes can wait.
Punch the clock. Always check in with your manager at the beginning of the day and before leaving the office to ensure there’s no additional work to be done. Sometimes the best opportunities for interns come after 5 p.m. (plus you get overtime pay).
Find a mentor. This person may or may not be your assigned manager. Find someone that’s approachable and will answer your questions and help you understand the inner workings of the agency.
Be a stairmaster. Get away from your desk. Resist the urge to send an email. Every bit of face time you log will help you become more engrained in the agency’s culture, build relationships and increase your visibility.
Exceed expectations. Don’t meet deadlines, beat deadlines. Do what was asked of you, but always add something more. Think strategically even when asked to act executionally. And if you have a question or problem, always go to your manager with a proposed solution.
Pitch in on pitches. A new business pitch is advertising’s baptism by fire. In a short period of time, you’ll see all aspects of how an agency works and get access to senior executives. And there are usually a lot of free dinners.
Join the softball team. Embed yourself into the agency’s culture. Join teams and committees. Help plan the summer party. Meet as many people as you can. Ultimately, make it hard for an agency to say goodbye to you.
Be a student of the industry. Keep those study skills sharp. Follow industry leaders on social media. Subscribe to publications and e-newsletters to keep apprised of trends, breaking work, and agency news.
Ask for feedback. Most internships only last the summer. Don’t wait until three months are up to ask for feedback on what you’re doing well and what you could be doing better. It could be too late.
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