So You Want to Intern in Advertising…
By Amy Urso — originally written in 2018
On every personality questionnaire you describe yourself as “creative.” You secretly light up when your professor tells your group to brainstorm. You’re “the idea guy” in your marketing classes.
Now just one semester away from graduation, I am just like you. I wanted more than anything to intern in an advertising agency. Well, there’s hope… I did! After about four months at Adams & Knight, I have tips to share from my side of the table.
Expect creativity — always.
It often seems that college students aspiring to work in the field of advertising fantasize about working with big name, flashy clients … and only those. From my time interning at an ad agency, it’s become clear that the opposite is true. Truthfully, there are no “boring” clients – this is advertising!
In the words of Harvey Danger, “if you’re bored then you’re boring,” and there’s no room for that in this field.
You can feel just as much of a creative rush designing ads for a company that sells thumb tacks as you can for one that sells glow-in-the-dark jet packs (not that I’ve done this before) – and if you do not, perhaps you need a new angle. No matter what, making ads requires innovative thinking, storytelling, and ultimately captivating your audience… which is always rewarding.
Connect all the dots.
No one lives on their own island here. The creatives don’t have their own separate camp far away from PR or account management. Everyone and everything is incredibly integrated.
Your secret weapon as an intern? This: the power of asking. You’re there to learn, to expand your understanding of the field … and of yourself. If you like what you see happening on the other side of the room, ask to try it out! Don’t just connect with those in your own department – link up with everyone you can and make this experience your own.
Don’t fret about writer’s block.
Though you don’t want to hear it… you will get stuck. Your pen will be prancing on the pad, you’ll swear someone tied balloons to your heart, and then out of nowhere, your momentum will slow. You might tighten up, you might walk to the bathroom eight times to get your mind flowing, or you might scour your bag for something to help a headache. You also might convince yourself there’s somehow more pressure as an intern – that’s not the case.
Like greatness in anything, you usually don’t start out as good as people who have been doing this longer than you’ve been alive. When you get stuck, get inspired instead! Look at successful campaigns and figure out just what makes them so interesting. Sometimes all you need to get back in the groove is a little insight.
Find somewhere to belong.
Find the agency that’s right for you. While that’s different for everyone, I will say this: unless you are desperate to get your foot in the door with a specific company, try agencies that want to help you. If you get the vibe that your job description is mostly getting coffee and making copies, I’d probably explore other options.
While there is value in paying your dues, I have gained a much better understanding of my own career path by interning at an agency that desires to help me discover it. Heck, I’ve had the CMO offer to get me coffee. While this probably won’t be the case at most agencies, find somewhere that will actually give you the learning experience you’re looking for.
Do your homework.
Before interviewing, do your research – on the company, I mean. Know who their clients are, what they do for them, and especially why you fit in. I know you investigated your college roommate’s Facebook page before move-in day (admit it), so why wouldn’t you do the same with your future company? Besides, you don’t just want them to feel like you fit in, you want to feel that way too … genuinely!
Now in 2022, I have good news to share – my internship led to a job. The connections I made at Adams & Knight eventually helped me land a position (my goal position!) as a Creative Copywriter.
For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to create ad campaigns, play a major role in TV spot production, write social posts and content marketing pieces, work alongside seasoned art directors, and ultimately see my ideas come to life.
So, one last piece of advice? When you find your passion… go for it.
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