It’s been six months since I joined Radial Development Group as their first marketing intern. Interning at a small business is a very different experience from interning at a large corporation, and now that my internship is coming to a close I want to share some of what I’ve learned. I hope it will help future Radial interns as well as other interns or new hires who may find themselves working in marketing for a small business.
Tip 1: Create Strategies. They Will Help You Focus when Starting from Scratch
If your employer doesn’t have a marketing department or even a marketing plan, I have one valuable tip for you: make one. When I first started at Radial, I was overwhelmed by the amount of freedom I had and would start projects with no defined end goal in sight. I quickly learned that before working on a project I should develop a strategy, whether it related to social media, web analytics, or content creation.
After you do make a strategy or process document imagine that it will be used by a future marketing team (and in fact, there’s a good chance it will). In that document, outline the value the project will bring to the company, and provide documentation of all of the steps you will take from start to finish in order to complete those goals. Make sure the steps are well defined and executable by someone that has no prior knowledge of your project.
Not only will these strategies help you keep your projects on track when you get started, but they will provide a resource to look back on during review. You will be able to clearly see what elements of the projects brought value to your business, and what elements need to be removed or redefined.
Tip 2: Not All Your Ideas will be Implemented, but it’s Still Worth Exploring Them
Be open to the fact that not all of your work will be used, and try to remember that it is all a learning experience.
During the early stages of my internship with Radial, there were a few projects that I took on with minimal direction and executed them in the way that I saw fit. Not all of these projects ended up being implemented into the company, which felt like a waste of time at first. After all, everyone is emotionally attached to the work they produce. And it could actually be really great work, but that doesn’t mean it aligns well with the goals of your company.
It’s important not to see these scrapped projects as a waste of time, but as a learning opportunity.
Remember, the more feedback you receive and practice you get by completing a wide scope of projects, the more you will understand about the direction your company is wanting to go and how you can best drive that growth.
A related tip: If you want your work to be taken seriously, make sure you check in regularly with your boss. At these meetings you can show your work and get feedback so you don’t get to the end of your project without knowing if you took it in the right direction.
Tip 3: Be Open to Learning Beyond the Scope of Your Role
If you are a marketing major like I am, it is easy to get wrapped up in your small world of social media and analytics. Don’t forget the company you are working for is much more than that, and working at a small business is a great way to get exposed to multiple aspects of business and entrepreneurship. Internships are about exploration and figuring out what kind of career you see yourself in after graduation, so don’t confine yourself to your set tasks.
For example, I was able to attend a Women in Tech conference during my internship, and learned a lot more than just marketing tips for working in tech.
That experience helped me gain a better understanding of the industry I was working in. You should do the same by taking the opportunity to attend conferences or meet-ups where you will have the chance to meet interesting and inspiring people in the process.
And last but not least, pay attention to the culture and mission of your company and your coworkers. Reflecting on the values you most connect with will help you determine what type of potential employer can provide the greatest alignment to your personal mission.