by Ericka Gordon
There are many different types of internships. They range from fetching other people’s coffee to having the chance to get your hands on real work. I even came across an internship that allots one lucky applicant the opportunity to travel literally anywhere they want around the world (I’m talking multiple locations here) for two months. They called it an unternship. The person selected gets to map out their own adventure to gain real-world experience outside of a cubicle on the company’s dime.
This summer I participated in an internship. It wasn’t like the one I’ve described above, but it was more unconventional than your typical internship opportunity. Ten individuals from across the country were selected to move to Dallas, Texas, and create their own pop-up advertising agency for the summer. We were given four very real clients and tasked with creating four very real advertising campaigns for them.
They put us up in these larger than average lofts; the four boys in one unit and the six girls were split in two. I felt like I was on a season of “The Real World.” I was living in a studio style loft with people I had never met before, in a city none of us were familiar with and we were all expected to live and work together for the entire summer. They kind of set us loose into the wild. It was all so new and it was a little overwhelming.
Our facilitators were there to help guide us a long the way, but we were expected to do all the heavy lifting on our own. It was an extremely hands on experience. I learned so much about my specific industry and what its like to be in the workforce in general.
Everyone talks about how millennials love working together in groups, but working with a large amount of people is very challenging. Large groups mean a lot of different and, at times, clashing personalities. Figuring out how to tiptoe through that minefield is often more daunting than the actual task at hand. Add in the fact that we were all living together and, well, you can imagine how personal issues may have flowed over into the work sometimes. But we didn’t allow that to deter us from greatness. I’m proud to announce that our group was the first in the history of the program to go 4-0 in the boardroom. Each time we pitched ideas to our clients they liked at least one of the ideas we presented.
We got to experience what it’s like to compete with other agencies for business. One of the clients held a competition between us and an ad agency’s interns. That was an interesting day because, unlike the real world, they had us do our presentations in front of the competition. We saw their ideas and they saw ours. What made it interesting was how vastly different our approaches were. There presentation was very uniformed and structured, what you’d imagine your average presentation to be. We decided to make ours a more fun and interactive presentation. We had short icebreakers and music to get the audience involved. The way we interacted with each other during the presentation was also very animated. The client pointed out what a great lesson it was for all of us to see that there are multiple ways to go about pitching your work. I’m not above saying we blew them out of the water in both execution and presentation.
My biggest pet peeve throughout the summer was the lack of communication. Whether it was internally between my team or externally with our facilitators or clients there seemed to be no shortage of miscommunications. At one point I got into a legitimate argument with one of our facilitators over what had to be the 100th miscommunication of the summer. We weren’t in a shouting match or anything like that, but our tones certainly could’ve been a little lighter. Once the dust settled my facilitator told me he was glad it had happened, because you have to deal with that exact issue all the time in the workforce. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was one of the many valuable experiences my internship offered.
I think I’ll always look back on my experience as an intern with gratitude. I went into it expecting to hone my craft, but came out with so much more than that. Because mine was structured in a way that forces those selected to be very independent and hands-on in the experience I’m better informed on how things work in an office environment.