An internship should evolve not just with the needs of the company — but also with the needs of the interns.
Today’s job market is competitive, and talented students don’t look for unpaid internships getting coffee and doing grunt-work. They want real-world experience that will help them succeed in their future endeavors.
Internships are meant to provide more value beyond free labor. A thriving internship program offers existing employees an opportunity to improve through mentorship. It provides opportunities for fresh perspectives from younger generations.
Think of how much more easily your intern navigates social than a Gen X coworker. And just imagine tackling TikTok with no interns to catch us up on trends or act as the cringe police.
If your Summer internship program feels like a mere afterthought, it’s time for a change…
In our latest conversation with Anais about The 3rd Eye’s recently revamped Pupil Project, our COO and internship coordinator provided valuable guidance on how to design an internship program that benefits both your interns and your business.
How can I make my internship program better?
What to avoid
“I can’t speak for all internships, but I wanted this one to be different from the ones I’d experienced in my 20s.
When we were designing the Pupil Project, we all talked about our horror stories versus what we would’ve wanted instead.
I worked at a fairly large PR agency once for an internship—and PR was not for me. They sent me out to get coffees for the whole office, so I spent 100+ dollars on coffee as a 20-something intern. And no one told me how to expense it! I was young and felt weird asking—so I never did.
I also had one while I was getting my masters where my day-to-day consisted of transferring information to a new excel sheet—not much learning involved.
So, we wanted to make sure nothing like this happened at T3E. An internship shouldn’t discourage you from asking questions, and it shouldn’t be more than 20% busy work.
What to implement
For a successful internship program, make sure your interns are gaining real-world experience.
At an agency, that means pitching in on real work assignments, participating in a professional environment, and getting constructive feedback.
We found the best way to do this was to implement structure and pair the interns up with mentors.
Last year, we hired interns for specific departments, pairing each with a mentor from that department. In their exit interviews, the resounding feedback was interns wanting to learn about all the departments — not just the one to which they were assigned. So we took their feedback, and adjusted.
Don’t be afraid to plan. You have from Fall to Spring — ample time to optimize your internship to give each new class a refreshed, fulfilling experience. Successful programs consider constructive criticism from each exit interview and apply improvements for future talent.
Start with a bang
View this post on Instagram
Mentors are involved in the entire internship — from the recruiting process where qualified candidates are interviewed and prospective interns are chosen to the very end when their final projects are presented.
At T3E, we make sure to implement structure. In 2022, we started the internship with an abbreviated version of our brand retreat, which is a service we provide as a part of our C-level consulting.
Many organizations feel the need to revisit their brand archetype or USP, and we work through that rebuild in a brand retreat—an exercise that also works for startups looking to build a brand.
Rob and I spent half a day with them, showed them examples of past brand retreats, and helped them start brainstorming. That was their first exercise, to create an agency of their own.
They started on a Monday, and by Thursday, they were able to come together in this impressive presentation where each one spoke up — a group of students who had only just met!
In 2023, we switched it up. Since our own agency’s rebrand is old news, we decided to brief them on an actual client. We’d done the brand retreat, we’d developed a strategy. And the interns started brainstorming a campaign to help meet their brand goals — and to no one’s surprise, the whole agency was endlessly impressed!
We designated mentors for each intern, making sure to involve selected mentors from each department in the hiring process.
And in the first two weeks, the interns shadowed mentors daily—practicing skills from various areas of advertising.
Make sure to create fruitful mentorship opportunities and foster an educational environment. At T3E, we encourage mentors to bring interns into creative and strategic meetings.
Allow moments for interns to speak up, get noticed, and ask questions.
Introduce A Project
Major projects provide a point of gravity for your intern program to center around. In 2022, we rebranded both the agency to THE 3RD EYE and our internship program to THE PUPIL PROJECT — so there was a clear choice to center their project around our revamped agency brand.
With the agency they created in their brand retreat, we invited the interns to view T3E as a client and gave them a list of deliverables. In the second half of their internship, they worked together to develop a brand strategy and execute it creatively—putting what they’ve learned into practice.
In 2023, we went one step further. This year, the interns worked on a campaign for a real client based on a brand strategy the T3E team had already put together. They put themselves in our shoes — developing Creative and Media plans (with a far less stringent budget).
Why should other businesses consider redesigning their internships?
To foster a collaborative environment
Mentorship creates a collaborative environment. And well-planned internship programs are ideal training grounds to develop mentorship skills.
Having great mentors makes us work smarter
If you want growth at your agency, I think mentorship is a big piece of that. And internship programs develop mentorship skills.
As a mentor, when you become skilled at identifying talent and connecting the dots, you can enable your team to work smarter, not harder.
Mentoring a new hire for a full-time position can put a lot of pressure on existing employees. Mentoring an intern, however, is lower risk. It’s not only a way to provide the intern with access to a professional in their aspiring career—but also a way to provide the mentor with experience in mentoring.
It’s great practice for current employees who seem to have a natural talent for mentorship, but haven’t had a chance to stretch their legs yet.
Constant mentorship keeps the talent pipeline alive—where a pool of candidates at the agency are prepared to fill a position when it opens.
Team members learning to cultivate new talent is key for agency growth.
To learn from younger generations
Advertising is one of those industries where you become a dinosaur real quick, because things are changing constantly. Even before our rebrand, we’ve always imbued the older generation with insights from the new-comers.
In order to stay relevant in this business, you have to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s new. Interns can teach us new ideas and fresh ways of looking at things.
Mentoring is a balance. They learn from us, we learn from them. Our experience provides wisdom and structure—but the interns teach you about the new wave, what’s important now, or trends about which you often had no idea.
In 2022, we learned that our interns were even more multifaceted than we anticipated. They wanted more! So, we listened. And in 2023, each mentor was available to ALL the interns.
Our most recent class of interns in 2023 taught us something we often forget: how easily we get in our own way. We often forget the fun and inspiring part of our jobs, bogged down by the cynicism brought on by slow-moving campaigns or limited budgets (or just general adulthood). The interns reminded us to step back and remember the whimsy, the excitement that comes with creating something with a team of people whose company we actually enjoy.
What’s excited you the most about seeing the Pupil Project come to fruition?
Everyone at T3E has really welcomed them! And they fit in great with our company culture.
I also love how excited they’ve been to come into work every day! I thought the interns were going to want to be remote. But the opposite happened. They all told me that most of their college experience was online or remote, and our social company culture was a welcome departure in their internship experience. Being able to work in-person with other people has meant so much to them.
Our values matter to them
The interns this summer share our mission about health and wellness, which I thought was very interesting. Everyone I interviewed for this internship program told me that what we stood for as an agency aligned with their values. Each emphasized that working for someone with similar values is important to them.
If you’re interested in stepping up the mentorship at your agency while bringing in fresh perspectives, take a look at your interns. When set up for success, internships are a rewarding experience for both the mentor and mentee alike.
With a little structure, you’ll ensure that your interns are getting the most from their Summer Internship and that your current employees grow in the process. You may even be sowing the seeds for future employees.”
If you need help getting promotional materials for recruitment in front of the right eyes, shoot us an email. We’ll ensure you get candidates who are the right match.