Five Ways to Maximize Internship

  Roland Cailles

It’s a strange time for college graduates. Most who recently finished school should be ecstatic that step of their lives is over. Instead, I run into former classmates and hear two reoccurring themes – they can’t find work and it’s beginning to affect their self-esteem.

If you’re one of these people, then you may find yourself shooting for an internship rather than an account executive position. My six-month internship with Carolyn Grisko & Associates, for example, just ended two weeks ago.

Unfortunately, the timing was not right for me to translate that internship into a full-time position. Others are luckier. A good associate of mine has interned at Ketchum for several months and may soon be hired on. There’s still hope for those of you seeking the agency life.

Here are the top five lessons I learned from my agency internship. Feel free to use them to your advantage. You might learn something from my experience, and mistakes.

1. Form a Solid Relationship With Your Mentor

Your managers will most likely pair you with a mentor. This relationship is critical to your success.

Your mentor will show you the ropes. They’ll give you most of your work. They’ll offer invaluable insight into your agency’s culture and managing of the day to day. They’ll be your biggest supporter around the office and will let other project directors know of the asset you can be to any client team.

Remember that show Full House, when DJ Tanner had her first day at her new school? She can’t find anyone to sit with at lunch and eats alone in the bathroom stall.

If only someone was nice enough to be her friend that day. Your mentor is your first friend. In fact, at my internship, our mentors took us out to lunch on our the first day. See what I mean?

2. Understand Client Team Structure

Agencies are setup into client teams. Each client usually deals with a senior account executive. The senior account executive then may have a team of account executives and assistant account executives who work under him or her to meet the client’s needs.

Your senior account executives make the decisions on team assets. Approach them for work. Let them know of your interest in the client, and they may bring you onto their team.

You can simply send an email or stop in for a chat. Just say something like, “I’m really interested in learning about the work you do with x-client. Are you free to chat sometime this week?”

3. Identify a Need and Fill It

It might be hard to believe, but you might actually have a particular skill that no one else in the office has. Maybe it’s graphic design skills with Adobe, or HTML and CSS, or social media, but don’t sell yourself short. If it’s in your repertoire, let people know.

Be a little courageous. You may be lucky enough to establish yourself as the go to person in your area of expertise. This is one of the best ways to translate your internship into a full-time position.

4. Pay Heed to Your Intern Review

Your intern review will be like an out of body experience. If you’ve ever been to therapy, it feels like that first awkward session with a therapist.

Now it’s not all bad. You’ll get positive feedback from the intern managers, along with some constructive criticism.

If your managers suggest areas to improve upon, take a proactive stance and do so. Your ability to channel constructive criticism into a positive stands out to managers. It could be the key to extending your internship into a longer assignment. I’m pretty sure it helped with mine.

On an embarrassing note, for example, my managers said I tended to be a little too informal. That means they wanted me to be more professional. Yes, my fellow interns, probably not a good idea to share stories of your drunkenness on the weekends.

5. Your Coworkers Are Just as Important As Your Work

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