When you hear the word internship, what immediately comes to your mind? Perhaps images of endless reams of paper for photocopying? Slave labour? Or maybe those little coffee cup trays from the endless cafe runs interns are supposedly meant to do?
Whether these imagines are informed by the woe-begotten tales of a resentful ex-intern you know, or by the countless rom-coms set in New York City, the role of interns is changing and has changed. I would know; I’ve been an intern here at Soak Creative.
Putting aside the unending debate around unpaid internships , it is undeniable that real life experience is the best way to learn. When it’s done right, interning has the ability to develop emerging practitioners both professionally and personally. And besides, not everything in life is handed to us on a silver platter with a six-figure salary (although, I wouldn’t be complaining if that was the case).
Like every other individual with a keyboard and sense of 21st century privilege, I thought I would offer up my opinion. Here’s some unwarranted (but hopefully helpful) advice for any other up-and-coming professionals out there.
If you’ve ever been an intern before, you may be familiar with the difficulties of finding an internship that fits. Before you look for your next form of work experience, here are three tips to make the most of your time and avoid being the office b*tch.
1. Don’t be afraid to shop around
Finding an internship is kind of like dating. Just like prospective love interests, not all companies are equal and no two companies are the same.
As a freelance copywriter in my final year of studying, I was looking for a marketing agency where I could form lasting connections (of the professional rather than the romantic kind). But finding a workplace that suited me was no simple task.
As it always does, it began with an ever-faithful Google search. I shortlisted a few agencies by reading through their previous projects and about pages. Social media stalking isn’t just useful to see what your ex is up to now or to look at your crush’s profile picture circa 2004; you can also use it to find out more about a business and evaluate their company culture.
Once I did my research, I had to be honest and ask myself whether I would fit their culture and whether their culture would fit me. Those two concepts may sound one and the same, but believe me, they are two entirely different notions. If you are introverted and modest, maybe a company made up of loud, brash extroverts isn’t going to be the best fit. Or if you are a forward-thinking, experimental graphic designer, a conservative, corporate company probably isn’t going to work.
2. Find your point of difference
It may sound overly warm and fuzzy, but everyone has something to offer that no one else can. All you have to do is identify exactly what your point of difference is.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the first thing that drew me towards Soak was their run-of-the-mill website. In the same way that chefs usually eat soup from a can, the Soak team are the experts in rebranding who ironically needed an online rebrand. I saw their web content and saw something that I could offer that other interns perhaps couldn’t: I could help them rewrite their website.
Ask yourself the same question: what sets me apart from the competition? Find your point of difference and utilise it.
3. Know what you want out of your internship
If you don’t know what you want to achieve, how are you ever going to achieve it? It’s as simple as that. Identifying your professional goals is the first step to making them happen. I have to admit, this is not my area of strength, but we can learn from my mistakes, right?
Before I began my internship, I knew there were gaps in my copywriting and marketing knowledge, but I found it difficult to articulate those gaps. It’s always difficult to identify things you don’t know, simply because you don’t know them yet! But that’s part of the challenge.
Before you begin your internship – or even before you start searching for it – make a list of goals and skills you want to develop through your placement. If I had made a list such as this, I could have clearly communicated sooner the areas I wanted to improve. If you want to be more than a glorified-coffee-cart or a photo-copy extraordinaire, then figure out what it is you want and communicate it to your superiors.
So what are you waiting for?
Your perfect internship isn’t going to find itself. Get out there and go get it.
If you’re an emerging marketer, graphic designer, copywriter, coder looking to grow your skills in an agency context, get into touch with the Soak Creative team.
You’ll gain invaluable experience and get the chance to collaborate with a passionate community of Brisbane creatives. What’s better than that?