If you’ve wangled an internship at an agency, make sure you give them a reason to keep you on, or invite you back after uni. It’s all about making yourself invaluable.
I was on the IPA Ad School in 2011 in Client Services/Planning, and subsequently stayed on as a copywriter intern – this trial period was worth doing as I’m not quite cut out for Creative! So to distil some things that I learned the hard way…
Know what questions to ask and when to ask them: being curious is a positive trait in adland but don’t be a nuisance. Anything you could find out online – find it out online. Learn as much as you can about what a planner does, what an account handler does, and so on, and get to know your agency’s campaigns in detail. This is still important even though you’ve got the internship now. Many agencies subscribe to Campaign mag as well as other titles, so borrow these during your lunch breaks to stay up to date.
Ask more about the projects your colleagues are working on. You get a better idea of what they actually do all day (and it’s not reorganising the stationery cupboard) and you can offer more relevant help this way. I often found myself asking “is there anything else I can do to help?” and this is fine, but what would be more useful for them is offering help on a specific task. For example, your agency is positioning a brand’s loyalty card, offer to do research into what other brands are doing in this area. Of course, your colleagues might have already done it, but it makes your mentor’s life easier if they don’t have to ‘invent’ tasks for you.
Make good use of empty time: As an intern you probably have more time on your hands than others in the business. Make use of it. Offering everyone tea won’t build your skills but it does give you a chance to speak to more people. Also, read your company’s blog and decide whether you could write something decent for it. There may be longer thoughtpieces by senior members of staff, but there may also be shorter pieces by other staff members on relevant news in adland. For example, at certain times of year (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, around the Olympics, etc) there will be a flurry of advertising activity and you could do a round-up of some of the best ads during that period, or an emerging theme you have noticed within them. Ask who looks after the company blog, then ask them if your submission sounds suitable – they’re usually always looking for more content to show how switched on the agency and its employees are.
Also look at their Twitter feed, find some interesting links that you think would be suited to their style, then find out who manages it (more networking!) and pass on the links with a very short blurb for each. You could offer to manage the Twitter feed – the New Business/Marketing department probably looks after it – but they might say no as many a Twitter disaster is caused by a rogue intern.
A last suggestion would be to ask to attend as many meetings as possible. Sometimes they will only want to have those who absolutely need to be there, so don’t be offended if they say no, but for the most part it will give a good impression that you want to get stuck in.
All in all, it’s a bit of a balancing act, making yourself memorable without getting in people’s way (and I still haven’t perfected it) but it might be the thing that gets you a Real Job.
This post was featured on the Ad Grads blog (10th Feb), helping students and graduates break into the world of advertising: http://adgrads.blogspot.com/2013/02/getting-most-out-of-your-internship.html