Hannah Lewman, Junior Strategist at Joan Creative (and long-time We Are Next reader!), knows a thing or two about interning. Before she landed her current role, she spent over 2,000 hours interning (40 hours a week x 10 weeks x 5 summers), and has interned at three different agencies (including 72andSunny this past summer) on both coasts. Given her experience, and having listened to a lot of advice given to interns, she brings us five tips that no one tells you—but that will make you an intern people want to hire. Here's Hannah—
1. Get your ideas stolen.
Make things that get passed around. Trend reports, decks full of cultural brain food, exciting and inspiring newsletters. Watch as the list of users shared on the Google Slides swells beyond the five people you sent it out to, or as your notifications blow up with people asking for the link.
When someone quotes your trend report during an important meeting, they’ll guiltily remember the intern they lifted the insight from, and they’ll often make a mental note to repay you later. Generosity and good creative energy are boomerangs.
2. Be distractible.
There’s this myth that the best intern is a work machine that clocks in, sits down, and doesn’t look up from their computer until they realize the moon is out and it’s time to go home. That’s BS. The best interns are distractible.
Being distracted doesn’t mean sinking two hours a day into online shopping. It means sitting in public spaces, watching the game with your coworkers (even if you don’t know which teams are playing), or getting coffee with the person who said something smart in your last meeting. Making friends > “networking.”
3. Bug other people too.
You don’t have to passively wait at the intern table for someone to “discover” you. You should let them know you’re there.
One tried and true way to get involved is to swing by someone’s desk right as they’re reaching peak frustration with cracking a brief (telltale signs include re-underlining phrases for the fourth time and burying their face in their hands). Ask them how it’s going. People always want to talk about the brief. Worst case scenario, you’ll be a welcome distraction. Best case scenario, you’ll help them have a breakthrough.
4. Don’t worry about looking smart.
As an intern, there’s an urge to prove yourself and show you’re not some know-nothing kid who’s there to drink beer and make a few bucks. That’s cool, but there’s something way more valuable than making yourself look smart. Make your boss look smart.
Read the pre-meeting documents and write your boss a Sparknotes guide. Send them some headlines related to their client call later in the day. Check your boss’ calendar. Manage up. Now that’s a valuable trait in an intern.
5. It’s great to not be good enough.
One of my favorite quotes comes from NPR’s Ira Glass: “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good… But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.”
This gap is one of the biggest challenges and greatest joys of interning. This frustration, this delicious discomfort, this feeling of leaping for the bar and slamming into it repeatedly should propel you. When you embrace the gap, you free yourself from the expectation of being perfect right away. You can focus on putting in the hours and listening to advice with an open mind.
You got this,
Connect with Hannah on Instagram and LinkedIn.