A Follow-Up on Internships

My Summer at [email protected] Spurred Serious Growth

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Kelly Eidson Kelly Eidson
I spent my summer in New York City interning at [email protected], the digital media planning and buying arm for Ogilvy & Mather. To pass the time while I waited in the lobby on my first day, I picked up a copy of Ad Age and read the most recent "Ask Brad" column, "How Can I Get the Best Out of My Summer Interns?" offering guidance to agencies on the topic. I didn't know if my experience at Ogilvy would be similar to what Brad outlined, but I sure hoped so.

Ogilvy's internship program was by far the most helpful, organized and rewarding internship I have ever had, and it was largely because the agency takes the program very seriously. The purpose of my post is not to sell Ogilvy's program, but to highlight some of the elements that made the summer successful for me and for the agency.

Recruiting: Ogilvy did a sweeping search for smart, motivated interns at multiple college campuses, ensuring that we would have different backgrounds and varied strengths to bring to the agency. There were over 40 interns in the program, but no more than two were from the same school.

Lunch & Learns: Each week, the interns gathered for lunch with at least one thought leader from the agency. Over the summer, we heard from almost every department of the agency, learned about topics ranging from Business Etiquette to Digital Innovation, and met with no fewer than three CEOs, including Global Chairman and CEO Shelly Lazarus. At the end of the 30 minutes with Lazarus, every one of us was dying to work for her. She had great things to say, but the fact that she showed up at all proved to us that the agency makes nurturing young talent a priority.

Junior and Senior Mentorship: I had two supervisors: a senior member of the team and another who was in her first year of the workforce. My senior-level boss helped me see how my projects fit into the big picture of the campaign, while my junior-level boss trained and managed me. I especially loved this setup, because I got to see exactly what my entry-level job would be like if I came back full-time, and what it would take to move up. Plus, if I needed help with something, it gave me two people to turn to, so I didn't always pester the same person.

Outside Projects: In addition to our regular duties, all the interns worked on a full campaign for one of Ogilvy's clients. We broke into teams and worked our tails off, because we knew that at the end we would pitch the campaign to a judging panel who would name a winner. Ogilvy got to see multiple approaches to the client's campaign, and competing gave interns an extra stimulus to perform. Like Brad mentioned in his column, outside projects give interns something to work on when their regular work slows down, as well as a chance to demonstrate what they've learned. I've also found that interns who had an outside project of their own are more satisfied with their overall experience in the end. Most interns spend the lion's share of their time on simple tasks, so outside projects can let them have some fun exercising their critical thinking.

Successful internship programs should be mutually beneficial to the organization and young talent. The initiatives I experienced comprised an internship program that helped Ogilvy support and recruit young talent, and served as great experience to the interns involved. So tell me: What kind of setups have made your internships successful in the past?
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