In college, summer meant three things. Insane heat, the end of school and internships. I served as an intern at two different agencies as a student, which helped me prepare for a future career in this business.
Now, I find myself on the other side of the table. As CurrentMarketing’s internship coordinator, it is my job to find the best and the brightest and give them a peek at life inside an ad agency. Since I have been on both sides of an internship program, I thought I might share five quick tips that might help you land that perfect agency internship.
1. Be Unique. As simple as it sounds, the easiest way to eliminate yourself from getting an internship is to have a bad résumé. Internship coordinators receive hundreds of resumes each year, so the first step in the elimination process is to pitch resumes with typos, grammar issues and bad designs. Instead, try to keep your résumé short and succinct. No résumé should ever be more than one page. Also be sure to use a type face that is readable and never use a résumé template. Instead make your résumé unique whether it be a different paper size or an interesting layout. Just remember internship coordinators can tell when you have used a template. Be sure to send your résumé in multiple formats, but always include a PDF version. This way, the coordinator can easily print and review your information. The key is to have a resume that is unique, professional and easy to read. If you can do that, you are well on your way to landing a spot inside an agency.
2. Be Confident. The number one trait I look for in an intern is confidence, especially in interviews. This is the time to brag on yourself, tell the interviewer why you are better than every other candidate. Bring work samples and share stories about your experiences as a leader. Confidence also means dressing appropriately. Although you are seeking an internship and not a full-time position, you need to dress as if it were a job interview. Guys, buy a suit and get it tailored. For the ladies, be sure to sport your best business suit. As always for interviews, be on time and armed with extra copies of your résumé and relevant work samples. If you can stick to these basic guidelines, your interviewers will know that you are confident, well prepared and ready to take on the challenges brought on by an internship.
3. Be Passionate. Regardless of the agency, all of us want interns to have a passion for advertising, particularly for the world advertising agencies. That being said, be sure you are well read on the industry. If you don’t already read the trade pubs (Ad Age, AdWeek, etc.), be sure to do so before you apply for an internship at an ad agency. Passion will always outweigh skill. A candidate who lacks experience, but has a passion for the business will always trump someone who might be more qualified but has no idea what goes on inside an agency. Similarly, make sure you do your research on the agency. Familiarize yourself with their clients, work and people. The more you know, the better you will look in your cover letter and interview. I always ask candidates which client of CurrentMarketing’s they would most like to work with. As you might imagine, those who give me a blank stare in return never set foot in our agency as an intern.
4. Be Patient. This lesson is the hardest to learn, even looking back at my own experiences as an intern. The fact is that internship coordinators have other positions in the agency. They might be account executives, creative directors, media buyers or in my case, a research analyst. That being said, please be patient during the application process. Do not bombard the internship coordinator with telephone calls and e-mails as this might ruin your chances. Just remember we have not forgot about you and we will get back to you as soon as possible. So, try not to worry. The best thing to do is respond quickly when an internship coordinator reaches out to you and remain patient throughout the selection process.
5. Be Yourself. This one seems obvious, but it’s very important. The primary purpose of an interview is to see if you are a good fit for the agency’s culture. If you have made it to the interview round, know that you are qualified and now its more about your personality matching the agency. This is why you want to be yourself. If you’re a comedian, crack a joke. If you’re shy, admit it. Perfectionist? That’s okay. Agencies are made up of all sorts of people, but honesty is the golden rule. After all, you don’t want to get the position only to realize you hate everything about the agency life. Its beneficial for both parties to be honest in order to select the intern that best fits the agency in terms of qualifications and personality.
So there it is. Five quick tips to help you land the perfect internship. Internships are the best way to prepare for a career in this business, regardless of your course work or preexisting knowledge on advertising. Here’s one more piece of advice. Keep in mind that everyone fails. To give an example, I applied for more than 100 internships throughout college. So never get down on yourself if you don’t land your first, second or third choice of internship programs. So, be confident, passionate, patient and always be yourself. If you can manage that, I have no doubt spending a summer in an agency will be one experience you will never forget.