Neha Vazrala, ArtSci ’19, is majoring in psychology and earning a second major in marketing from Olin Business School. She is an intern for B2B marketing agency Gorilla 76 and wrote this post for the Olin Blog.
There are hundreds of articles on how to land the perfect internship or frame one on your résumé. But how do you make the most of the internship besides applying what you’ve learned in class and bragging to your LinkedIn friends? I’m still an intern that’s figuring it out myself, but after interning for a year and a half and helping friends navigate their own internships, I’ve learned a lot.
While marketing internships can vary widely from where the work is focused within your field to whether you work at a firm or for a company, the tips below can help you make the most out of your experience.
Find your voice
Because many companies put a focus on culture fit as well as skills, it’s good to explore your ideal personal and professional balance through your internship. Learning how to make work friends and acquaintances is extremely important. This might seem like an obvious tip for some.
Personally, I was a quiet, unassuming intern for two months before I realized that it was OK to be myself and build personal relationships with the “actual adults” around me. I chalked up my hesitance to the stereotype of interns I saw in movies, but also saw this reflected in the other two strategy interns.
So, don’t forget to be yourself and open up to your coworkers. Remember that the team chose you for a reason.
Being yourself at work also means using your voice to share new ideas. While you’re still an intern, most companies appreciate that new people are more likely to notice an inefficient process than those who are used to it.
Voicing those thoughts with respect—and some research on possible solutions—makes a positive impression on those around you and helps your company grow. However, that doesn’t mean you have to look around to find issues. Exercise creativity when you’re given projects that allow for it.
More than a year ago, my co-intern and I were asked to come up with three scholarship ideas for Gorilla. We were surprised by the data we found indicating a significant pay gap in marketing, and perhaps more importantly, female strategists were rated lower by clients, especially female clients, regardless of the work’s quality.
This inspired us to pitch the Women in Marketing Scholarship, which aligned with our company’s values while breaking the traditional mold of academic-based scholarships.
Own your mistakes
On the second day of my internship, I sent a half-written pitch template to a new contact. I hadn’t even changed the “Hi [NAME],” field yet. Panicked, I went to my supervisor. Fewer than 48 hours in, I had made an embarrassing mistake while learning how to use our CRM software.
I still think about that day, almost two years into my internship, because it was the beginning of an important lesson for me. It is OK to make mistakes, even in the “real world.” Usually, it’s an easy fix.
It’s more important to own the mistake and show you can quickly come up with and execute a solution. That goes a long way in building trust with your boss.
More likely than not, you’re going to be pushed to challenge yourself and you will make mistakes along the way. And if you don’t feel you’re being challenged enough in your internship, you should reach out to your boss about taking on more complex projects or shadowing other departments to learn new skills. Which brings me to my next point …
Avoid tunnel vision
Internships are exploratory. You can get experience in different elements of marketing within both your department and your company. My internship is within the strategy department, so I’ve gotten to complete keyword research, data analysis and lots and lots of search engine optimization (SEO).
At the same time, I’ve also gotten to work with our writers on email templates and help our design team conduct brand voice research. It gave me a new appreciation for both departments and how much they add to our firm. I never thought I would write any type of copy, but here I am writing my first blog post.
Although my internship is supposed to be focused on link-building, I’ve learned a lot more because I was excited and willing to try any project that was available. For example, my first non-link-building project involved identifying prime locations for specific article calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout a client’s site.
I started my research with class notes and several of my favorite marketing blogs, but ultimately it took experience to start building a strong intuition about CTA placement. Those kinds of projects can go a long way in helping you broaden your horizons while narrowing your focus.
Embrace the future
It’s important to remember that every internship is great because it gives you a sense of direction, even if that direction is a complete 180 from what you thought you wanted to pursue.
Plus, very few job listings for “digital marketing strategist” have the exact same responsibilities, so it’s important to figure out what you know, what you want to learn and what is outside your ideal job role. And, with the increase in creative titles like “content ninja” and “SEO rockstar,” you want to make sure that you fully understand the positions you’re applying for and whether they’re a good fit.
So, while every internship might not be the perfect match, every internship will shape your job search in the future while you build experience.
With the future ahead, I hope you enjoy your internship and make the most of it! If you’re looking for one in the St. Louis area, Gorilla 76 is always looking for talented and enthusiastic people. You can check out the company’s internship opportunities here or bookmark the careers page for the future.