I began my career journey as an intern. As a requirement for my graduate studies at Boston University’s College of Communication, I had to spend at least one semester working. I was fortunate that I landed at Newsome & Company, Boston’s leading public relations agency. My good fortune continued there, where I participated on account teams in the fields of snow skiing and horse showing, my two passions. And because of my graduate work under my belt, and my personal knowledge in two areas important to clients, I was hired as an account executive after my internship, even before I finished my Masters.
After three years at Newsome, I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and started Cone, on August 1, 1980. Within my first year, I had clients in the ski and sporting goods industries. By 1983, I began my first cause program, linking the Rockport Shoe Company to walking that helped them become a national brand as together, we created the walking movement. They grew from an unknown $20 million company to more than $150 million on that positioning. That was the beginning of my passion of authentically embedding a company with a cause to build brand reputation, stakeholder loyalty, and sales concurrently with creating a movement around an emerging issue relevant for the times — walking for health and fitness.
Today, some 25 years later, I’m often called the “Mother of Cause Marketing.” Programs that my firm, Cone, have created address a myriad of social issues, having created movements around breast cancer, walking, heart disease and early childhood education. We’ve been honored to have worked with amazing companies with prescient leaders who understand what it means to be a good corporate citizen. These leaders understand they must earn “a license to operate” in an ever changing global society with pressing social and environmental issues that cannot be solved by government, nonprofits, companies or citizens alone. Companies like Reebok, Avon, P & G, PNC Financial Services, ConAgra Foods, McDonalds, JC Penney to name a few.
It has been a wonderful journey and there are still many more roads to travel. And it began with an internship.
I am totally pro intern because of my experience. Cone has a robust program, hosting approximately 15 students a semester, three times a year. We take this responsibility very seriously, assigning our interns to accounts where they get real work in a team environment. We even have mid term evaluations by our staff and make mid-course improvements to the internship experience, if necessary.
Below find some of my tips to get the most from your internship… as you never know where the experience will take you.
- Try multiple internships during college. Test and learn the industries and working environments that are interesting to you.
- Participate fully in the experience. Arrive daily with enthusiasm and a can do attitude no matter what you are doing.
- Ask for a full time staffer to be your mentor, no matter what their age. Take them to lunch and ask for their help throughout your time with the firm.
- Buddy up with another intern or a few. Share the good and the not so good. Learn from each other and the work.
- Keep a journal of your experience. I did and I love to look back upon that time and see what I was feeling and learning.
- Read. Read. Read. Learn about the organization you are working for even before the first day. Set up Google push alerts about the company and their industry. Devour their website. Read news about them. What are their strengths?. Where are they going?. How might you help?.
- While you may be short on experience, you do bring some great knowledge to the company. First and foremost you are a millennial and a digital native (I assume.) You have consumer tastes you can share. Perhaps you can help your workplace become more informed about social networking. Perhaps you have an idea for the company website to enhance it via new media applications.
- Write. Write. Write. Unfortunately the art of persuasive writing is being lost. And in business, the ability to write compelling copy is critical….whether a brief email, a speech, an analysis of a report or a topline of an industry. Volunteer to write lots.
- Start your portfolio now, if you haven’t already. Anything that you do during your internship, writing, research, graphics, analysis, add to your portfolio. Build it over your college years and be sure to make it very neat and as sophisticated a representation of how you think and what you know. And if you are really a digital native, put your portfolio online.
- Start building your contact database. Linked In or others. Even in an internship you are beginning to network. You never know when you will find someone who will offer to connect you with someone else to launch your career.
And lastly, ask for real work, as challenging as you can handle. And work with your team – interns and full time staff – as the project evolves. Collaboration is one of the secrets to my success and is more important than ever today. Nobody corners the market on new ideas and solutions. Teams who can candidly question and share can create amazing results.
I could go on and on, but I was told to keep it short. I hope this list helps you to gain a solid start with any of your internships.
Carol Cone is now applying her talents at Edleman Worldwide.