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Defeating the Stigma of the Stereotypical Internship

[lead]Interns get a bad rep. You know, the coffee-getters, the paper-staplers, and the thousands of other demeaning tasks associated with the title “intern.” As a young professional two years out of undergrad and halfway through a master’s program being taught in my second language, I knew my worth as a potential employee. Being new to Raleigh and ready to dive into a full-time position where I could make a difference was one thing, but finding a career where I could contribute while also growing professionally proved to be much harder.[/lead]

Enter Walk West.

The position on the table? Marketing intern. To say I was thrilled would be slightly misleading… but I was curious. After a bit of back and forth, I signed the dotted line. I took the internship despite having other full-time position offers. So… why an internship? And more so, what are the signs for other young pros that an internship could have more professional potential than a tempting full-time offer?

The Opportunity to Learn

The dazzle of a full-time position doesn’t mean much if there isn’t prospective growth. My skillset would have been fully utilized in other positions, but I wouldn’t have walked out of the office having learned something new every day. Walk West was able to promise investment in my capabilities… and they kept their word.

Culture

Champagne Fridays, the weekly “You Rock” award (which is quite literally a rock trophy given to the Employee of the Week), celebratory happy hours, and more. Having extensively stalked Walk West on social media, I saw the work-life balance I wanted. The employees were friends with one another and the work they produced as a team was phenomenal. Stepping into the office was seamless and “fitting in” was never an obstacle.

Meaningful Work

In no part of my three-month internship did I feel like the stereotypical office intern. Though I was a virgin to #agencylife, my experience was not intern-level. As I was brought into the internship, I was uncomfortable with the title. Walking into the agency, I was ready for the onslaught of unintentional cookie-cutter insults, piles of work on my desk that were “too administrative” for full-timers, and the incessant busywork – all the while having meaningful work slipping from my to-do list. Let me be clear: I am a hard-worker and understand that rank takes time and experience. Let me be clear again: I would not step into a position that belittled the double major and two minors I had earned during my undergraduate career and the handful of other jobs I had up to that point. My responsibilities from early on at Walk West included market research, analytics reporting, and content creation for accounts. As my internship progressed, the meaningful tasks expanded and consequently developed me professionally while boosting the overall success and efficiency of the team. By going above and beyond with my deliverables, I assured my title of “office intern” wasn’t to be taken lightly.

Invaluable, Unique Work

During my time as an intern, I lead an internal audit/research project on Walk West. Internally, what do we do well? Do we showcase what we do well? Furthermore, where are our weaknesses and are we actively working to fix those? Externally, who is playing our game and what does the market look like for full-service digital marketing agencies in Raleigh? By compiling a few presentations of insight gold, I was able to present my work to the CEO and other partners of the firm. Additionally, I was able to give them actionable items and suggestions based on key trends and opportunities on how to solidify Walk West as one of the best digital marketing agencies in the Raleigh area.

The Potential of a Hire (…duh)

Rewind back 90 days and you would have heard a discussion between the hiring squad and myself on the high hope that the internship would lead to a full-time position. I was transparent in saying this position was being taken because of the things I listed above; they were transparent in letting me know that I was being brought on as an intern for this bullet point right here: they wanted to confidently bring on a full-time employee. Turns out we both got our way. Walk West bumped me up to a full-time marketing specialist position and I got an amazing learning experience for three months both professionally and personally with co-workers who are my friends. My advice for young pros at a crossroads? Take the position on the table that offers the best experience available to you. Strip down the title, look at the people who fuel the company, and be as transparent as possible during the hiring process. And lastly, the ever-clichéd but ever-true advice: at any level, work and perform to the level of the position you want, not the one you have. For some tips on how to maximize your time as an intern, check out this blog from another former Walk West intern who is also now a full-time employee.

 

To learn about our available internships, visit our careers page. We are always searching for talented individuals looking to learn.

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