Five Tips For Nailing Your Agency Internship

May 15, 2013

late night at Fast HorseLook at you. Fresh diploma, shiny new kicks, a fancy new briefcase and your whole career in front of you. Yup, you’re ready to plunge into the “real world,” and for many, that starts with an internship. Or two. Or three.

I started my career with a couple internships, including a summer internship that lasted 12 years before I decided to start my own agency. I’ve hired and worked with well over 100 interns in my nearly 25-year career, and have seen many of those interns go on to very successful careers, either in the agency world or elsewhere.

So, what’s the secret to getting the most out of your agency internship? Here are five tips. Take ‘em for what they’re worth:

1. If all you do is focus on developing marketing skills, you won’t get much out of your internship. We can’t make you a better writer in three months. And we won’t make you more creative. Or a better designer. Or more strategic. But what we can do is help you decide if you are wired for agency life. It’s not for everyone. Your job is to figure out if it’s for you.

2. Make it a point to develop relationships. Some of my best friends are people I met during my internships. They are people who showed me the ropes when I was a young pup, became sounding boards as my career began to take off, and served as strong advocates when I risked everything to start my own firm. And, most importantly, they are people who remain dear friends today. Anyone who has ever had a successful internship will tell you the same thing.

3. Don’t be too eager to please. Relax. Show some initiative. Stay busy. Do the stuff you have on your plate well. And don’t take on more than you can do well. Be organized, meet deadlines and make sure your work is not sloppy. In short, nail the little stuff. That will always matter no matter where your career goes.

4. Keep your eyes open. Watch your colleagues. How do they conduct themselves? How do they deal with clients? With subordinates? With peers? With superiors? What makes them good at what they do? And then attach yourself to those who model traits you admire. Ask questions. Get feedback. Milk ‘em for all they are worth.

5. Have fun. Look, there’s not much riding on the internship. It’s a few months in a long career. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll sparkle in some situations. And if you approach it the right way, you can have a lot of fun, learn a lot about yourself, and maybe even find a toehold on a career you love.