Intern Week: Deep Thoughts From A Long-Ago Intern

March 30, 2012

Fast Horse Summer Internship Campaign logoEDITOR’S NOTE: It’s Intern Week on the Idea Peepshow. We’re talking internships — why they’re valuable, how to land them and how to make the most of them when you do. If you’re currently on the internship hunt, check out our Summer Internship Campaign. Today’s Intern Week post is from Dave Fransen, a Fast Horse senior director.

I am a firm believer in the importance of internships both during and after college. And I know whereof I speak.

I graduated from North Dakota State University (2011 FCS Champions – Go Bison!) way back in 1996. It was just before the widespread use of email, and social networking was strictly limited to in-person informational interviews.

In my early 20s, I was a bit of a wallflower. In no way a go-getter. I was fortunate that a class assignment had me working on a project at KDSU-FM, the University’s public radio station. That project led to an internship as a news reporter, which then transitioned into a promotions intern. In retrospect, I didn’t learn a lot from the experience, but it gave me just enough writing and design experience to land my first post-college internship… at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Ready to take on the world with a party in back. High school graduation, 1992

Now that felt like the big time! I beat out about 20 candidates and ended up with an office and an assistant. In my three months there, I learned a TON. The inner workings of a very corporate setting. How to manage my time. The importance of honing my writing skills. And so much more.

Later that year I interviewed for internships at three Minneapolis PR firms. Two had no time for me. The third brought me in for a six-month stint that lasted more than eight years. It was the most transformational time of my professional life. I worked on major clients like Hormel Foods and Polaris Industries. I wrote media materials, pitched reporters, planned events, developed budgets. I met some of my best friends, and to this day – 14 years later – I still have the pleasure of working with a few of those people.

The lesson I took from all of this? Without an internship, you’re just another guy/gal with in a sea of degrees. Sure, college is critical, but it does little to actually prepare you for a job. It provides theory and thinking, but it simply can’t supply the perspective and the experience you need to be effective. Or marketable.

Take school seriously. But if you want to get into this business – and if you want to succeed in this business, do what I wish I’d have done during college:

  • Get off your butt and out of your comfort zone. Find something productive to do after class or during the summer.
  • Get experience, or at least get acquainted with people who work in a variety of areas. A real estate office. Agencies. Corporations. Non-profits. Anything is game, and all of it looks great on a resume.
  • Tell people you’re meeting what you’re doing and what you want to accomplish. Ask how they can help you meet that goal.
  • Gain an understanding of what you want and where you want to get it.
  • And most important, be willing to change your life to get your feet wet. You won’t regret it.

Good luck!