Confessions of agency interns: ‘I’ve aged 10 years, but in the greatest way’

As summer enters its dog days, agency internships are beginning to wind down. Some interns may already have their offer letters in hand, others might be planning to head back to school in the fall — if they’re lucky. Either way, any enterprising young person should be able to say they’ve broadened their skill set and gained a better understanding of the field.

Last week we asked agency interns what they struggled with most. This week we approached a new batch to get them to reflect on what they’ve learned. Below, they talk about their most favorite parts and biggest takeaways from their internships.

Excerpts have been lightly edited for clarity.

Art director intern, Boston
This summer has been a reality check. Everyone has to pay their dues and the work is not always going to be desirable. I’ve learned about my work style and the kind of agency I’d like to end up at — one that pushes creative boundaries. But my biggest takeaway has been the people. They’ve proven that if you have good co-workers, your job feels less like a job, and those undesirable assignments aren’t always so bad.

Copywriting intern, Chicago
It sounds very cliché, but the internship will give you back as much as you put in to it. You can’t be the first one out the door at 5 o’clock. If you put in the time and hustle, people start to notice you around. I just dove in head first; I made mistakes early and often, but I asked questions and made my voice heard. Before long, people started asking for my opinion and I felt like a part of the team. For your first internship, I would say don’t take the time there for granted because it goes by quickly. Make your mark and be noticed — for your work ethic, attitude, and energy, not for being the quickest one to the elevator at 5 p.m.

Brand intern, Los Angeles
As a rising senior in college, my classes provided me with knowledge. But physically being in an agency and touching work has provided me with sharpened skills, wisdom of the industry, and more than anything a sense of what being in “the real world” is like. I hold myself to a much higher standard than I do in college. Never would I wake up 10 minutes late and casually stroll into the office as I would into a classroom. Instead, I wake up at 6 a.m. to get to work by 7:30 — two hours early — and start working, creating, and innovating in the calm of the office with a hot cup of coffee. I’ve learned that coasting doesn’t cut it, and that passion and creativity are key. I’ve learned to take diligent notes and communicate by email like an adult (which is an art in itself), but also to have GIF-wars with coworkers. I’ve faced challenges and received constructive criticism, but the one key piece of knowledge I will take away from this summer is wisdom: Wisdom to know when to ask questions, and wisdom to know when to shut up. I feel as if I’ve aged 10 years, but in the greatest way for the future success of my career.

Strategy intern, New York
Advertising is not just about the work, but it’s about the people who create the work. And in order to build that great work, it is absolutely necessary to create working relationships; and really work on them. I’ve learned that folks in advertising want to help but sometimes can be caught at a bad time, therefore they’re not shoving you off or necessarily dislike you — they’re simply just busy. There are some jewels though, who’ll ultimately end up making whatever time they can to meet with you to discuss and answer whatever questions you may have. To those professionals that did that for me, thank you and I am very grateful for your time. Though practice makes perfect (as far as my work is concerned), I learned more in those half-hour conversations than in a day of work.

Creative intern, New York
It has been an amazing experience and I’ve realized that advertising is the only industry in the world where one gets to be his or her complete self. I’ve learned to network for a change. I’m beginning to realize that advertising is all about communication and reflection of thoughts and ideas. I’ve had the chance to develop my skills better, and every time it makes me believe that I’m getting one step closer to being a good creative. I’m from India, and the biggest difference that I see is the level of respect creatives give interns here. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I aim to stay in this country.

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