Six Ways to Embrace the Intern Mentality

At the beginning of my internship at Publicis Health Media this summer, I remember riding my daily SEPTA train commute from Villanova University to Suburban station with looming questions: What will the people be like? Will I adapt quickly? What if I come off as an intern who doesn’t know what she is doing?

In reality, the last question was still a concern of mine until about halfway through the summer — that’s when I finally embraced the “intern mentality.” In other words, adopting a mindset of openness to making mistakes, and ultimately understanding interns learn and grow from the experience.

Since it took me quite some time to adjust my mindset, why not let everyone in on my secret recipe to acceptance and save them the trouble? Here are six ways to fully embrace the intern mentality:

1. Let Curiosity Be Your Guide

Before applying to the internship, I had no idea what programmatic media entailed. To my surprise, it’s a type of media buying that uses data and software to make real-time decisions on ad buying. As an intern in this department, I had to dive in and learn to use new software and technologies, such as demand side platforms (otherwise known as DSPs). At first, it was as if I was learning a new language. Over the course of the summer, I learned there is no such thing as a dumb question, and my curiosity and willingness to ask questions helped me greatly.

2. Not Knowing Is OK

As an intern, humility is key. Know what you can do and know what to pass along. Success doesn’t solely come from what you to bring to the table. It comes from collaborating with others who bring their own unique skillsets to the table as well. In collaborating with a team, your skills are mutually beneficial to one another. If you need the skills of an InDesign master for a project or an Excel mastermind to analyze data, reach out and ask for help. Collaboration with others is essential as you learn throughout the process.

3. Embrace Failure

Learn how to fail, and learn how to fail hard. As a self-described perfectionist, at first, I easily became frustrated when my pacing sheet values didn’t match the desired values or if my vLookup wasn’t processing. One of my managers even joked that I made “Excel face,” which was fueled by frustration in these cases. Naturally, I needed to change my mindset and approach to failure. Rather than viewing failure as an instance where I did something “wrong,” I learned to view it as an opportunity for growth. I un-furrowed my brows, sat up a little straighter, and tried my best to master a new “Excel face” — one of excitement, satisfaction, and accomplishment.

4. Don’t Just Be Yourself, Apply Yourself

Imposter Syndrome is real, but it’s important to realize you were selected for a reason. So, suspend your disbelief about yourself. Speak up in meetings (when appropriate). Share your ideas. Volunteer on new projects. Prove to yourself and others that you’re meant to be where you are, and show you care — it’s what sets you apart.

5. Find Your Fit

The secret superpower of an internship? Knowing how you best connect with others. One of our weekly learning and development sessions in the internship program involved a behavioral assessment DiSC exercise, in which we learned the golden rule and how it applies to the workforce: treat others as they want to be treated. We learned the importance of working with different personality types and work styles. As a result of this learning, my internship project group and I thrived due to the team chemistry we cultivated, and it’s transitioned into friendships that will last.

6. Dive In The Deep End

Take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available to you as an intern. I met with more than 25 employees at Publicis Health by reaching out and asking to learn more about their roles and own experiences in the industry. I shadowed individuals within my account to learn more about each capability and how everyone works together to serve clients. As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I went out of my comfort zone and wrote a blog post. Make the most of an intern’s time is short, so it’s important to build connections beyond the duration of your internship.

As I reflect on my time at Publicis Health, I’m grateful for the people, the opportunity, and my personal growth. I’ve learned so much about myself, the people, and this industry. If you are to take away one thing alone from my hacks on “the intern mentality,” let it be this: embrace being the intern, because what have you got to lose?

Mikaela Uricheck is a 2019 Programmatic Media Intern for Publicis Health Media in Philadelphia. She is rising junior at Villanova University pursuing a degree in Communication with a focus in Advertising and Strategic Communication, with minors in Global Health and Political Science. In her spare time, you can find her bingeing stand-up comedy specials, devouring material on psychology and mindfulness, and baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe … out of the Nestlé cookie dough tube. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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