Today, I received and email from Jen and she made my day. Jen is a senior executive. She started in the agency side and moved to the marketing side. She wanted to share with all of you her take on Internships in advertising and she has some pretty awesome advice for ya.
Juniors, there ARE people out there who want to help you. This gives me hope, we’re not alone! Big thanks to Jen and to all seniors out there wanting to help. We’ll take all the help we can get 😉
This is my own advice and experience, based on my life so far in the advertising industry.
1. Asking questions and getting as much guidance as you can is critical during your internship. However, be sure to take the lead and show how capable you really are. If there are job openings at the end of your internship and you’d like to be hired, the company also needs to know you can work independently if the need arises. Don’t be afraid to make decisions on your own that are within your limits as an intern, and offer ideas for solutions when you come for help with a problem. Companies hire interns as a way of giving back, but they also hire them because they need help.
2. You’ll be on good projects, but take the good with the bad. We’ve all paid our dues at the copy machine and running disks to the printer. Don’t forget that tasks that seem menial are actually very critical to the process.
3. My first job at an advertising agency was answering the phones at the front desk. This was my gateway to agency life, and really helped me to understand each role in the agency with a lot more depth. Start here with your internship, if you can. You’ll find out more about agency life than you could ever dream of. This is also where you can really get to know your coworkers. In a lot of ad communities, most of the employees have worked at a couple (or more) agencies in town. Even if there isn’t an opportunity to get hired at the agency you’re interning for, these guys probably still know someone at another shop where they used to work, and can help to at least get your resume in the right hands.
4. Some ad people don’t drink. Some drink enough for the ones that don’t. And increasingly, in the current job climate, more agencies have one person doing the job of two. This means, after a 15 hour workday, a lot of folks are going home to see their spouse and kids for a precious few minutes before it’s time to catch a few winks and do it all over again the next day. But– if your agency has events, going to them is VERY important. Always, always find ways to network, whether it’s within the company or through local business or advertising organizations. Nothing has been more valuable to my career than the contacts I’ve made through the Advertising Federation of Louisville.
5. Some people choose to leave the business after their internship. (Sometimes after their first paid job.) Ask yourself this before you decide, though: Is it me, is it the job, or is it just the agency I’m working for? Some agencies don’t operate like a typical (or desirable) agency would. Ask around. See if your agency has a reputation for being a not-so-good place to work. It might just be a bad situation.
Last, as for paid vs. internships, Luke Sullivan wrote a great blog post about this, titled ‘Interns should be paid. With money.’ Basically, internships are valuable to the intern, with ‘on the job training’ and experience for a resume, but when interns are doing the same work that paid staffers are doing, but for no money, that’s a little hard to swallow. Luke mentions a recent New York Times article, where even the legality of unpaid internships [the way they are practiced in agencies now] is in question:
The New York Times article went on to say there are “six federal legal criteria that must be satisfied for internships to be unpaid. Among those criteria are that the internship should be similar to the training given in a vocational school or academic institution, that the intern does not displace regular paid workers, and that the employer ‘derives no immediate advantage’ from the intern’s activities — in other words, it’s largely a benevolent contribution to the intern.”
Now, we’re not talking about going half-sies on the art director’s salary when an intern creates a published piece. But, minimum wage? A bonus maybe? After all, the client paid the same as whether an art director or intern created it.
It’s not that an unpaid internship should be out of the question. Especially if you can take an internship and not have to pay for an extra elective. But choose carefully.
Thank you Jen!!