February 4, 2016
Last night we filled Fast Horse with the future… the future of the marketing industry, that is. We welcomed 50-plus students and recent graduates into the stable for an informational open house to share little bit about Fast Horse, our internship program and to offer some tips for getting a foot in the door.
While it was our most recent open house, it certainly wasn’t our first. A little more than five years ago, I came to Fast Horse for a HAPPO hour, which also was an open-house-style networking event hosted by the ponies and friend of Fast Horse Arik Hanson. After a couple of beers, a lot of mingling and a long conversation with Bob Ingrassia about the agency and its future, I knew I wanted to be a part of Fast Horse.
Fast-forward five years and an internship later, and I’m still here, and still very much excited about the future of Fast Horse and being part of the agency’s growth. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve had amazing opportunities, worked with the best in the biz, challenged myself and grown immensely. I love being able to share my experience and path to Fast Horse with the next crop of future copywriters, project managers, account leads and creatives. There’s a palpable energy in the room and it’s refreshing to be among so many bright, creative people.
Events like last night – or the open house I attended five years ago – are certainly valuable for Fast Horse and they help us get our agency in front of the best and the brightest as they look for the right place to start their career. But it’s also a valuable opportunity for prospective interns and hires to get a foot in the door – literally – and be able to make smart decisions about where they choose to start their career.
The group last night came armed with some good questions, both for the larger group and one-on-one for the mingling session, and one of my favorites was, “What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were a senior in college looking to break into the agency?” In the interest of delivering on expectations, following is some advice I wish someone had told me when I graduated from college and was looking for an internship. After all, we all had to start somewhere and, for most, we start as an intern.
Take people up on offers to grab coffee (and ask if you haven’t already).
Make sure you follow up on your new connections to schedule coffee meetings and continue the conversation. There are many people in this industry who are willing to talk about their experience, offer advice and speak about employment opportunities at their company/agency. Take advantage of it!
The bonus: The more frequently you set up coffee meetings and talk about your experience, goals and why you would be a good fit at a certain agency or company, the more polished you sound during the actual interview. Practice makes perfect, people!
Do your research. Get to know the company – and its employees – well before an interview takes place.
Read the website. Peruse blog posts (cough Peepshow cough) and case studies. Do a little social media stalking. In short, do your homework about the place and why you would be a good fit. This can make or break an interview (or coffee request) and you would be surprised at how just a little bit of digging can go a long way. Agencies, companies and the people who work there leave a big digital footprint. Don’t miss out on an easy way to stand out from the crowd – we don’t want to hire people who want to work at an agency. We want to hire people who want to work at Fast Horse.
Use your network to make connections and get a foot in the door.
Don’t be afraid to ask people in your network to make connections for you, and be sure to follow up on any connections that have been made on your behalf. Interested in a certain agency but don’t know anyone there? Ask someone in your network (teacher, mentor, boss, etc.) who may have an “in” to make the connection. Interested in a specific discipline but don’t know anyone doing that type of work? Again, make the ask of someone in your network. Chances are you have a connection waiting for you somewhere.
Don’t underestimate the importance of culture.
There is no special formula for what type of previous internship or job experience makes a great Fast Horse intern, but we are looking for someone who’s bright, curious, hardworking, has a great attitude and is a good cultural fit. We expect that interns are coming into Fast Horse with minimal experience – after all, it’s an internship – which is why it’s more important to emphasize soft skills and why you would be a good cultural fit. A ton of experience is always a great bonus, but it isn’t always the determining factor. More often than not, culture and the aforementioned list will be big indicator of someone’s success in the internship.
As you’re looking at different agencies and companies, make note of their culture, energy and the people you’re talking to. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, make a mental note about what didn’t jive and refine your search to places that fill that void.
Lastly, it’s okay to take risks… just make sure you can learn from them.
You’re young and there is such thing as taking a calculated risk. Whether it’s pursuing a passion project, traveling the world or taking a couple of small internship opportunities in college that allow you to try something new, don’t feel like you can’t take risks. Nobody expects you to have a ten-year plan, or even a five-year plan, but do think be prepared to talk about how what you’ve previously done has informed where you are today. Take risks, learn from them, grow and challenge yourself. Hell, it’s what we’re all doing every day, too.