Your Internship is over: Now What?

originally posted: 8.16.11

If you didn’t have an internship this summer, you’re failing. Okay, maybe not failing, but you’ve got a C average.

Internships are so valuable to your professional development and your portfolio. It’s one thing to come up with ideas for Tide with no budget, client or limitations (that’s the part of school I miss the most) but when you get into an agency, even as an intern, you get a taste of that cold, hard reality of budget cuts, last minute client changes and 300x600 banner edges. 

It’s also a great way to network and create career connections and to see how things are done from behind the scenes. (Who knew people went to 387 image selections just to find 1 for that print ad!)

For those of you who did intern, whether or not you had a good experience, be sure to take stock of everything you’ve learned. Maybe you learned that you had account management and want to be a planner. Maybe you learned that you hate advertising all together and want to move to Costa Rica and teach orphans. Or maybe you learned that you’re an awesome Photoshop genie but need to work on your conceptual skills to really get a job. Whatever it is, look for the good in the situation and see how you can use it to propel you forward. 

Now that it’s all over, here is a Post Internship To Do List:

- Send Thank You notes. Email, handwritten, embroidered, whatever you see fit – just make sure you let the people who you worked with and who helped you throughout the summer know how much you appreciate them, how much you learned and that you will continue to stalk them over the next 2 – 7 years. 

- Update your resume and portfolio. Look at all that you did and add adjectives and descriptive verbs to make it sound like the best thing since God created the Internet. Gather all the projects you worked on and if they’re not great, make them great, then put them in your book. If it was produced and isn’t great, make it great then put it in. Greatness trumps everything.

- Make a strength and weakness list. Start tackling your weaknesses.

- Take a break. Once you start working full time it'll be go go go go. Go.

- Do personal follow ups. You warned them with your Thank You Notes, now follow through over the next 3 – 6 months and check in with those folks who you built a good relationship with. Let them know how you’re progressing and share any new/exciting news on your career

- Plan and plot. What’s your next move? Looking for a full time job? Trying to freelance? Going to portfolio school? Make a two year plan and start looking at how you can get to where you want to be as painlessly as possible.

It’s not too late to look into Fall internships and to start prepping on internships for next year.

My personal favorite is the Multicultural Advertising InternshipProgram (I’m biased, I’m an alum) but every agency has their own program and several ad organisations do too, so look out starting in November/December for applications.

Also, start reaching out to places in your area (Check The Creative Ham's agency listing or even Craigslist) and seeing if you can intern for free to get experience. 

(Everybody loves free labour. This is America after all.)