The Experience of Gaining Experience: Observations from an Agency Intern
“You just need more experience.” This is what I heard at the end of the school year before I headed into my summer, hopeful for an internship that would get me ahead in my career after college. I had made it to the final round of interviews at a major advertising firm in Detroit, Michigan. However, I wasn’t getting the job, the opportunity, or, oddly, the experience. When I asked what I could do to make myself more marketable or how I could enhance my resume, the only input from my potential employer was, “You just need more experience.” I’m not going to lie, I was upset. I made it through several intensive rounds of interviews and I had invested, emotionally, in the potential of the opportunity. It was almost as if someone had broken up with me! However, those five simple words – “You just need more experience” – spurred me to action. It is true, in the marketing, advertising and public relations industries you do need experience in order to do well. It is a competitive field. I challenged myself that summer and now, well into my senior year at Saint Mary’s College, to figure out how to gain the experience I needed in order to succeed in my future.
I got lucky, even with a late start after missing out on the Detroit advertising opportunity, and landed a summer internship with CMS Energy, Inc., a Michigan public utility, working on the design, functionality and rollout of their website and new energy efficiency incentives campaign. I got to work within the company and also was able to interact with outside advertising and professional agencies. So, I got a firsthand look at the advertising world, although it was from the client’s perspective.
When I returned back to school, I received an e-mail from the internship coordinator in the Communication Studies department at Saint Mary’s College about a spring semester internship opportunity at Villing & Company. It caught my eye and I made a run at it because it would put me on the other side of the table helping me to see the advertising world from the eyes of the agency dealing with the client. Now, here I am, sitting at my computer at Villing & Company. For twelve hours a week I spend my time applying my insight and perspective (and yes, even experience) gained from my class work at Saint Mary’s and my summer at CMS.
To a degree, the people from the Detroit agency were right, the things that I experienced (there’s that word again) last summer and that I’ve learned in my couple of months at Villing & Company, I would have never learned in the classroom.
So you might be wondering, what have I done and how am I gaining experience at this very moment, my third month at Villing & Company? I’ve reached out to resources and people that I never thought I would – or need to. I have seen websites for client organizations take shape. I have participated, on a professional level, with initiatives to evaluate the benefit of utilizing social media in order to deliver a message to particular audiences. I have seen the practical, first hand thought and effort that goes into preparation for focus group research. I have watched the beginning processes of a brand re-imaging effort.
I have seen the creativity that goes into designing both print and television advertisements. The list goes on and on. This internship opportunity is providing me with insight and perspective, especially, in the areas of marketing research, planning, communication and evaluation. It seems to me that I am in the right place to learn it all and this is just the beginning.
The textbook marketing, advertising and communication theories in addition to the case studies presented in the classroom provide a foundation for my future in this fast paced industry. Correlations between my classroom work and “real life” work are being made everyday. I can confidently say that the experience I was “lacking” last summer, I am, thankfully, gaining through my internship. It looks and feels like I’m on the right track.
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