Despite hearing horror stories about students taking part in unpaid internships, I thought I would give it a shot anyway (not to mention it’s part of my course requirements in order to graduate from the program I’m currently enrolled in). I was fortunate enough to land an internship at Dashboard.
It’s important to mention that throughout my academic career, numerous professors have told me and the rest of the students in my program, to dress professionally. I have literally heard this hundreds of times in school, so of course I took this advice seriously. So there I was on my first day, in 33 degree weather and unbearable humidity, dressed in black dress pants, heels, and a blazer. By the time I got to the office I was beet read and sweating an abnormal amount. I had never worked, let alone stepped foot in an ad agency before, so when I arrived I was shocked to see people strutting around the office in jeans, t-shirts, shorts, and flip flops. As if I wasn’t uncomfortable and nervous enough, now I had people looking at me like I had 3 heads. Not that I blame them.
While internships for university students are often joked about as being an opportunity to get really good at making coffee, I think if you get one with the right company they can be extremely beneficial, and give you a leg up when job hunting. Not to mention they can allow you to figure out if a particular job field is right for you before you make a permanent commitment.
Personally, I think what makes a great internship is how involved the company allows their interns to be. Fortunately enough for me, the account team at Dashboard has involved me a lot in different projects, and has allowed me to contribute to projects in all of their various stages from start to finish. In my opinion, an internship says as much about the company as it does the intern. If the internship offers students a real learning experience, it speaks volumes about that company.
My short time at Dashboard has enabled me to figure out that all interns really want is to contribute. We want to be given meaningful tasks and feel like we’re are part of the team. I have also learned that THERE ARE NO BAD IDEAS!! (a favourite saying from our fearless leader himself, Mr. Barry Hillier), and that the work I’m doing is not an “academic” exercise. The work is for the real world and for real clients. It might sound obvious, but after years at school and university, it takes some getting used to.
That being said, I feel like my contributions here at Dashboard have been valued. I have also observed that the people here take creativity (and burritos!) VERY seriously. They give a lot of freedom in expressing ideas and they enjoy when you are creative in all aspects of your work process.
I have also learned that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. As an intern, you are still learning the ropes, so it’s normal to need to ask questions from time to time. Believe it or not, the people here actually ENJOY when you ask questions. And finally, this one is pretty obvious and self explanatory, but I think it’s important to do your best at every task you’re given. Even if you do make a mistake, don’t dwell on it too much. Acknowledge your mistake, take responsibility, and move on.
My time here at Dashboard, although short-lived, has already taught me a lot that school hasn’t. I think an internship is the best way to get hands on experience in an area that you possess interest in. If you find the right company that offers a great learning experience, I would recommend doing an internship to all students. Especially at Dashboard! (Hopefully I haven’t completely turned them off from hiring interns in the future).