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The secret to a successful internship? We asked the experts.



It’s that time of year again when college students leave the hallowed halls of academia and enter, albeit briefly, the rough-and-tumble professional world to which they someday aspire.

It is, in other words, the season of the summer intern.

PartnersCreative believes strongly in the power of the intern (learn about our new opening). A rite of passage for many, internships provide an excellent opportunity to glean real-world skills while bolstering newly-born resumes. For some students an internship helps narrow down career choices. For others it’s a fast path back to the career drawing board.

For a very select few an internship leads to a job offer, even before final grades have been posted.

Our agency has had many successful interns. We know what works for us when it comes to success — hard work, smarts and a willingness to learn — but we wondered: What works for interns?

For answers, we went to the source: four of our former interns who are now full-time employees with the agency. We knew they’d have opinions. We weren’t disappointed.

Rachael Cheff — Analytics Specialist

My advice to incoming interns is to have confidence in your capabilities and in your experience, even if you’ve never worked in a job like this before. You don’t know something? Ask someone in the office or check the internet, but don’t stress about not knowing everything because you weren’t hired to know everything; you were hired to be a competent problem-solver.

Although I worked throughout my time in college, this was the first time that my job matched what I had been studying at the university, which brought a lot of pressure on me because I felt like I was not qualified to be working here, even as an intern. When I finally realized that it was OK that I didn’t already know every nuance of this job, I felt as though I could finally begin focusing on what needed to be done rather than worrying about not having done this before.

Tatum Hoehn — Account Manager

There WILL BE a learning curve … and it will be steep (that’s what internships are for!).

Understand that how things are done in marketing class or business class may not be how they’re done in an agency (or any workplace really) (in fact, you should assume that going in).

It’s OK to be an intern over the age of 22. I was, for a couple different agencies … and, in the end, I think I was actually able to take more from the experience than many of the younger interns. I was also able to offer more value to my employer because of my other, broader experiences that only come with a bit more age and getting out there and doing / living.

Participate in the fun stuff (National Margarita Day — if you’re legal of course, ski day, lunches, etc.). That’s how you form relationships and get to know the people you work with.

Dayna Niebaum — Assistant Account Manager

When I first started my internship, I kept a notebook with me at all times and would write down all of the words that I needed to look up following a meeting. With any industry there is a lot of jargon that will become second nature to you over time. It’s okay to ask questions along the way but show initiative and be an independent learner.

Expect to be pushed outside of your comfort zone. I went from quietly typing the conference notes to leading status meetings for an app development project with marketing managers at a national company. It’s easy to stay comfortable but good supervisors will challenge you to step up.

Know that your opinion is valued. I offer this advice to you because I’m daily having to remind myself of this, SPEAK UP. When you’re surrounded by marketing professionals who have been in this field longer than you have been alive, it can be a little intimidating speaking up to share your opinion or respectfully disagreeing with a superior. However, you may raise good points or offer a new perspective that the team hasn’t thought about, especially if you are closer to the target audience. This is a very collaborative environment and people respect you more when you share your opinion. Be bold.

Lauren Wate — Media Coordinator

The biggest piece of advice I could give is to embrace a “jack-of-all-trades” mindset. Interning at a marketing agency really opened my eyes up to the world of marketing and all the different avenues that are available within the field.

There is always so much happening at any given moment in an agency — from brand development, to website redesign, to creative ad development leading to the purchase and execution of a multichannel marketing campaign. When interning at an agency, especially a more boutique agency like PartnersCreative, you are exposed to all of these departments and processes to some degree, which gives you a unique opportunity to see and experience the different career avenues available to you in marketing.

Being an intern, people are expecting you to have only limited knowledge of the industry so ask as many questions as you can and utilize this opportunity to learn about and talk to the people in different departments, not just the one you are assigned to.

Your internship won’t last forever, so learn as much as you can about a lot of things while you have the opportunity to. Having this mindset really helped me in figuring out which route of marketing I was most interested in and wanting to become a master at.