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Getting an internship at a marketing firm is an important first step for those who want to work in marketing.
Once you've obtained a good marketing internship, be sure to make the most of it. We've hired quite a few interns over the years, and, based on my observations and experiences, here are three tips for making the most of a marketing or PR internship.
Marketing Internship Tip #1: Take Ownership of Your Internship Experience
Your internship is what you make of it.
When you start your internship, assess whether your manager will make the internship great, or whether you will have to be the one to make it great.
That's right. You may have to be the one to take charge of your internship and make it great.
After all, the people who manage you are probably incredibly busy. With high probability, they've made a decision to bring in interns because they are overworked. Indeed, if they weren't buried with work, they wouldn't need you, would they?
Yes, they've hired you to make their lives easier. But some of them will view managing you as just another to-do item that sucks up their valuable time. Some of them will not be good at managing you, others may have trouble delegating meaningful work to you, and others may be struggling to get organized enough to delegate work to you. These situations arise even when your managers are good, talented people who have the best intentions and want to give you a phenomenal internship experience.
The point here is that if your manager isn't using you to full advantage, it's your job to correct the situation and turn things around. You need to be the one to shore up their weaknesses, tap into their strengths and make the internship a productive and fruitful partnership.
Nobody cares about you more than you. When it comes to internships, the right attitude to have is this one: "If it is to be, it is up to me."
Marketing Internship Tip #2: Always Have a "Go Beyond" In Mind
A good teacher once told me that she always asked her students this question after giving them their first assignment of the school year: "What do you think your grade will be if you do everything as I've outlined it on the assignment sheet and you do it exceptionally well?"
Most of the students answered that they assumed they would get an A grade if they did everything that was asked of them. The teacher explained that if they did everything they were asked to do, they would only get a B grade.
Doing what you are told to do and doing it well, she explained, doesn't make you exceptional. It only makes you above average. Exceptional students, those who would get A's from this particular teacher, had to go beyond what was expected of them and do something that was unexpected.
The point here is that your manager expects you to do what you're asked to do. That's a given. That level of effort gets you a B grade. If you want to differentiate yourself from an average intern, you need to take on more responsibility than you are asked to. You need to show initiative. Taking ownership of a project, demonstrating heartfelt enthusiasm for the work, and showing initiative – these are attributes that allow a great intern to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Marketing Internship Tip #3: Start With the End in Mind
What are the outputs of your internship going to be?
Depending on the nature of the internship, internship outputs might include: a job offer, new skills acquisition, some great experience to add to your resume, perspective on what's important to you in a career, and a number of other things.
My recommendation to interns is that, before they start an internship, they update their resume to include a description of the outputs of the internship, including three detailed bullet points on the main things they will have accomplished during the internship by the time it's over.
This visioning exercise forces an intern to visualize the outcomes of a positive internship and to get clarity on what they hope to accomplish during an internship. An intern at a B2B PR firm, for example, might put down a resume bullet point noting that they "Secured over 20 placements in business and trade publications for business services and high-tech clients."
These resume bullet points become your primary goals for your internship. Adding meaningful bullets to your resume is a smart internship goal precisely because, when all is said and done, more than anything else, you want the internship experience to enhance your value to future prospective employers.
If, in reality, the bullet point you have to put on the resume ends up being "ordered cakes for company birthday celebrations and assisted with copying presentations prior to sales meetings" then – yikes! – you've really blown the chance to use this internship to increase your personal value in the marketplace.
So, start the internship by visualizing what you are going to get out of it and then document those goals. Once you've done that, refine them with the help of your manager. Say to your manager: "Here are a few things I'd like to be able to say I did here during this internship. Are these doable? How would you suggest I change these goals to get the best results for you and for me? Will you help me to be successful in achieving these goals?"
After refining your internship goals, post them on your desk and track your progress against them. If you are not making progress on your goals, don't whine or play the victim. Take proactive steps to get back on track and do something great for yourself and for the firm that hired you.
Key Takeaways for Marketing Interns
There's lot of additional advice for marketing and PR interns that we could offer, but these three tips for interns will get you off to a great start.
Again, the keys are to take ownership of your internship experience, go beyond your employer's expectations, and always keep your personal goals top of mind during your internship. (Don't prioritize your personal goals above the goals of your employer though; instead, chase after win-win goals that serve both you and your bosses well.)
If you've got additional advice regarding marketing internships, either from an employer perspective or an employee perspective, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Just post your comments below. Thanks!