As the summer comes to an end and I get ready to go back to college, I have been reflecting on my whole internship experience leading up to this point. Though it has been challenging at times, the internship process has been very influential and crucial to both my career development and my growth as a writer. I feel that it is important for both students and potential intern employers to know what the internship process is really like from someone who went through it at just 19-years-old.
My internship experience can be divided into two parts: the search and the internship. This fall, I will be returning to Endicott College for my sophomore year. I am a Marketing Communications major and an Events Management minor. Part of what makes Endicott so great is the internship program. Before we graduate, students are required to complete two 120-hour internships and one semester-long internship. We take classes to prepare us for the internship/job hunt. The class and the internship center at Endicott helped me style my resumè, but no class could prepare me for the hunt. With my extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, and 3.96 GPA in college, I thought that getting an internship would be a breeze. I was very wrong.
I would search the Internet for internship opportunities and advertising agencies where I would want to work. I contacted a few at a time, thinking that at least one of them would be happy for a winter or summer intern. Time after time, I would be either rejected or outright ignored. After all of the work I had put in, I wondered why no one wanted me as an intern. Talking to some older students who had gone through the process before, I learned that a lot of places did not want to hire an intern so young. I had no official experience in advertising despite my classes and retail sales background. All of my upperclassman friends shared that they also had trouble finding their freshman year internship.
Finding this internship at McDougall and Duval taught me a very important concept in any field: networking. I had been told my whole life how important networking was, but I did not realize how helpful it was until I used it. One of my senior friends competing in the National Student Advertising Competition with me noticed my struggle to find an internship and recommended that I try this agency. She had interned here and enjoyed the experience. When I reached out, I made sure to mention her name in the email. Dan Duval immediately got back to me, and by January I had my summer internship lined up. Thanks to our mutual connection, I ended up here and gaining a great experience in the field.
McDougall and Duval hired me as an intern when no one else would. Why? I will admit that a huge part of it had to do with networking. However, this agency was willing to work with a 19-year-old college freshman because its team truly understands the purpose of an internship. It is not necessarily for a free employee. If a company hires an intern and expects a free employee, they are in for a rude awakening. An internship is meant to teach students and give them experience. They can produce great work for you, but they need to be taught how. That being said, the age of an intern should not be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to hire them. Who is to say that an 18-year-old will not be a better fit for your company than a 22-year-old, or even a 45-year-old? In addition, experience can be a factor in choosing an intern, but it should not cloud your judgement. After all, how can a student gain experience without someone giving them a chance? The best intern could be young and have little field experience, and sometimes it is beneficial to take a chance on him or her.
Once my internship began, I had a year’s worth of college experience and marketing communications classes with me. Since starting here, I have had the opportunity to work with many different clients and learn several skills. Here are my five greatest learning experiences from interning at McDougall and Duval.
This summer, I have become the resident Gen Z blogger. I have been researching and writing blogs about who Gen Z is and how to reach them. Not only did I learn about the generation and advertising through my research, but I also learned more about market research itself. I worked on finding credible sources about the market and interpreting my findings to create my blogs.
Through and through, I have always been a writer. I entered my major with the intent on becoming a copywriter, and started to realize that public relations was my true calling. The best part about writing these blogs is that it is a style of writing that I had little experience with. It was nonfiction writing to be published, but I was given creative freedom to pursue any topic and angle that I wanted. I had to know my target market to be successful, but I had a lot of leeway in regards to my writing and research. These blogs are some of my best works ever because I was genuinely interested in the topics, and they were my own. I did not have a structure or rubric to hold me back, allowing my skill and talent to be used to its full potential.
I know it sounds odd to say I actually saw value in meetings, but the ones that I attended were surprisingly good learning tools. I sat in on several meetings on a variety of topics, from client meetings to brainstorming sessions. First of all, I learned a lot about meeting dynamics. It was interesting to find how one meeting was different from another depending on the setting and participants. A typical brainstorming meeting would be out on the deck (yes, our office has a deck) and very casual. A new client meeting would be a little more formal, being held in the conference room with the attire being business casual. Every meeting had a different dynamic to it, and I learned to quickly read the setting and act accordingly.
Meetings also struck a chord with me because I participated. I, the 19-year-old college intern, participated in meetings. I did not just sit in the corner and watch like a lot of interns do. Endicott always stresses the importance of experiential learning, and what better way to learn than to participate? More importantly, my input was actually valued. I remember how excited I was when Dan and Mia liked my idea in a brainstorming session and actually pitched it to a client. As the internship went on, I was asked to sit in on client meetings and provide my input. Not only was this a major confidence booster for me, but it showed me that both the creative team and the clients were open to new ideas and fresh input. As I proved myself to be useful to the campaign, I was given more responsibility and more voice. My age and lack of experience did not matter. I knew what I was talking about, and both the agency and its clients could see that.
- New Business:
New business is crucial to the success of any advertising agency. I spent a lot of time researching potential clients, working on mailers to send out, and completing follow-up calls. The key point that I learned is persistence. Despite being ignored or turned down, we never gave up looking for new clients to provide the next creative challenge for us to conquer. When we got responses, we did everything in our power to build a relationship with the client. That way, we would get and maintain the client. Building relationships is the most important thing to keeping and successfully working with clients.
I was also interested to see the process of beginning a new campaign. Over my time here, I saw rebranding, seasonal campaigns, and even start-up companies. The approach to each campaign was very different depending on the client, what that company was looking for, and how established the brand was. Some campaigns would start with research, and others would jump right into creative brainstorming sessions. I was amazed at how different the process of creating campaigns was every time.
- Cultural Influence:
I spent my first semester of college in two different classes discussing how media and culture influence each other. During my second semester, I took Public Relations. I knew that I would use what I learned in Public Relations, but I had no idea just how much I would need the information that I learned in Media and Culture 1 and 2. I mostly used it to detect possible PR mistakes before they happened in an advertisement. I also noticed how my understanding of the culture played a role in the media mix. For example, we were discussing how to reach a Gen X market, and a major portion of the digital budget was going to Facebook advertisements. Studying society and culture is important in advertising and public relations in order to better the brand image and reach the target market.
Before this internship, I had interned at a credit union. Though I enjoyed the internship, it showed me that, at least for now, I did not really want to work for one company. I wanted to be in an agency setting with a variety of clients and plenty of unique creative challenges. I have pictured myself in a large public relations and/or advertising agency in Boston. However, I wanted to use Endicott’s internship program to explore different types of advertising and public relations employers. I was excited for the opportunity to work at a smaller agency. While I still see myself working for a larger agency for a while, I liked the philosophy here. They are very client relationship focused. They measure success by the client’s success, not by how much money they make. Every client gets 100% of the team’s efforts. I was happy to work at a place that, though smaller, cares so much about the clients. This philosophy is something that I will look for in future internships and jobs. I want to work somewhere that builds a relationship with their clients and stays true to its ideals. After all, life is about more than just money.