Future talent: The rise of the intern (part one)

Although they may be happy to make the tea, interns thrive when given more responsibility. And on the flip-side, they are an invaluable resource that agencies should value as part of their business.

Being an intern is about more than just making the tea
Being an intern is about more than just making the tea

It has long been acknowledged that internships and apprenticeships are a great way for young people to gain experience in the industry, before they are ready to put down more permanent roots. The placements offer real insight into the world of work and the roles available, make a valuable addition to CVs and can certainly help budding event professionals get their foot in the next door.

"Agency internships are a fantastic way to bring fresh talent into the event industry and harness the enthusiasm and raw talent of tomorrow's senior agency heads," believes Nick Adams, managing director at Sense. "While there remains a shortage of middle management candidates available to agencies, many companies have turned to 'fast tracking' interns as a way to develop home-grown resources."

Adams says this approach has worked well for Sense. It takes on three interns per year, and generally appoints at least one as a full-time team member at the end of their internship.

He says interns are critical for the business as a source of new recruits, and prefers those who have little to no agency experience because it allows Sense to nurture them in a way that is totally aligned to the agency culture. However, he warns against agencies simply viewing interns as a cheap resource.

"You'll get out of an intern what you put in. Making their time in a company worthwhile is incredibly important, and subjecting them to as many parts of your business and processes as possible will unlock their true abilities and demonstrate the value they can add back," he says.

Michael Chidzey, marketing director at agency Chillisauce, echoes these views. "For agencies looking to hire interns, it needs to be a win/win situation for both parties. Offer training and give them research tasks or side projects that they can own, don't just waste their time and yours getting them to make tea," he says. "Interns are potential employees who could prove to be a great asset to your company, so use it as a chance to discover and develop their skill sets and strengths."

So is it possible to make it all the way from intern to MD? Event spoke to four senior-level industry professionals - former interns - on how they got to where they are today.

Joanna Wharton, account manager, Sense

How did you come to be an intern?

I initially started doing promotional work out in the field when I was living in Australia. I loved the buzz of it, but wanted to be more involved in planning and implementing the campaigns I was working on. When I moved back to London I got in touch with a friend from university who worked for an experiential agency called Blazinstar, and enquired about a potential placement.

I struck lucky and went in shortly afterwards for an interview. I was asked to do various jobs at Blazinstar, including brainstorms, research, organising focus groups, pulling together reports, budgeting and negotiating with suppliers.

How did you make the move from intern to employee?

I worked at Blazinstar for about three months, after which I felt ready for my first permanent role. Unfortunately, Blazinstar were unable to take me on as a full-time employee because there wasn't a position at that time. However, with the help of advice from colleagues at the agency, I applied to various other experiential agencies and landed a job at Sense Marketing. Often it's a case of the right role being available at the right time.

What's your view on internships?

I think placements/internships are an invaluable way of testing the water and seeing if you enjoy working in that role and environment. In smaller agencies there is often the downside of getting only your expenses paid, but if you are able to do that temporarily, it's worth it in the long run - in my case my experience certainly landed me my first job.

Agencies should proactively plan content for interns because it's mutually beneficial to have them doing as much as possible and gaining exposure to the industry. I was lucky in that respect because I was given a lot of freedom and learnt a huge amount.

Rees Hitchcock, creative planner, Frukt

How did you come to be an intern?

During my third year at Bournemouth University I undertook a placement year. Knowing I wanted to spend it back in London and kick-start my career in the world of brands and experiences, finding a short-term intern role that could develop into a long-term job seemed the most pragmatic way to approach it.

I started where I imagined most people would: a Google search, making a list of brands and agencies that I wanted to work at and then picking up the phone and calling them. Some of those conversations proved to be more fruitful than others. I got an interview at Borkowski PR, who introduced me to their experiential agency Beatwax - they in turn offered me an intern role. This turned into a full-time post and I went on to join as a graduate after finishing university.

What were you tasked with doing?

I was quite lucky when it came to my role and tasks. As Beatwax was a relatively small agency with big clients, I gained experience in every part of the agency, from creative brainstorms, pitch writing and presenting, budgeting, account and client management to project management and even sorting out our storage garage.

Of course, at that stage I didn't know that planning and strategy would be the direction I'd head in, but it really did help me to get a grasp of each and every stage of responding to a brief and running an activation, and that has stood me in good stead for where I am today.

How important are interns to the industry?

I may be a tad biased, but I will always fly the flag for interns and people looking to get started to develop their skills and knowledge.

I am now lucky enough to return and guest lecture for Bournemouth University's events and marketing students and mentor at youth charity Spark and Mettle.

As an industry we must be careful not to see it as a way of getting people in to do the jobs others may not enjoy doing. Interns should be seen as the smart, hungry and driven people that they are - a breath of fresh air to an agency, bringing with them new ideas and cultural insights and the ability to question everything. That's something to always embrace because at one point we have all been that person looking for someone to give us a chance.

Comment below to let us know what you think.

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