Working at an agency is a whole new world for me. Coming from a nonprofit background and fresh out of college, everything felt new; from billing time to working across multiple accounts, I had a lot to learn in a short period of time. Luckily, I’m surrounded by amazing mentors who helped make my transition a little less bumpy. Here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned as an intern.
1. Meet with everyone.
Getting to know your team members is essential for visibility and keeps you top-of-mind for exciting opportunities. It’s also a great way to help melt that Seattle freeze. Before even applying for my internship, I made it my mission to meet with as many people on the team as I could—and I think that’s why I eventually was hired.
2. Say yes to everything…
An internship is an amazing chance to learn new skills, challenge yourself and figure out what you love. Raise your hand for exciting projects or other opportunities that intrigue you. Ask your manager for projects that are out of your everyday routine.
3.…But also learn to say no
You can’t be productive if you have more projects than you have hours in a day. One of the most important things you can do in a job is to manage your time wisely, so be realistic about your weekly schedule. Knowing when to say no shows you value your time and the quality of the work you produce.
4. Ask questions early
Asking for help or clarification is the best way to limit revisions and confusion between you and your managers. If you’re unsure, ask instead of taking a guess — it’ll save time and effort in the long run. Organize your questions in a way that is easy for your managers to respond.
5. Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in other specialties
The best thing about agency life is probably that you never know what each day will bring. The diverse client work and expertise gives you an amazing opportunity to try on different hats and learn new skills. If you’re interested in learning more about a specific area, scout the resident expert and request a training session. Then take on a project with that person to hone your skills. You’ll gain experience and become an asset for your team.
6. Communication is key
Learn how each person on your team likes to communicate — over coffee? by email? — then become a master at their preferred platform. For example, a good email is concise, to the point and informative. Bullet points are your best friend. Case in point:
- Color-coding makes project management a breeze.
- Bold anything that needs special attention, like next steps, actions required, or important flags.
- Never submit a deliverable without a brief explanation or high-level takeaways.
- Include enough context so your recipients can understand, even if someone missed the meeting.
- Don’t be afraid to hit “reply all.” People like to be kept in the loop.
7. Never get the same edits twice
Making mistakes at first is totally normal, but what makes you stand out is what you do next. I keep a running document with edits I’ve received, as well as a few Post-Its with high-level reminders. Before I submit an assignment, I double-check my work so that I don’t repeat my mistakes.
8. Check for quality before it’s too late
Sending your manager a paragraph of a pitch or one tweet before you submit 35 shows that you care about the quality of your work. Having a quick check-in early on is much easier than redoing an entire project.
9. Take note of what success looks like
If someone shares a beautiful spreadsheet, manages to wrangle a difficult client, or actually makes a meeting interesting, take note! I’ve compiled a folder full of great templates and tips from my team. When your moment comes to lead a meeting or pitch a client, you’ll know exactly what to do because you learned from the pros.
10. Keep track of your wins and learn to brag
Save stellar projects and kudos from your team so you can demonstrate your growth and success. Copy your manager on assignments you’re proud of, and share an exciting project with your team if it might add value to their work. People love to celebrate successes, so get comfortable talking up yours!