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Brendan Watson of ihaveanidea, asked me on your behalf to write a piece on “What makes a Good Intern” for his students at Humber College. Happy to, but I told Brendan I’d prefer to write a piece on what makes a GREAT intern. Because, if the common belief that “Good is the enemy of Great” holds true for interns, then let’s shoot for the moon.

I assume that anyone reading this, wants to shoot for the moon – to be the absolute best. Your pursuit of being the absolute best begins with your first job – that, of an intern.

1. A great intern loves the business they are in, and cannot believe they are about to embark on a career in creativity. Pinch me, right? Loving this business, means more than telling people you love this business. Loving this business means studying this business. By allowing yourself to be so moved by the power of creativity, that you seek it out like a drug. You observe it, you deconstruct it, you devour it, you watch it frame by frame, you go back more than once. You love it.

2. A great intern never does what is asked of them. They do more. They don’t sit around in their office waiting for assignments to be brought to them. They ask for them. If there are no assignments, they just do stuff. They tidy up. They ask the assistants if they can assist them. They just get coffee. You’re in a service business now, and learning how to enjoy getting someone a cup of coffee and delighting them is your first lesson. Master it. It will serve you well in the future.

3. A great intern studies the work of the company. A great intern studies the work of the clients. A great intern reads all the clients’ websites. I mean every single word. A great intern takes the company reel home and watches it. A great intern googles all of their colleagues, so they know who they are working with. A great intern reads the company new business deck so they know what the company stands for. A great intern does not wait for anyone to provide these things. A great intern asks for it. If it isn’t provided, they find a way around it. A legal way.

4. A great intern stays late when they have to, but not just as a way of showing they’re a keener. If you have something that needs to get done, stay. If there is no reason to stay, leave. You don’t win any points for the number of hours you are there, only for the importance of your contribution during those hours.

5. A great intern realizes that there is no such thing as a bad agency to have their internship at. Every single agency on the planet can teach you something. Every great Creative Director on the planet will tell you that every job they’ve had taught them something. There is much to be learned that you don’t currently know, and you will learn it. If you have the right attitude.

Now here’s a little secret. What makes a great intern is exactly the same as what makes a great creative regardless of their level of seniority.

With the exception of the fifth point. As your career progresses, you want to be more and more particular about why you’re making the move you’re making, because each move becomes more perilous. It gets more difficult to bounce back.

However, if you practice the first four points your entire career, I can guarantee every success you can imagine. When you become a Creative Director (Congratulations!) please take out this piece of paper and read it again.

At that time, I hope this little piece of paper will help define who you show up as every day. I hope it will help you to inspire your team to achieve the next level of success together; I hope it will help you earn your client’s trust; I hope it will attract the best possible talent to your department, and I hope it will attract the best possible clients to your agency.

More than anything this behavior, will make you a professional.

And professionals are always in demand.

~ heidi