What does it take to be a superstar intern?

Written by
Amanda Khoo

An internship is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into the wacky world of communications and figure out if it’s your life’s calling. What you do and learn during this time can really set the tone for the rest of your career. No pressure.

Now, I’m no expert, but I have been an intern for multiple organisations – everything from an international bank to a startup modelling agency. Every internship is different. And taking all that I’ve learned so far, I’ve put together a list that hopefully offers you some perspective – as well as some useful tips – on what we’re looking for here at Archetype.

Be Resourceful

I cannot stress how important this is. Being resourceful helps you to work more independently (and we LOVE an independent worker).

Scenario: You’ve been assigned to put together a proposal of suitable venues for a client’s event. There are a list of factors you need to consider and include in your proposal – availability of the venue, geographical location, number of guests, budget, etc. You’ve been given Hotel A and Hotel B as some examples of what a good venue is, but it turns out that Hotel A is under renovation. What do you do?

Ideally, you should be able to figure out what makes Hotel A and B suitable venues and find similar venues through a simple Google search. You should also have called these alternative venues to find out their availability and whether they can accommodate the number of guests you have, all while staying within your allocated budget.

We love interns who don’t stop when one door closes. Look for the open window!

Note – Many interns tell us that they were “too afraid, or shy to ask”.  You may feel the same way when you’re first starting out, but remember that there is no such thing as a dumb question. Everyone had to learn from somewhere or someone, and it all starts by asking questions.

Be Observant

Keep your eyes open. Listen to everything. Be a sponge. At first, a lot of this is going to look and feel completely foreign to you. But watch your colleague’s routines. Listen to the conversations between team members, read the articles that people share on our Slack channels. You will learn how an office runs, what are the media’s quirks, and gain plenty of insider information. All of this is will be useful to you. If not immediately, then I guarantee, one day soon.

Scenario 1 – We have a weekly office-wide meeting where we discuss anything from resourcing to the great projects we’ve recently worked on.

Observation 1 – Pay close enough attention and you’ll notice how the administrative side of the office is run and you could pick up on an idea or two to share in your next brainstorm session.

Scenario 2 – There is always a flurry of activities the day before an event. Calls are being made non-stop – particularly, once the workday is about to end.

Observation 2 – Editors tend to assign stories to their reporters the day before an event. Their editorial meeting usually starts at 4PM and doesn’t end until 6PM. You do not want to make any media calls while the journalists are in their editorial meeting as no one will take your call. Worse still, you run the risk of annoying the reporter speaking to you by interrupting their important meeting.

Scenario 3 – One of our clients has an issue that is being widely reported. Your team lead has told you to monitor the media for coverage and report back within the next 30 minutes. You will also have to continue to monitor the news throughout the day with reports due at 11AM, 3PM and 5PM. This report includes information such as news sentiment, the accuracy of a particular article, as well as how influential a publication is.

Observation 3 – Frequent updates, every few hours or so, allow our clients to have a clearler picture of the scale of the problem. It could be something that’s spreading rapidly and requires constant communication on their part. Or it could be a non-issue that does not need any action whatsoever. The detail and frequency at which we are reporting the news to our clients is important because it impacts our counsel on how they should be responding.

Note – While your team will no doubt explain all of this to you, it would be beneficial if you spend some time doing the research and looking beyond the surface. You will start noticing patterns of behavior which, in turn, will get you asking the right questions.

Be Worldly

I don’t mean be well-travelled. I mean take the time to learn about something that isn’t normally on your radar. If I had it my way, all I’d do is read about true crime and rewatch reruns of The Office (US!). But I would have nothing new to offer in my daily conversations, and be totally clueless about the ongoings of the world and how it might directly impact our clients.

When you work at an agency, you will be tasked to work on a variety of industries. While you can never know everything about everything, here are some places to help you get started

  1. Quartz is a great website as they pull from articles all over the internet. Pro tip – Subscribe to their daily newsletter because they send you summaries. As a bonus, you can subscribe to their Quartz Daily Obsession newsletter.
  2. Get on Twitter and follow accounts who will fill you in on the latest news, share their own opinion on current affairs, and sometimes just share stuff from parts of the Internet that you’re unfamiliar with – Sumisha Naidu, Zurairi AR , Melissa Goh, pedoqpop.
  3. Download the BFM 89.9 app and listen to their podcasts. You can also go on Spotify and check out all the different types of podcasts they have.
  4. Read and watch shows and movies that aren’t from genres that you normally gravitate to. 

All of that said, the same old clichés still apply. We want people who want to learn and are happy to come to work every day and do their best. We want people who take feedback and then ACT on them.

Above all, do remember that if you are committed to learning as much as you can during the short time of your internship, we are equally committed to teaching you as much as we can.

Written by
Amanda Khoo