When I anxiously rang the doorbell at W2O in Boston for the first time, I had no idea what to expect as my only previous office experience was from watching the TV-series The Office. I wondered: would I sit in a cubicle? Would my boss be anything like Dunder Mifflin manager Michael Scott? Would I even survive my first day having never taken a communications class?
I survived the first day, and the next day and the next. In fact, my two months working here have flown by. I’m struck by how much I’ve learned not only about communications, but also about how to succeed as an intern in the crazy world of agency-life. As I get ready to close out this great experience, I’m sharing some of my top lessons learned. For future newbies, take note: here’s what you need to know to kick butt at your communications internship.
Upon starting my internship, I was being pretty confident that I was a multitasking pro. Despite my experience fitting homework, sports, clubs and my guilty pleasure reality TV shows into an average day, I quickly learned I still had a lot to learn about managing work in an efficient way. Once I learned how to simultaneously monitor a handful of news outlets for updates, I accepted that I would never again have one window open on my laptop. I got used to having several projects open at a time, but I also learned that it’s okay to put some projects temporarily on the back burner — in fact, you must.
In managing projects for various supervisors and clients, it’s necessary to prioritize. At first, I struggled to discern how projects were ranked in terms of importance, so I learned to ask some important questions: when do you need this by? Would you like me to prioritize this over my other projects? How long should this take me? Asking questions upon receiving assignments was intimidating at first, but I quickly learned that it’s essential to set yourself up for success in the long run.
Be prepared to get resourceful as you navigate tasks that you’ve never done before. Before my internship at W2O, I’d never put together a media list or a coverage report. Although my coworkers were always more than happy to help, I learned to figure logistical things out myself so I didn’t always have to ask for help. From teaching myself about the PESO model to figuring out how to dodge paywalls for news sites, this experience pushed me to get the job done, even when I wasn’t 100% sure what I was doing. What’s more, when I took a first stab at a new project, my coworkers were always impressed that I had put in the effort to use my own resources to figure things out.
Fast-Paced is an Understatement
In line with multitasking, be ready to push yourself a bit when it comes to deadlines. A fast-paced agency like this is not for the faint of heart. I was struck by how efficient I was when the website I was using started accusing me of being a robot because of how quickly I was researching different companies’ funding. Similarly, after a summer’s worth of client research, be prepared to hit the commercial use limit (apparently there is a limit) on LinkedIn searches per month.
As someone who hasn’t always loved speaking on the phone, I’ll admit that the social part of this internship was intimidating, especially when it came to our intern project. Each year, W2O challenges interns across all offices to collaborate and develop a PR campaign. This experience really pushed me out of my comfort zone as I had to learn how to make sure my ideas were heard, even with group members hundreds of miles away. Although it was hard at first, being my own advocate and speaking up was crucial throughout my internship, especially when working with colleagues in so many different cities and time zones.
Another part of speaking up means managing up to supervisors in order to own your workload. Whether it’s asking for extra assignments when things slow down or raising your hand when you have too many deadlines on your plate, I quickly realized that sitting back quietly doesn’t get you anywhere.
I was surprised when I realized that feedback in the workplace is nothing like getting an A on a paper. As an intern in an agency environment, where you are constantly completing interesting projects across clients, you don’t get a report card when you press send. Since supervisor feedback isn’t always immediate, it’s important to reach out, but also to find validation internally whether or not you get a pat on the back right away. This summer taught me how to be confident in my work and focus on doing a good job rather than the immediate reward.
When I leave W2O in a week to go back to school, I’ll be walking away with an invaluable experience. Beyond compiling briefing documents and media monitoring, the satisfaction and confidence I’ve gained from succeeding in an agency setting is priceless. If there’s one thing I would tell my nervous self on my first day as I waited for someone to answer the door bell ring, I would say that you can do it— and the experience will be your most eye-opening summer yet.
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