How to be a Kick-Ass Intern and Get Hired
A tutorial for those spending their summer in a creative department.
Congratulations, you’re an intern at a shop you think you’d like to spend forever at. You’re almost where you want to be.
I was you last summer. Now I’m taking the secrets of how to be so awesome they have no choice but to hire you, and I’m giving them to you. For free. You’re welcome.
- As an intern you should be the hardest working person in the building. Remember all those plans you had for the summer? Go ahead and cancel them (Unless they’re major life events). Be the first one in and the last one out. Before you leave ask everyone you’ve met if they need any help with anything. You have three months to prove you’re a super kick-ass unbelievable creative, and they have to hire you. Work harder than you’ve ever worked before.
- Get to know everyone in the creative department, and as many people in the building as possible. I didn’t do a great job at this, but my friend Brian Caruso said it to me after we were hired and it stuck with me. It’s not enough to just work your ass off. Everyone has to like you too. Plus, if you don’t get hired, now you have a whole list of friends in the industry to help hook you up with a job somewhere else.
- If they ask for one, give them five. Always overdeliver. It shows you’re willing to work hard, and you have a better chance of hitting the mark. This doesn’t mean you turn in one execution you really like and four crappy ones. Turn in five executions you would like to see the light of day. This rule is flexible if you’re on multiple deadlines, but you’re an intern so unless you need to sleep there’s really no good excuse.
- Be on time. This is simple, but you’d be surprised how often it doesn’t happen. Leave early for your meetings. It’s better to be early than late.
- Never miss a deadline. If you think you’re in danger of missing a deadline, you better have a great reason and a day’s notice. Don’t show up empty handed, and be proactive if you see yourself running out of time. If you manage your time appropriately, this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Ask questions, but don’t pester. The people all around you have oodles of brain power. The best way to get access to it is to ask. Ask about the brief, ask about their process, ask if they wanna grab a beer. Ask. Ask. Ask. This comes with a huge caveat. People are busy. Super busy. If you end up being the intern pestering the shit out of people, it’s no good. Find the balance, and ask them questions when you can. Remember you might only have three months with them.
- NEVER EVER COMPLAIN. Yes, it deserves all caps. Even if you’re working on the shittiest banners in the world, your partner sucks, and a pen leaked all over your favorite shirt, spin it into a positive. Don’t be the person who bitches. No one wants to work with the person who bitches. There’s enough of them already.
- See if you can get some people to look at your book. I know. Your book is a mess and you hate it. It’s not worthy of the eyes inside the agency, but you know what? If you don’t get feedback and make changes, it’s still going to suck tomorrow. The beauty of a student book full of spec work is it can always change. Take the feedback they give you and implement it. These people work at a shop you respect, doing work you respect. Respect their opinion.
- Update your LinkedIn and résumé the day you start. Not to bring you down, but there is a chance you won’t get hired. There’s also a good chance that if your LinkedIn is up to date, recruiters will reach out to you while you’re interning with jobs at other shops, or at the very least ask to connect. Work it while you can, and if you don’t get hired where you’re interning, you’ll have a whole network of recruiters to reach out to.
- Try to find an in-house mentor. At CP+B we had assigned mentors. Mine was awesome, but my partner’s left the agency two weeks in. Even if you’re assigned a mentor, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out other mentors to help guide you. Ask former interns how they got hired. Ask other creatives to look at your book. Remember the whole ask ask ask thing? An in house mentor makes it much easier.
- If you have a partner, always work as a team. I was lucky enough to get an awesome partner. We worked well together, she and my wife were friends outside the office, and we are still great friends even though we live halfway across the country from each other. While we were interning, people gave us shit because we were always together, but you know what, that’s why we were rarely stressed and did good work. I was her second eye for design, and she would let me know when my puns were innappropriate (For the record most of the time they are innappropriate). If you work as a team, your workload will seem less intimidating and you’ll always have someone to help you. Plus, it proves you work well with others which is pretty important. **If you have a bad partner, don’t talk shit. Everyone will know they suck, and will respect you more for working through it.**
- Don’t be a dick. This is the simplest piece of career advice I’ve ever received, but it’s also proved to be among the best. No one wants to work with a dick. Especially, if they’re just an intern.
- Over-communicate. Play off the fact that you’re new and trying to get a feel for the place. Restate due dates in emails. Make sure people know when you leave or when you’re unavailable because of other meetings or deadlines. If you over-communicate, there’s almost no chance you’ll forget something, and a good chance you’ll help someone else remember a deadline they forgot.
- Don’t worry about your shitty pay grade, but live within your means. As a creative intern you’re probably getting paid next to nothing (or in some cases nothing). Don’t let it bother you, but live within your means. Don’t blow through all your money, then be broke as a joke if you don’t get hired full-time. Accept it as a short-term step towards your long-term goals and be prepared if things don’t work out.
- Get to know all the people whose ass doesn’t need kissing. Get to know the personal assistants, the cleaning crew, and the mail room people. These are the real gems of an agency. They know everything and everyone. And yes, that includes all the best places to sleep and the secrets to fixing the things you break.
- Thank everyone for their help. Be appreciative of the people who help you, and let them know it. You can write a note, send an email or just say it, but make sure people know you are thankful for their help.
- Have fun, make jokes, and drink in moderation. Be someone you’d like to work with. Be positive, make people laugh, and deliver work on time. Even have a few drinks if you can act like a grown-up. And most of all remember – if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing anyway.