As my third month of internship service drew to a close, and Old Man Winter bid adieu to the historical lands of the Kwikwetlem, I came to be aware of a tradition that exists within these hallowed halls of digital industry.
It was uttered offhandedly, as if to feign indifference, but betwixt such facades there was a glimmer of predatory elation.
In that moment, a dispiriting truth was laid bare: To partake in the pleasantries of lunchtime table tennis at ElementIQ is to consign oneself to a trial by competition. At the periphery of my senses, I could hear the voices of my colleagues softly crooning,
“Earn your ascension. Vanquish the one who came before you.”
A veiled directive, to be sure, but nevertheless clear: to complete my internship, I would need to defeat the previous intern in a game of table tennis.
And so my fate was sealed. I was to topple that most dastardly of nemeses, the one spoken of in hushed tones and with great admiration.
Like the venerated rogues of yore, his legend is told in many tongues across many lands, but you may know him simply as…Carlos Ortiz, Social Media Specialist.
(Just to be clear - no, interns aren't hired full-time based on whether they win a ping pong match against the previous intern. But it's fun to pretend!)
And yeah, that’s pretty much where the story gets cut short thanks to what Wikipedia has deemed the 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Brendan the Intern is no more, and ElementIQ's great tradition of ping pong rivalries has been rent asunder. Gee, thanks COVID-19.
Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for indulging me a bit of epical blathering. As a content writer, sometimes you just want a free license to uncork that bubbly bottle of word champagne, you know?
But I digress.
I’ve never really been one to partake in deep reflection, so these internship blog posts have always struck me as a canvas to give prospective interns an insider’s look at what they can expect.
Now, that’s easier said than done given that every intern receives a distinct, personalized experience. My internship was bookended by Carlos’ and Andrew’s internships, and their journeys were and have been, respectively, markedly different from my own.
So, with my back against the wall, and the spectre of a due date haunting my every step, my hand has been forced.
It was a harrowing encounter, and I barely escaped with my mind intact, but I bring thee now wisdom from the beyond. Insights.
Insights on what, you ask? Insights on ElementIQ’s internship program and the 3 core qualities that make for a fruitful internship, of course. But there’s nary a moment to tarry – I can feel the words slipping away already. Quickly now, read on!
1. All Day, E’erday, Carpe
O Captain! My Captain! Or, if you don't know which movie this is from, a bunch of guys standing on their desks.
I thought about composing this like my first internship blog post, with the generically inoffensive voice that narrates innumerable corporate blog posts, until I realized that a lot of the most successful blog sites don’t write that way. From an audience standpoint, co-opting their style makes sense, so here I am trying something different.
And that’s point number one. Carpe diem! Seize the day. It’s not that you don’t receive oversight here, or you’re not accountable to anyone, but that you’re given the autonomy to make judgement calls and pursue innovation where it presents itself.
In my mind, that’s a big part of what puts this experience a cut above your typical garden-variety internship. See, a lot of companies have a rather narrow process for their interns. Speaking from experience, it goes something like this: Here are your tasks, here’s how you do them, let me know when you’re done.
That’s not terrible by any means, and you still learn in those cases, but it’s confining. By comparison, in my time as an ElementIQ intern, I’ve had the opportunity to audition new tools, give input on process refinements, and play an active role in making collaboration more efficient. And that’s on top of the normal step-by-step instruction that I needed to receive while learning about entirely new tasks.
2. Keep the Creative Juice Flowing
Uh...not that kind of creative juice.
Rarely a day went by during my internship that didn’t feature some sort of opportunity for creativity, and that’s pretty representative of what life at ElementIQ is like.
Heck, just look at the featured image I created for this blog post – it makes Carlos and I look like we’re squarin’ up for a throwdown. Goodness knows there are organizations out there where HR would be filling out my pink slip already.
Here, that’s very much not the case. Right from the day you arrive, you’re given a long leash to craft a first-week internship blog post that reflects who you are, what your experience was like, and what your expectations are for the weeks ahead.
Creativity isn’t confined to self-expression either. As a member of the team, problem solving is almost always an open forum, and that’s one of the places where your creativity can really shine. You’ll be encouraged to share your ideas and serve up your take on problems, just as you’ll be able to draw on the perspectives of other members of the team.
3. No Unitaskers Allowed
No unitaskers in Alton's kitchen, no unitaskers at ElementIQ.
If you’re a fan of American culinary pop culture, you probably already know where the term “unitasker” comes from. But for the uninitiated, “unitasker” is a term that was originally popularized by chef Alton Brown. It refers to kitchen tools, like a banana slicer, that can only be used for one specific task which could otherwise be performed with a more versatile tool like a chef’s knife.
‘Round these parts, that’s a familiar philosophy, because being a member of the ElementIQ team is a lot like being a chef’s knife: you have to look sharp and be ready to handle all kinds of different tasks. Whatever competencies you bring to the table, whatever professional interests you’re seeking to pursue – they’ll be put to work and provided with a chance to flourish.
In my case, I went into my internship knowing that I wanted to work with content and data, and that’s precisely what I’ve been able to do. Any given day could be focused on copywriting, SEO, analytics, or all three rolled up into a single project.
Can it get hectic? Sure, but ask yourself: do you like having more task variety? Are you interested in gaining new skills that can make you more valuable as a professional? For most people the answer to both of those questions is a resounding ‘yes’, and from that reference point, putting in a little more effort to stay organized is a small price to pay.
The ElementIQ Internship – Is it Right for You?
Truth be told, not every intern makes it to the end of their internship, and not every completed internship produces a full-time hire. And that’s totally fine! The way I see it, internships are a chance to gain experience not just for the sake of having it on a resume, but to be able to know whether a job brings fulfillment. That's especially important for digital marketing because it draws upon so many skillsets and exists in so many places and forms.
For some, being able to solely focus on marketing a single set of products and services is ideal, and they find contentment working with an in-house marketing team. Others crave variety, dynamism, and the irreplaceable satisfaction of seeing a client’s vision be fulfilled. For them, agency life is the answer.
You’ve probably heard that agencies are “fast-paced” or “work hard, play hard” environments, but that’s about as informative as me telling you that the Grand Canyon is tall and deep – it just doesn’t capture the full experience.
But even though words fall short in describing the agency environment, you can still look inwards and ask yourself three guiding questions based on what you read above:
Am I driven and motivated to learn?
Do I crave the freedom to be creative?
Can I handle variety and spontaneity?
I can’t definitively say that answering “yes” to all of those questions means you’d be a better fit at an agency - job satisfaction should be based on a whole lot more than just three questions, after all.
What I can confidently tell you, though, is that answering "yes" to those questions means that you’ve got the right qualities to fit in at ElementIQ.
So if you're searching for an instructive introduction to agencies and the world of digital marketing, give some thought to applying. It'll be a whirlwind four months, but you'll emerge with a thorough understanding of digital marketing that no lecture or online course could ever hope to match.