By: Erica Walsh, Executive Director
I acted like a 7-year-old who was told Christmas was coming early this year when I received the phone call extending my offer. Since talking to a recruiter my sophomore year at Penn State, I wanted to intern for Burson-Marsteller. Badly. It was an agency with a depth of history for me to learn from and a standard of excellence I wanted to uphold. I worked hard, and I got my wish.
The first time I walked up that marble staircase in the New York office, it hit me. It was very overwhelming, and quite frankly, I was incredibly nervous. I was confident, but this was one of the largest, most prestigious agencies in the world. It was a sort of physical culmination of my efforts in that moment, and I knew I was about to give these next three months my all.
So, you’ve made it in the door, but how do you stand out? These 4 tips I learned will put you in the right mindset to be successful at a large agency.
- Be Engaged
This is a learning experience for you. Whether you’re employed for 3 months, a year, or indefinitely, you should make it your mission to learn something new every day. I left the office exhausted every single day. You should be proud to feel this way after a long day, because it points to you accomplishing something and your mind is really engaged. When you’re in the office, your body and your mind came to work. Ask intelligent questions about your work; try to understand where every piece fits into the whole. Look at things with a broader view and pay attention to the details. Your co-workers will appreciate your focus and attentiveness.
- Step Up
This goes hand in hand with engagement. While you’re learning these new skills, volunteer to put them to use. Volunteer for whatever tasks you can get your hands on, and most importantly, deliver. The media list no one else wants to make? You’ll do it. The client call you have the opportunity to take notes for? Of course you’ll go. Even if you are given what you think is the most menial, unimportant task, treat it like any other project. You should be dedicated to the success of your team in every aspect and it won’t go unnoticed. You can only learn more from the experiences you are exposed to. At the same time, know your limits. When you can’t take on any more work because you have 5 projects already, speak up. They will appreciate more that you stepped up and were honest rather than taking on more and missing a deadline.
- Use Your Resources
The people you work with will be your biggest assets. I had the pleasure of working with a team of some of the most intelligent, and driven people I’ve ever met. Learn from your team. Ask about their experiences and for their advice. They’ll be more than happy to share and to help guide you on your career. Your agency will be filled with people like this Ask people from different departments to get coffee and chat about their experiences. There is so much you can take away from others, whether you find an interest in an area you never explored or you gain some tips for your career.
- Be Accountable
We all make mistakes. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share. And it’s so cliché, but no one is perfect. And you will make a mistake at your first job. How you handle it is what matters the most. Be accountable. When you supervisor lets you know you’ve messed up, first and foremost, apologize. And sincerely. However, it’s just as important to take responsibility. Don’t give a million and one excuses for why you messed up, instead learn from it and ask what you can do better next time. Be a solution-producer rather than a finger-pointer. When you move towards a solution, remember your mistake and don’t become a repeat offender. Your accountability isn’t worth much if you make the same mistake 10 times.
- Be Humble
I believe this is not only a work lesson, but also a life lesson. You’re a rock star, and you know it. Being confident in yourself and your abilities is a great thing. But be humble. Confidence and arrogance are two totally different things that are divided by a very thin line. When someone tells you that you did a great job, accept the praise with grace. When its time for you to step up and volunteer for a new task, do so, but do so politely. Always remember to thank the people who help you along the way, because they’re essential to your achievements. You’re great yourself, but you’re a part of a team, and your humility will contribute to its success.
These tips will help you get the most out of your experiences. They’re valuable lessons I have learned, and to everyone who has helped me and taught me this, thank you. And maybe working at a large agency isn’t your dream, that’s perfectly fine. Whatever career path you choose, these tips will help you leave a lasting impression.