If there’s one thing I can safely say we all have in common as college students in a post-pandemic world, it’s a collective sense of anxiety about approaching the job market. Prior to the start of my internship this semester, I held a lot of uncertainty about what I wanted to do with my degree, my career, my life. Now that this initial taste of what my future could look like is drawing to a close, I can’t say I’ve lost any of that uncertainty; only that I’ve redirected it.
My name is Margo Martin, and I’m a rising senior with an Advertising major and Art Direction concentration. This Fall, I had the pleasure of interning for a small clothing business named Tonari, run by some friends of mine. The nature of the business required that I wear a few different hats, but I mainly held a role in the art direction, graphic design, and content creation of an exclusive collection of printed, reworked button-down shirts.
While my experience with my internship may differ from the experiences of most others in my field, I feel that I learned a great deal, not only about the inner workings of a small business, but about my own artistic and career interests as well. Prior to this, I’d been given very few opportunities to exercise my creativity in a way that benefited my career (for school, or otherwise); however, Tonari and the lovely people behind it enabled me to steer the direction of the design process. Working with other people with a similar design vision to me, with a strong set of goals about what we wanted it all to look like, was something I quickly realized I wanted to maintain in my life. From my supervisor and her overarching vision, to our stylist and her eye for aesthetics, to our photographers for bringing the concept to life upon its completion, I had so many opportunities to learn and gather inspiration.
This internship changed any expectations I had previously held about what a job could look like in our industry. My biggest career nightmares featured a setting in a cold office cubicle, forced into making sterile pharmaceutical ads until my creativity ran dry. This was about as far from that as one could imagine: we spent our meetings circled around a white board on the living room floor in West Philadelphia that served as the Tonari Headquarters. Things certainly weren’t perfect, and it was a definite learning experience on both sides, but as they grew their business amd I grew my career, we seemed to mesh well together.
My advice for other students looking for internships? Look for a company that represents your values. Find your people. Tonari is a company that emphasises sustainable and ethical fashion, which is something I find valuable in my own life. I feel that this, as a common tie, brought us together as a team and allowed us to have a clear flow of creativity between us. If you can, find an in with a brand or agency that reflects you, and you’ll find your work to be much less daunting.
When I say I’ve redirected my uncertainty, what I mean is this: I am no longer uncertain of what I want to do with my life; what’s left to figure out is where and with whom. As shaky as I was on the idea of entering the workforce, my ideas about what I wanted for my future began to crack as I realized it didn’t need to be as black-and-white as I had previously envisioned. Advertising is a vast industry, with thousands of niches for people like me to wiggle into and find comfort. My uncertainty used to scare me; now it fuels me.