Congratulations! You've made it through your program and you've secured an internship at a creative agency; you're one step closer to realizing your dream.
Internships are meant to give you an opportunity to learn first-hand about the industry: expectations, challenges, and opportunities. Whether it be design, advertising, marketing, or public relations agencies, who you know (and who remembers you) will be key in building your network and expanding your employment opportunities.
Here are 5 ways to stand out as an intern at a creative agency:
Research the agency and its clients before your first day
You may have already done some research while applying for internships, but now you should go back and take a deeper look at the agency. Look at their clients, their creative strategy, awards they've won, read the biographies of senior management. Many creative executives have presented talks or been part of panel discussions; check to see if these are available online in places like SlideShare or YouTube. The more prepared you are, the more confident you'll feel in your first week.
On my first day: I was pulled into a last-minute brainstorming session and was expected to give input on creative strategy. Understanding this client ahead of time was essential for being able to participate on the same level as my peers.
Understand the importance of emerging technologies
This goes beyond I know how to set up a Twitter account. Ten years ago agencies were still trying to convince clients of the importance of a website. Six years ago we were trying to understand how to incorporate YouTube into creative strategies. Four years ago agencies were starting to learn the importance of mobile apps and near field communication.
You are a digital native, while some of your colleagues or bosses are newer to the technologies. They will assume you have better understanding of these technologies.
Be an active listener: ask questions and take notes
As an intern, you are not expected to arrive on day one and understand the entire industry, clients' creative strategies, or scope of work. It is expected that you will ask questions, so don't be intimidated or feel judged; (remember, we were all new to this industry at some point). However, asking the same questions repeatedly may come off looking like you weren't paying attention the first time.
When someone answers your question, write it down and refer back to your notes. Your first week is going to be an information overload and you'll be glad to have those notes to refer back to. Above all else, you are there to learn'active listening shows you're paying attention and taking it all in.
On my first day: I drew a seating map (including everyone's name and desk location). This helped me learn everyone's name, and made it easy to ask specific people questions.
Learn from failure
Everyone makes mistakes; it's how you learn from them and apply that knowledge to your next task that will show your ability to learn, grasp concepts, and turn around great content. Check in with your manager on a regular basis and ask for their honest feedback, which'believe me'is sometimes hard to hear. In the end, it'll make you a better intern than your peers.
On my first day: I was 14 years old and was invited to help with some basic tasks at my father's advertising agency Padulo Integrated. Getting feedback from my manager (who was also my father) was tough to swallow sometimes, but it only helped me learn.
Don't say no
If someone asks you if you have time to stay late and work on a project, the answer should always be yes. Your managers aren't asking you to stay because you're being punished or because they want to keep you from having a social life. They're asking you because every project you work on is experience and, as an intern, your goal should be to gain as much experience as possible.
Rich Padulo is the President of Immersion, a full-service experiential agency that develops in person and online experiences for Mercedes-Benz, smart, Whirlpool, and BMO and recently developed the Ultimate App for in person data capture. Visit Immersion's website for more details on the agency or hear Rich speak as part of an Entrepreneurship talk hosted by Mohawk College in Hamilton.