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The Intern Diaries: What Our College Classes Didn’t Teach Us

Internship lessons learned from smarter searches.Abigail and Alexa here! For the past three months, we’ve had the valuable opportunity of interning with Smarter Searches. As PR majors, we each knew this would be a great place to help us discover what exactly we wanted to do after we walk across the stage in May. As interns, we were expecting to get just a glimpse into the world of digital marketing. Little did we know that we were in for a front-row seat with VIP access. Don’t get us wrong, we have learned more than we could have ever imagined in college from the phenomenal professors at The University of Tennessee. However, we know they would agree that nothing can replace real-world experience. And for us, nothing could replace the experience we’ve had during our time at Smarter Searches. Here’s a few of the big things we’ve learned here that we didn’t learn in the classroom:

The Realistic Time-Frame for Projects in the Real World

In school, we are handed our syllabus on the first day of class with due dates for every test and an outline of assignments for the entire semester. If you’re a planner like us, this might even be your favorite day of the year! As we stepped outside of the classroom and entered the agency world, we quickly came to learn that it doesn’t work like this after graduation. You have to be comfortable getting assigned a project at 9 a.m. that a client wants in their inbox by noon. Although you may be the furthest thing from a procrastinator, you have to learn to work like one at times. You don’t have a week to write a draft, a week to peer edit, and another week to put on the finishing touches. Adjusting to the fast-paced nature of agency work was certainly a challenge at first, but the only thing you can do is jump in headfirst and ask for help when you need it! If you’re a student or a recent graduate, your boss likely expects you to have questions – so never be afraid to ask.

How to Work Without Recognition

As students, we are accustomed to completing an assignment or exam then receiving a grade and feedback from our teachers. Kids, this is not how it works in the real world. Projects, campaigns, or any services you might create for your client will not be returned with an A, B, or C stamped on the front; it’s more along the lines of a pass/fail grading scale. They either continue on as a happy client, or you’re off the roster and they look for someone new. Our hands are held a little more as students, but it’s important to understand what’s coming down the line as we enter our first jobs as young professionals.

How Many Different Pieces Make Up the World of Digital Marketing

Contrary to popular belief, digital marketing is far more than just posting on social media. If you’re a PR major, you have likely been asked by someone outside the world of communications if that means you learn how to “do social media.” Although social media is, in fact, an important piece of our online world, it only scratches the surface of digital marketing. By interning for an agency that offers SEO, PPC, website design, social media, video marketing, inbound marketing, branding, public relations, international marketing, graphic design, influencer marketing, digital analytics, and more (yes – even more) we’ve been able to have a hand in just about every area of the marketing field in just three short months.

Work Culture Is Key

It is common classroom conversation to talk about what field of PR or advertising people hope to go into after graduation. This is often followed by 70% of your class stating their answers as healthcare and fashion PR. Something we don’t talk about is work culture. What kind of environment are you looking for in a workplace? After our first 3 months at Smarter Searches, we can both agree that work culture is the key to enjoying your job. It’s not hard to wake up in the morning and drive to work every day when we know we have another mimosa Monday, team lunch, pool party half-day, or champagne Friday to look forward to. Genuinely enjoying the people you work with is part of what motivates employees to work hard and care about the results their work brings.

This internship has allowed us to expand our education beyond the classroom; and if you can’t tell by now, we kinda like it here. No two days are the same at Smarter Searches, and every week brings new and exciting projects. Our front row seat alongside some pretty incredible digital marketing experts has been more valuable than we could have imagined, as they’ve mentored and invested in us every step of the way this summer. Thankfully, we don’t have to say goodbye just yet! Saying yes to staying on for senior year was a no brainer. We cannot wait to continue interning and learning at Smarter Searches.