At the end of my 3-month internship in an advertising agency, I took some time to think and reflect on all I’ve seen and done. I’ve come a long way in understanding account services, and the ups and downs of agency life. Of course the majority of what I learned was useful job skills: writing briefs, client relations, coordinating production, balancing client requests with creative work load etc. There are, however, three widely applicable take-away points I gained from my internship. Hopefully current interns will find these especially helpful.
1. Don’t wait for permission
This is not to encourage recklessness. What I mean is, have all your ‘guns’ loaded and ready at all times. Keep up with your co-workers. Then as soon as you see an opportunity, jump in! Start on a job before your boss can ask you.
It sounds obvious, but the right opportunity is hard to find. You have to anticipate where extra help will be needed, without having all the information.
I listened to almost everything the girls across from me said. I read through hundreds of our files to stay up to date on the client projects. When the girls were gone to a meeting one day, I finally got my big break. I had picked up just enough info to know what files needed to be sent, and how to process them. This meant I was instantly on the client’s radar, and deemed a capable new team member.
If I had processed them incorrectly, I could have caused trouble. But since I got it right, everybody was happy!
2. Get key people on your side
On your very first day in the office, pick out who can dictate your future. Obviously your boss or director is one. But s/he may not be the most important person to impress.
Find opinion leaders, those well-respected, with tenure, or some sort of leverage. Most importantly, though, find someone with a heart to help. No matter their position, a helpful person who likes you will do all they can to see you succeed. A director probably won’t.
How do you get them on your good side? Always keep a positive, pleasant, can-do attitude. Give everyone more respect than they deserve. At the same time, scope out your opinion leaders. Find out what they best respond to, how they communicate, and what they hate about their job. Then, you wait for your chance to show them you care.
For one person, show them you care about their stress level. For another, care about the project outcome. For another, care about their opinion, and so on. Eventually, you’ll have connected with everybody on what matters to them.
I found a chance to impress a workmate by vocally contributing in his meetings. He later fought to keep me on staff.
3. Stay out of the drama
If you take my last advice, you may find that trash talking is a good way to connect with someone.
But be smarter than that!
In my opinion, it’s best to keep a bit of ‘professional mystery.’ It’s easier to impress people and take risks. Of course, showing your personality can help you connect with your office mates. But the less someone knows about you, the less they can stereotype or put you in a box.
In my line of work, we have demanding clients that frustrate us, and like to push our buttons. During my internship, I didn’t want them to know my buttons! I kept my head down and stayed out of any passive-aggressive emails.
There will be chances to risk a bit and share personal opinions. Go for it! But being too outspoken early on can alienate you. If you complain about the director with a senior workmate, always assume what you’ve said will come out eventually.
Every work place is different. Every industry is different. For my experience, three behaviors stayed with me, and made more impact than all the duties I learned. I am so glad I had a chance to learn positive office attitudes. I will take these three into all my future jobs.