My Internship at Publicis Health was Like an Episode of Queer Eye
By Alexa Campbell, Corporate Communications Intern, Publicis Health
A goofy, evidently insecure American girl wandering the streets of Munich, Germany on a Friday evening during Spring Fest just before dark. She’s shaking to the core, covered in a gross layer of sweat and she’s frantically speed-walking as if her life depends on it — though not getting far with her short strides and stature. Her tangled hair looks like Jonathan Van Ness’s worst nightmare. Overall, the girl’s a mess, and it reads all over her face as well. Let’s face it — she’s the textbook definition of someone in desperate need of spending a week with the Fab-5 from Netflix’s latest hit show, Queer Eye.
Okay, back to the scenery. The Bavarian streets are full of college-aged students’ alike, sporting dirndls and lederhosen’s, mugs of beer in one hand, bratwurst in the other.
Yet the goofy girl only has neither on her mind as she struggles to use her little legs to maneuver her way through the endless sea of tourists. She’s desperately on the hunt for a place to reside for the next hour that is not only quiet but also has a decent Wi-Fi network.
You may have guessed it, but the goofy, short-legged girl was me on my study abroad endeavors this spring. While students had sausages and beer on their minds, landing an interview as a prospective intern for Publicis Health while in Germany left my mind consumed with excitement, nerves, and hope.
I have been exposed to countless situations in my life that inevitably caused me to be a nervous wreck. You name it — contests, class presentations, performances, sports championships — most ended in pure embarrassment. Perhaps the one that still haunts me at night was participating in my town’s lip-sync competition when I was about 9-years-old dressed as Troy Bolton from High School Musical. I’ll never live that one down.
But nothing — not even my 9-year-old Troy Bolton persona’s pre-performance state — compared to the nerves I felt as I prepped for a phone conversation with Kipp Jarecke-Cheng, Chief Communications Officer at Publicis Health, in a hole-in-the-wall café in Germany.
As a gold medalist in the self-deprecating department, it’s second nature to replay all of the reasons why I doubt myself in my head, which is what I did before the interview:
Right, like there’s a place for me at Publicis Health, the most extensive health communications network in the world? I can’t even make microwave popcorn without burning it. Why would they hire me? I don’t have enough experience. I don’t know much about the pharmaceutical industry. There are thousands of applicants– most with way better resumes than I. Why would they pick me?
But guess what… they did.
Much like I imagine winning the lottery feels like, I was lucky enough to speak to Kipp that day in Germany, and he clearly saw something in me. And months later, with almost 9 weeks of the internship under my belt, my self-deprecating nature still peeks through, and I sometimes wonder what it is that Kipp, who is now my manager, saw in me that day.
I carried my self-deprecation with me all the way to One Penn Plaza on the first day, completely overwhelmed by the other 81 outstanding individuals in my same position as interns. Many were on their fourth internships. Many were on their sixth internships. Many had worked in healthcare before. Many had even interned at Publicis Health previously.
For the first few weeks, I felt like I was sprinting to keep up. After all, this was my first internship, yet I was trying to put on this façade that I knew what I was doing. I was always in my own head, doubting myself and my credibility. It was a toxic mindset.
But one day, Kipp sat me down. He must have been able to read me like a book because I’ll never forget his words.
“I want you to know that you deserve to be here. I interviewed you and picked you for a reason.”
And with those words, it was like the entire weight of 81 interns was lifted off my shoulders.
Why was I so busy comparing myself to others? Why was I busy comparing myself to account management interns, or media planning interns, or art direction interns, or strategy interns, while I was a Corporate Communications intern? Why was I so busy focusing on what everyone else was doing well and what I was doing wrong?
Why was I not focusing on my own personal path and growth?
I quickly realized I’m not alone in this idea of self-deprecation. Plenty of college students entering their professional careers undergo the same uneasy feelings even if they neglect to admit it. Add the fact that my generation by no means has an easy route in entering the real world and it’s a recipe for a mental disaster. We’re exposed to connections on LinkedIn who have a whole dictionary worth of experience on their profile and individuals in the media who start their own businesses at the age of 19. How could you not compare yourself to the Mark Zuckerberg’s of the world?
The reality is, we aren’t all Zuckerberg’s. Most individuals who put on a grade-A façade regarding their credibility are likely still unsure of themselves at the end of the day.
It’s imperative to understand as a young professional, you aren’t supposed to have all the answers. You need to give yourself a break and remind yourself that yes, you do deserve things. You are a rookie, you will make mistakes, and that’s okay. Every nerve-wracking experience, every failure, every class presentation, every sporting game, every awkward High School Musical lip-sync performance, and every internship is a step in the right direction for your growth. No experience is a bad experience.
At some point, you were noticed by a manager, mentor, professor, professional, whoever it may be, and you built your personal brand enough to stand out to that individual and lead you to where you are today. That’s pretty amazing.
I was lucky enough to be noticed by Kipp that day in Germany, and since then I’ve had the privilege of fully enveloping myself in everything Publicis Health has to offer. I’m no longer the self-deprecating individual who walked into the Publicis Health Internship Program on June 4. Just weeks later, my new and improved “self-actualized” self-desires to go back in time and slap some sense into that girl. Seriously, it’s like Publicis Health was my own personal Fab 5 experience for professional growth. Like Mamma Tammye, Tom, and all the others in Queer Eye, I came out the other side feeling like a new person.
(Me entering the real world.)
At the end of the day, while I am sometimes still unsure of myself at this early point in my career, there is one thing I’m sure: no amount of German beer and sausages compare to the experience I’ve had this summer. When it comes to the professional lottery, I hit the Powerball with Publicis Health.
Alexa Campbell is a 2018 Corporate Communications Intern at Publicis Health in New York. She is a rising senior at the University of South Carolina pursuing a degree in Journalism. Alexa is passionate about writing creatively, the Gamecocks, and her wiener dog, Lizzie. When she’s not at work, Alexa can be found (obviously) binge-watching Queer Eye, fan-girling her favorite star, Shawn Mendes, or eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerrys in one sitting. Connect with her on LinkedIn.