Tips For Offering A Valuable Internship Experience

An internship can either be the best experience for marketing students – or a summer in hell.

Take, Gene, for example, the intern who spent his time couriering photos from office to office by bicycle and fetching lunch for co-workers. Or the student who was ignored and unassigned during a six-week internship at a busy corporate marketing department. For some, like Ryan Williams of the MCM League, the experience is enough to sour a person on the corporate experience.

“It was awful,” says Williams, “Which for me was amazing, because I ended up starting my own business to be rid of the politics and the garbage!”

As former interns and professionals who run internship programs will tell you, the key to a successful internship program for all involved is an organized experience with planned, hands-on marketing tasks in addition to the ubiquitous grunt work.

uc“The program should be something structured, with projects that are thought about ahead of time,” says Susan Tull, assistant director of the Haas School of Business at the University of California of Berkeley.

Ms. Tull spent several years running internship programs at Clorox, Oakland, Calif., before taking the UC-Berkeley position, in which she counsels MBA students on internships.

Managing the intern

“There should be a manager in charge of the intern who can provide mentoring. They should have an open door and make sure the intern’s needs are met, that resources are there and that they can connect with the right people,” Ms. Tull says. “And make sure they have a telephone and computer.”

Some larger companies have set up internships that culminate in the interns presenting project results and recommendations to executives, she says.

“What’s really good is if they can get in front of management, so they can get a sense of closure,” Ms. Tull says.

Before choosing an internship, students should have a clear idea of their career goals, since jobs may be available to them at the companies that host their internships.

For instance, students interested in brand management may want to work for marketing departments that handle consumer products, while those interested in strategic marketing may be interested in high-tech business-to-business product marketers, such as computer and peripheral manufacturers.

“The benefit should be if an intern gets a real smattering of general knowledge, what a business-to-business product is all about,” says Rick Kean, executive director of the Business Marketing Association. “The internship is a good idea because that’s the one place students can get real-world experience, or at least a broader understanding of how the real world works.”

Fewer internships available

But Mr. Kean says fewer marketing internships are available to students today than five years ago, possibly due to corporate downsizing and cutbacks.

“Maybe it’s considered a luxury nobody has any money for anymore,” Mr. Kean says.

Still, marketing students are finding internship opportunities. Quintina Sahagun, who recently completed the graduate program for integrated marketing communications at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, interned last summer at CCL Label, a Canadian company with a branch in Itasca, Ill. She said the experience helped her land a job at Quill Corp., Lincolnshire.

“You can see how the principles and textbooks apply with an internship,” Ms. Sahagun said. “I would suggest anyone doing an internship, even if it’s unpaid.”

Ms. Sahagun did support work, wrote articles for trade journals and prepared giveaways for trade-show customers for CCL, which makes packaging and labels for Xerox Corp., Procter & Gamble Co.’s Nyquil and other products.


She says her most interesting and rewarding assignment, however, was investigating a packaging dilemma for Xerox, which led to a major change in the company’s packaging strategy. Consumers were ripping open reams of Xerox paper to see the color, and retailers and distributors were losing money because the paper, once opened, could not be sold.

Ms. Sahagun identified the problems, which Xerox further investigated and then remedied with new packaging that showed paper color on the outside of the package.

Even though Ms. Sahagun enjoyed her experience, she says she still hungered for more information on budgeting, communicating with advertising agencies and working on trade-show strategy beyond “grunt work.”

Brenda Hill, public relations manager for Gibbs & Snell, a business-to-business and industrial PR agency, ran an internship program at a previous job, in which she focused on giving interns valuable, real-world experience as well as clips for their portfolios.

Two of the five interns she mentored received job offers after the internships were over.

“I didn’t believe in making them glorified slaves,” Ms. Hill says. “I used them as workers – they did interviews, took pictures, just as if they were full-time. The big difference was the level of responsibility. The interns have to be supervised a little more closely than a full-time employee.

“Don’t use interns as gophers,” she adds. “They have something to contribute. They can bring some value to the company.”

Setting up an internship program

Are you looking for ways to create a successful internship program? Here are a few ideas:

* Provide each intern with a desk, computer and phone.

* Plan a structured experience, including specific tasks and objectives.

* Assign a mentor/manager to provide assistance. The mentor should have an open-door policy.

* At the end of the internship, have interns present recommendations and findings to management to bring closure to their experience.

* Encourage talented and enthusiastic interns with more challenging work, and possibly a job opportunity at the end of the internship.

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| December 16th, 2015 | Posted in Marketing |

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