The Struggle Is Real; Landing an Internship at an Ad Agency
By: Samantha Kafka, intern at Havas Health Advertising undergraduate at the University of Florida: @Samantha_Kafka
As a fellow intern, I understand how real the struggle can be finding an internship in the advertising industry. It is no secret that it is very competitive, especially for the paid internships at premier agencies. Unfortunately, there is no class in college called “Internships 101,” though there should be. This process can be very stressful, so take a lot of breaks between applying, whip out a carton of ice cream, and read my 10 points that will help you land your dream internship at a premier ad agency!
- Connections are Key
Meet and talk to as many people as you can in the ad industry and try to establish personal relationships. Don’t be shy—send emails to alumni and others from agencies where you want to intern, asking them to coffee. Make sure to join your school’s advertising club and participate in all of the events, for it is a chance to establish connections and will also look good on your resume.
- Apply, Apply, Apply
The more companies you apply to, the more likely you are to land an internship. You may not have a social life for a few months, but that’s okay! Aim for applying to two to three companies a day. By the time you are done applying, you should have applied to over 20 agencies. Start applying early because many of the top agencies only keep their applications open for a week or less and you want to be first among other applicants. Don’t just apply to the premier agencies—have some back-ups. Any experience is better than no experience at all.
- Fake It Till You Make It
Agencies want to know you are passionate about the position you are applying to and that you know exactly what you want to do. If you don’t, then pretend that you do. Don’t make the mistake that many do when the interviewer asks if you would be interested in a different position. Say “no,” and stress the fact that you are very passionate about the position you are interviewing for, as it is where your strengths lay. This is sometimes a test among interns, because if you say yes, you could very likely not get the internship.
- Don’t Be a Procrastinator
Start the process early! This should be as early as the summer going into your sophomore year of college. Getting an internship the summer going into your senior year may be the most important internship you will have, but in order to land an internship at a top agency, or an agency you want to work at after you graduate, your chances of achieving this is much higher if you have prior internship experience. You must start small before you work your way up. This will also give you a great opportunity to learn if the advertising industry is a good fit for you, as it is not for the faint of heart.
- There is a Fine Line Between Persistent and Annoying
Sending emails is a great way to connect with the Human Resources department. You should send an email when you first send your application in and then again to follow-up, otherwise you can get lost in a pile of papers. These agencies often receive tons of applications, and in order to stand out, write a personal note through email. This is a great opportunity to showcase your personality while also expressing your interest in the opportunity. You should be persistent, but there is a fine line between persistent and annoying.
- Don’t Have a Boring Resume
Having a great resume can be critical to landing an internship. Your resume is your first impression. Stand out by having a creative resume even if you are not going into the creative side. Most resumes are plain and boring, so having one that is unique will make you stand out. Just be sure to keep your resume on one page!
- Social 101
LinkedIn is an important way to showcase your resume. Make sure your LinkedIn page is developed to its full potential, for HR often views your LinkedIn after you send in your application. Make wise choices about what you post on your social media accounts. Although advertising has a reputation of its employees drinking a lot (hence the many agencies that have bars) don’t post pictures of you partying or anything else that may veer them away from calling you.
- Be a Leader, Not a Follower
Agencies love to see applicants that demonstrate leadership, such as being president of your advertising club, captain of the basketball team, or a leader on a school project. Standing out among other applicants is extremely important and there are endless ways to do so. Write an email with a unique subject line, make your resume creative, create a website showcasing your work, form a blog, make a video, or if you are instructed to mail your application, mail it in a colorful envelope. Be creative and think of something others won’t.
- Don’t Run Away From the Difficult Applications
Some applications may be more difficult than others and require you to make a video or write a lot of essays. Don’t let them steer you away from applying—that is the agency’s goal, so they don’t have as many applications to read. Think about how many other students will decide not to apply. This can be to your advantage!
- The Interview
If you got to the interview stage at a premier agency, that means you were few of many to get this opportunity. Use your personality and show them who you are. Make sure to educate yourself as much as possible about the agency and the position for which you are applying. Show passion for the agency. Don’t waist the interviewer’s time if you’re not interested in the clients or the culture of the agency. Remain confident and be prepared with questions for the interviewer. Chill, you got this.
Always remember, just because we are interns and are at the bottom of the food chain, doesn’t mean we aren’t important. We are young, smart, enthusiastic, have freshly learned knowledge on our brains, and most importantly, we are cheap! Just think of it this way: if they don’t select you, that’s their loss.
Good luck on your journey to finding your dream internship and remember, the struggle is real, but well worth it!
See more advice from our Young Professionals and interns here!
[…] See intern Samantha Kafka’s 10 points of how to land your dream internship at a premier ad agency in her blog post, titled, “The Struggle Is Real; Landing an Internship at an Ad Agency.” […]