It’s Not Always What You Know, But Sometimes Who You Know

Hi, everyone! My name is Deraj Pugh and I am a senior Advertising student with a concentration in Account Management. I’m currently an Influencer Marketing intern at HSN. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And it’s partly true. Now, of course, when it comes to internships and jobs, knowledge and skills matter. But many times opportunities can be more abundant if you network and build relationships. With all of my internships, knowing someone somehow played a part in me getting hired.

I’ll start with my very first one which was as a Social Media intern for a small online beauty business. A couple years ago, I had the desire to start a false lash business. One Summer day in 2019, I stumbled upon a giveaway post by another brand that involved a group of businesses. I reached out to them to ask how I could join the next one to grow my brand’s Instagram following and was introduced to a group of entrepreneurs who often collaborated and gave each other tips and advice. Shortly thereafter, I returned back to school in Spring of 2020 and knew I wanted an internship for the upcoming Summer. Because I wasn’t haven’t much luck with where I was applying, I reached out to the group and offered my social media marketing services for a 3 month period and created my own internship!

Fast forward to Fall of 2020, I began looking for internships for Spring and Summer of 2021. One of my professors (Dana Saewitz) informed me about Where Are All the Black People (a diversity conference and career fair) hosted by The One Club. I met some incredible recruiters including the one for Mattel. From there, I connected with the recruiter through email, attended their information session, and eventually landed a Social Media and Influencer Marketing internship with the company

For my Spring 2021 internship, I had applied to QVC and unfortunately was originally passed over for someone with a little more experience. I was offered the internship for the Summer, but as explained earlier, had already secured my summer one with Mattel. Slightly disappointed, I still expressed my gratitude to the recruiter and made sure to let her know I’d love to stay in touch should future opportunities arise. A few weeks later as I was continuing my search, I got an email from that same recruiter that they had another spot open and wanted to offer me the role. I gladly accepted!

During the end of the Summer, I knew I wanted my next internship to be with QRG again (the parent company of QVC) in the influencer marketing department. This was something I knew I wanted to do during my Spring internship and I expressed that to the team during my time there. I also made sure I connected with the right people on LinkedIn and stayed connected with my former managers. Once the Fall 2021 internships were posted, I immediately applied and as expected got the job with HSN (the sister company of QVC).

Now this upcoming Spring, I’ll be interning with DMi Partners on the Affiliate Marketing and Publisher Development teams. How did I even discover this company? Through one of my coworkers at QVC who had just joined the company a few months earlier. On top of that, she made a referral for me and put in a good word!

For Summer 2022, I applied to Meta (formerly known as Facebook). I’m manifesting that I will get that internship, but I bring this one up because I have 3 direct connects there, one being a university recruiter. I met him by being a participant in Publicis’s Multicultural Talent Pipeline (which I was nominated by Prof. Saewitz, who I had mentioned above). I also participated in MADE’s mentorship program this past Summer and my mentor also works at Meta.

I hope it’s clear from my experiences how important building relationships and networking are. Attend conferences and information sessions. Be active on LinkedIn. Engage with your dream companies posts. Connect with current employees. Try to set up informational calls. Participate in class.

From your professors and classmates to other interns and employees at your company, you never know who may be able to connect you to future opportunities. Now, be clear, I am not saying you should use people. You definitely want to be genuine in conversations and relationships, but also transparent about your future goals. Also, what can you bring to the table? How can you be an asset to someone without just expecting something from them?

I hope these tips have been helpful and can assist you on landing your next internship. Good luck, fellow Owls!


  1. Hi Deraj,

    I loved to hear about your internship journey! I still miss our Intro to Adv class from before COVID.

    I have had a similar experience with my internships. Many of my positions were also found through connections. I will absolutely use the advice you wrote about towards the end of you blog post. Being able to balance making genuine connections without looking like a shark can be difficult, but, in my experience, being nice and genuine will do the work for you. One of my professors says “people buy from people who they know, like, and trust.” I feel like the same can be applied to the networking/job search environment.

    I also made an internship for myself prior to COVID. In my opinion, putting yourself out there and honing skills on your own can be the greatest learning experiences. I ran a media company with a fellow owl and learned so much about business, relationship building, and myself through the process.

    It’s inspiring to see all you have accomplished and the success you have seen by as a result! I wish you the best of luck with Meta and hope it works out! Regardless, wherever you land will be lucky to have you and everything you bring to the table.

    All the best,
    Nick Tuverson

    • Hi Deraj,

      I loved how you displayed your string of internships through the connections you were able to build. It was a great demonstration of how important connections are in making it in advertising. In my current internship, I was able to make it in the door without any personal connections to their recruiters or anyone on staff. However, as soon as I was in, I started hearing familiar names of people I knew a while back/currently know. Knowing the right people is such a blessing to help boost your career, and Temple does a great job of making sure you make those connections.

  2. Hey Deraj!

    Thanks for your post and the update. I remember having intro to advertising together and you always had such an amazing spirit and great attitude everyday. It sounds like to me you have had such great success so far and have put in a tremendous amount of work to get there. Prof Saewitz helped me out too my first semester here she is always looking to help and give back to her students. Honestly can say that about all of the profs here, at least for me.

    I have FULL confidence that you are going to get that internship at META.I have a lot of good energy coming your way for that. The experience would be invaluable moving into your professional career.

    Like you LinkedIn did wonders for me and I agree. Always being active on LinkedIn and communications can only strength your network. You let everyone know of the age old “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I’ll add this one to it “A rising tide raises all ships.” You are pushing the bar higher and higher, thank you for setting such a great example for the rest of us to chance our dreams!

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