Way beyond getting coffee: How to turn interns into the next generation of marketing pros

Plot twist: this post about internships is written BY THE INTERN.

My name is Emily, and (as you probably guessed) I am the VantagePoint intern for the summer of 2017. In a demonstration of remarkable trust, I am being allowed to guest blog to give you a glimpse into my internship with the team.

VantagePoint excelled in hosting me, and there have been highlights and challenges that have marked my five-week experience working with them. I hope to share some of these examples in a way that will offer insight into creating the best possible learning experience for your future interns.

Make a good first impression

From the minute I stepped through the door on my first day, I felt welcomed and wanted at VantagePoint. After a tour of the office with introductions to the entire team, I was shown to my desk that featured a big sign that read “Welcome to VantagePoint, Emily!” I felt very official as I opened my special “intern” email and was delighted to see that my calendar held several get-to-know-you meeting requests from the other team members.

Getting to know each person was one of my favorite early intern duties. As an outsider, these individual meetings personalized the company for me and cultivated a feeling of authenticity. I also learned how each member contributes in a unique, helpful way to ensure success for VantagePoint’s clients.

Interestingly enough, I began my internship amid a leadership transition, and even with this important shift going on, both the incoming and outgoing leaders demonstrated a welcoming enthusiasm that confirmed their genuine interest in getting to know me. Overall, despite walking into an unknown environment, I was made to feel at home with the VantagePoint team.

Encourage questions

When I first started, the fast-paced work environment invoked several questions that I timidly Googled later. But I soon realized that my desire to learn needed to trump any inadequacy I felt, so I started asking the questions. I soon discovered that any question I voiced was always met with a willing, sincere response.

I began to pay attention to the things I didn’t know instead of taking note only of terms and concepts I already knew. Whenever I attended meetings or dealt with content for clients, I searched for things that I didn’t know so that I could have more questions answered as I worked towards a more complete knowledge of the marketing world. Making sure interns feel comfortable asking questions is a crucial step to ensuring they gain some valuable information during their time with you.

Assign actual work

My primary interest within a marketing agency is the client services sector. My internship has focused on public relations while also giving me exposure to other areas of the client services world. I specifically requested the opportunity to have some type of portfolio of work by the time my internship ended. I was pleasantly surprised I was able to contribute directly to so many clients’ needs. In the past weeks, I have written press releases, case studies and articles, performed client research and helped compose a media calendar.

I can’t begin to describe the value of having this real world experience. The PR team handed me these projects and allowed me to step in to delivering real content while coaching me in different skills that I will no doubt use in the future. Having real work to do and real contributions to make allows interns like me to develop and hone the skills they will need in the marketplace.

Include in team efforts

Along with the work that gave me hands-on experience creating content, I also enjoyed seeing the team in action. Anytime I was able to observe meetings, attend project update calls or participate in social gatherings, I became better acquainted with the bigger picture of how an agency works together, an experience no classroom lecture can accurately convey or replicate.

These valuable times allowed me to see good leadership in practice as well as the dedicated effort contributed by each person individually.  Agency life is complex, and each time I witnessed the team working together, my interest was sparked in a different way.

Focus on the people

My interest in client services is rooted in my desire to build a career working with people directly. Of course, all work and effort is ultimately centered on the client in a marketing agency. At VantagePoint, I was delighted to find a genuine dedication to this goal and a positive, healthy office environment that encourages the team to work as a united front.

I spent most of this year in Argentina studying abroad. The culture there is full of traditions that focus on quality time spent with friends and family. Leaving Cordoba, the city where I lived for almost five months, was a little bittersweet since the people there were an irreplaceable part of my experience. Although Argentina is more than 4,000 miles away, the same kind of devoted attention to the people — clients, co-workers and yes, even interns — exists here at VantagePoint.  For that and so many other reasons, this has been a valuable experience for me.

My time is wrapping up at VantagePoint, but I am thankful that the lessons learned and the relationships made will continue with me as I move into my senior year at Clemson and beyond.

Emily Lady is a communication and Spanish double major at Clemson University. She’s a Greenville native and plans to pursue a career in the client services field after her graduation in 2018.

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