Finding and landing a creative internship
We all know internships are one of the best ways to gain meaningful work experience while studying. But how do you go about finding one, especially in a pandemic?
At the end of last year, 10 talented UTS students took part in a creative advertising internship—the Creative Accelerator Program —at Publicis Groupe. This global marketing and communications company is parent to a broad range of advertising and PR agencies such as Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Digitas.
We chatted to three of these lucky students to hear about their experiences in applying for and attaining their internships, located with Digitas. Each of them undertook the Creative Accelerator Program while in their final semester of study, with Jesse and Jenan recently having completed their Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication, and Rashmi a Bachelor of Communication (Media Arts and Production) and Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation.
Thanks for chatting to us, guys! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the process of attaining your internship?
I found out about the Publicis Creative Accelerator program when it was advertised in a lecture. Having previously studied Marketing and Advertising in a B.Bus at UTS, I was eager to gain experience working with agencies such as Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi, and had always been curious about strategy and creative. To secure my place in the program, I had to design a poster for a brand of my choice which communicated a creative text/visual message. I sent this along with my portfolio and CV to the Talent Acquisition manager coordinating the Creative Accelerator Program. I then had a quick phone interview where I was asked to explain why I was interested in the program and what my experience was.
I found the internship program on LinkedIn, and as I had wanted to gain more experience in the advertising industry, it seemed like a great opportunity.
The application process included sending through a resume, a cover letter, and answering a brief with a piece of creative work. Once I sent through those, I luckily got through to the next stage! Typically, there would’ve been an interview process, but due to the interruptions caused by COVID-19, the digital application was the only thing used to decide who would be accepted.
The pandemic also necessitated changes in the structure of the internship – it usually would’ve taken place over 12 weeks, one day a week, but as it was necessary for people to work from home for much of 2020, it converted into a full-time internship for two weeks instead.
What do you generally look for in an internship?
I look for internships that are mutually beneficial – I’m always keen to give my full effort to the work I’m given so I expect this work to be relevant to my career path. Usually I find this easiest to determine by looking at what’s expected of the internship/role and making sure there are tangible tasks or areas I would like experience in.
I also check out the business or agency’s website and social media presence to see what kind of work they do and if it’s something I’m inspired by – definitely the case with agencies such as Leo Burnett! If I have the chance to go in for an in-person interview, I also find it useful to get an understanding of the company culture as I consider this a large factor in considering potential places I’d like to work.
What does a day in the life of your internship look like?
Considering I was juggling internship and summer elective, it was pretty full on. Each day we went in and said hello to our mentors, got a little debrief on where we were at with our assigned project and then just stuck our heads together and kept working. We’d go for breaks when we wanted, get lunch at pretty places by the water. We were very independent which was nice.
Every day was different, since we were working on a brief and chatting to different people throughout the process. Generally, we were there from around 10am – 4pm, and we would continue to progress through our brief (ours was around how to tackle unconscious bias in the media/marketing industry) in order to come up with a presentable solution. Our mentor arranged for us to meet with people from different teams within the agency – not just from the creative team, but from data, strategy, and social, as well.
What’s been your favourite part of your internship?
My favourite part of the internship was the chance to gain some first-hand experience working with one of the big agencies I’d always admired. Having had some confusion surrounding my career direction through my Business and Design degrees, I appreciated the chance to clarify the structure and roles within a creative agency and was happy to know that I was inspired by the career path I’d set myself up for.
Have you been able to learn any new skills? Go through any career development steps?
Rather than specific skills, I think the experience added up to a rich understanding of what it means to work within an advertising agency, in regards to tackling briefs and coming up with client-focused solutions, as well as making contacts with people who were willing to share their experiences and advice.
What was the expectation of your internship vs the reality?
I definitely didn’t expect the work to be so project based. Truth is, my understanding of an internship was so Hollywood, I was half expecting to just be sorting through files and doing all the annoying work for people. The fact that we got to work on a pretend brief, but with a real client of theirs, that was pretty cool.
How does your role connect to your studies at UTS?
The internship was perfect for getting experience relevant to my degree. Digitas is also a very future-focused agency, so a lot of the design thinking and complex problem solving skills that come with BCII ended up being helpful.
This internship offered the perfect opportunity for me to combine the marketing and advertising focus I’d pursued in my Business degree with the visual and practical tools I’d gained through Vis Com. Beginning with a more research-oriented and strategic focus, I began the two weeks by relying on market research principles I’d learnt during my Marketing major such as understanding customers’ needs and paint points. As the program evolved and we finalised our ideas, I was then able to execute our concepts by mocking up realistic posters, products and campaigns on Photoshop and Illustrator. Overall, I found it a great way to combine the practical and conceptual creative tools I’d gained during my studies at UTS.
And finally, any tips or tricks for students looking to land an internship?
Honestly, I got lucky. I think just don’t question it, apply, you just never know what might happen. Don’t do what I did and shy away from opportunities because you don’t think your portfolio is ready! They know you’re an undergrad, they’re not expecting top notch stuff.
I would say apply for roles if they feel like they’ll give you valuable experiences that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else! I’d also say to not be scared to apply for roles that seem outside of your comfort zone or experience – I applied for this internship while not being sure at all that I’d get it, since it was such a prestigious company, but I did end up getting accepted and it was one of the most impactful and insightful experiences I’ve had so far in my career.
Don’t be afraid to apply for roles that you don’t tick all the boxes for – the worst that can happen is you don’t hear back from them, the best that can happen is that you learn new skills on the go. Being enthusiastic and eager to learn will also make you a more desirable potential employee and will improve your ability to work independently, solve problems and build resilience.
So there you have it! Whether it’s expanding your skillset beyond what you’re taught at university, or meeting a mentor who changes your career direction, internships can provide incredible opportunities for work experience and development.
If you want to hear more from your fellow students about how they landed their internships, come along to how our How to get an internship panel event.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Other images courtesy of Publicis Groupe
Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.