Hello. My name is Maureen Healy, and I have been interning as a graphic designer at Slice Communications, an integrated public relations and social media agency in the Old City section of Philadelphia. Slice is a smaller agency with about ten full-time employees and five interns, but its client base is growing and the need for more employees is increasing.
Working at an agency has its ups and downs, but the reward is priceless. Before serving as an intern at Slice, I was (and still am) working as an in-house graphic designer at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management. I’ve been able to learn the ins and outs of the Temple and Fox brands to create work that is consistent yet fresh every time—that is always the challenge of working in-house. In contrast to working in a corporate environment at Fox to an agency environment at Slice, I’ve learned to adapt at the speed of light and roll with the punches—even if there are a few bumps in the road. Here are just a few tips to help you survive your first agency experience.
1. Be ready to work on a variety of projects.
Balancing multiple projects at the same time requires one thing: organization. Throughout the day, you will be shifting your focus from one brand to another, so staying on top of things is your path to success. Developing a system for organization will allow you to function efficiently for both yourself and the agency team. Create a naming system for folders and files for each client so that every project is separate and easily accessible. Having a checklist of tasks in their order of importance is my favorite way of staying organized—I am nothing without my planner.
2. Embrace being an intern—you are there to control the madness.
Sometimes working at an agency can be chaotic (in the best way possible), so as an intern you are there to help. When you are finished with your assigned tasks for the day, ask if anyone needs additional work completed. If your supervisors are too busy to give you assignments at any given time, be self-productive. Think of any ways you can improve work or knowledge of the agency’s industry. Whenever I have down time at Slice, I work on writing blogs for the company website or researching industry trends. There is always something to be done when you are working with brands…just do it (pun intended).
3. Be a sponge. Absorb everything you learn throughout the day.
Although you may be hired as an intern with a specific title—marketing intern, social media intern, public relations intern—try to be as well rounded as possible. It is always important to have a basic understanding of how the agency works as a whole. No one works in a vacuum. Ideas must be shared, developed and completed by the entire agency team. As a graphic design intern, I am responsible for creating graphics for the agency as well as for the agency’s clients, but my work doesn’t end there. I am also expected to know how the agency runs, who the agency’s clients are and what the social media and public relations teams do. Every week, I sit in on the social media meetings to talk about current trends, breaking news and progress of posting plans and campaigns. This all helps me develop work that is relevant and useful for the agency and its clients. From learning about Snapchat geotags to creating illustrations for Bookbinder Soup, as an intern it’s your job to do it all and learn it all.
Bottom line: Working at an agency requires organization, hard work and understanding—but have fun with it. Agency life is not for the faint of heart, so get ready for the ride of your life.