Summer at the Shop

Long hours, low pay aside, internships can lead to real jobs

Although he hasn’t picked up a paint brush since he started his extended internship at Avrett Free Ginsberg in New York seven months ago, Ian Glaum, 25, has no regrets. “I’m in a blessed position where someone with no experience can come in and do real work,” he says. The would-be artist works at the agency with his copywriter brother, Colin, 29, who helped his “extremely talented” but “beatnik” brother land the position.

While his superiors dish out assignments that keep him at the shop most weekends, Ian has had the opportunity to present a campaign he and his brother created for AFG’s Friskies account. His pay is minimal, but the West Chester, Pa., native has an office with an East River view.

Many shops find intern slots for employees’ relatives and kids of clients. Others, however, rely on college-recruitment and industry-association programs to secure interns, who typically work the summer of their junior year in college.

Erin Sarkozy didn’t have any connections at McCann-Erickson when she applied for an internship two years ago. Then a junior studying psychology and computer applications at the University of Notre Dame, Sarkozy learned of the opportunity on her school’s career-center Web site. The Bethlehem, Pa., native landed one of the few spots available at the New York-based agency.

Barbara Jewell, McCann’s human resources manager, says the shop received 400 internship applications this year and hired 30 summer interns, who will start June 23. McCann interns are assigned to specific teams and service the same account during their six- to ten-week stay. “We don’t want them to be just staplers and copiers,” says Jewell.

Sarkozy was assigned to Burger King. She did market research and kept her team apprised of competitors’ activities. She also helped prepare for presentations. “Of course, you do have to make dubs of tapes, but there’s no cleaning the coffee grinder,” she says.

The test run confirmed Sarkozy’s passion for the industry and enabled McCann to see what she could offer. A month after graduating last May, Sarkozy, 22, joined the agency as an assistant account executive on the Marriott account.

Alex Parraga, 22, found his internship through the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ 30-year-old Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, which last year placed 69 students at 37 shops nationwide. Last summer, Parraga worked on the Castrol motor-oil account at OgilvyOne, supporting account supervisors. He has continued working there part time while he finishes his studies at New York University and in June will join as an assistant account executive on American Express. OgilvyOne hires about 50 percent of its interns, while the general agency hires 30 to 40 percent.

Most shops’ summer internships are locked up by now. Carlene Zanne, director of Ogilvy’s human resources department, says interns started applying in January and were selected in April. McCann hired its interns in March. About 10 students are currently on the shop’s intern waiting list.

“It gets quite competitive,” says Zanne. “We get a high volume of inquiries.”

Greg DiNoto, principal and creative director at DiNoto in New York, says successful interns must have “the ability to reach up and reach down.” Interns at DiNoto develop campaigns—and buy toner. They typically are referred by friends or the Adhouse, a training program run by Lowe U.S. chairman and chief creative officer Gary Goldsmith and Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners creative talent director Lauren Slaff.

Slaff encourages her students to be aggressive but not annoying. They should do more than they’re assigned and offer to help anyone who looks frantic, she says.

Pippa Seichrist, president of the Miami Ad School, says shops also need to play their part. Seichrist advises agency execs to clearly outline objectives when they give assignments, provide students with enough time to complete those tasks and have senior staffers available to critique the work.

To her students, she says the “best way to get bigger jobs is to do small ones well.”