May 9, 2020
10 Mins to Read

An intern’s experience: 5 tips for future interns | Major Tom

An intern’s experience: 5 tips for future interns | Major Tom

For many, an internship is often perceived as a way to get your foot in the door at a specific company or industry. At Major Tom, we love to see our interns obtain valuable experiences that promote professional growth. 

As an intern, you will typically have little industry experience, making it difficult to know what to prepare for, or how to find what interests you. Internship experiences go well beyond the basic learning principles, as you’ll gain the knowledge that can help you become an asset in your future careers. 

This blog post for interns is curated by digital marketing intern Nicholas Hernandez, who looks to share his personal experience on what it really means to be an intern at Major Tom. Since no two interns have the same experience, he's asked other Major Tom interns about their experience too. His goal is to point out valuable insights as well as share five tips to help future interns succeed. 

We hope Nicholas’ advice can help future interns take full advantage of opportunities that arise, getting the best out of their own internships. 

What it means to be an intern at Major Tom

As a marketing management student specializing in entrepreneurship at BCIT, one of my graduation requirements was to find and complete a nine-week internship. I chose Major Tom being familiar with the company and having an interest in digital marketing. I was excited about taking a new step to get my career up and running. Before my first day, the current COVID-19 crisis changed the course of the plan and had me work from home. Although I would not be able to meet the team face-to-face, I was welcomed with open arms.

Nicholas an intern at Major Tom Agency

On the first day, I didn’t know what to expect. I had little previous experience in marketing, but I was eager to learn and observe how things worked in the industry. Right away I was given various projects and tasks that would give me the experience I needed to grow. I was quickly forced to adapt to the challenge of working at home, as the entire team was. Over time you’ll find that communication among team members is crucial — allowing you to have an idea of where you are at. The team really helped me with answering any questions I had about processes or functions that I didn’t have much experience with. 

While studying entrepreneurship, I found that the internship experience gave me the insights to further develop an ambitious mindset. Major Tom has a great entrepreneurial approach to marketing that will stick with you, and teach you to be curious for more. My supervisors were always flexible in allowing me to get the best out of the internship, and went out of their way for me to get company exposure. The team will always give you their undivided support, and over time you’ll notice how much it will help with your confidence and productivity in the industry. The leadership qualities of my team members gave me the opportunity to excel and grow during my internship experience. 

blocks with  head icons stacked

You’ll find that one of the most important things when working in an agency is company culture. Successful teams are open and warm, if you’re feeling welcomed into the fold — you’ve hit a winner. The team at Major Tom always gave off a sense of warmth that allowed me to build great relationships. Each day felt like I had been part of the team for years which allowed me to become comfortable with everyone immediately. Good people are always open for a chat and spreading wide positivity — without it, your internship will be harder to navigate. Major Tom’s culture shows how beneficial it is to work in a team with fun, creative, and intelligent people.

If I look back to where I first started, I’ve noticed the meaningful personal growth that will be beneficial in my future career. The experience has given me the opportunity to do much more than just conventional internship work. I’ve had an amazing experience at Major Tom that will always be remembered. The relationships made and skills acquired have given me the confidence to pursue my future goals. 

Along with me, interns Zoe Zhang and Iris Chau have also been given the opportunity to gain beneficial industry experience. I had the chance to ask them a few questions about what it means to be an intern at Major Tom. Let’s hear what they have to say:

Zoe Zhang, Commerce: Marketing

Zoe is a digital marketing intern studying at the UBC Sauder School of Business

What are some key takeaways from your internship that will prepare you for your future?

Zoe: “As I reflect on the projects that I was working on over the last four months, it is exciting to see how much I have grown as a marketer. I have learned that bringing a curious mind and being proactive will help accelerate my learning goals even beyond my internship. A great example would be taking the initiative to reach out to other teammates to help out with their projects and ask for feedback. My proactiveness allowed me to work on projects in other areas of the agency which included assisting with paid search campaigns, the Tin Can Shop, and more.”

How did the experience help with your personal growth as an intern?

Zoe: “Especially with the COVID-19 crisis and WFH movement, it is important to continue honing your personal skills even if you’re not physically in the office. Throughout my four months at Major Tom, I was focused on increasing my emotional intelligence to build strong working relationships, be an active listener, and increase productivity. With so many projects occurring simultaneously, my emotional intelligence was critical in working with cross-functional teams.”

What challenges did you face while working with Major Tom?

Zoe: “Working from home due to the COVID-19 crisis was one of my main challenges. Major Tom had flexible WFH days but I have always preferred to be in the office. Although we had to transition fully to collaborating online, I still felt like I was a part of the family and learned about leading a team during uncertain times. Shout out to my team for showing me what it’s like to bring an adaptable attitude to work every day.”

Do you have any advice to give future interns?

Zoe: “Your internship experience at Major Tom will be one of the most foundational pieces you are laying for a successful career. You’re going to spend a lot of time listening and observing during your first few weeks — make sure you take notes in a notebook or a word document. Have your learning objectives ready — what do you want to accomplish over the course of the internship? Be proactive and let your manager know during your first one-on-one. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — if you’re stuck, ping your manager or jump on a quick call to help clarify the task.”

“Get to know your coworkers better by asking follow up questions about their favourite activities and attending Friday Happy Hours. Lastly, bring your best attitude. Your willingness to learn and energy will be appreciated in both projects and contributing to the team culture. I know the first week at work can be really scary so I’ve started an Instagram page @spilldagreentea to help Gen Z university students navigate their career paths. Follow us for more advice on jobs, career search, and anything between transitioning from university to the working world.”

How did the work culture allow you to do the best possible job?

Zoe: “Working alongside digital marketing leaders and great people allowed me to thrive in my role at Major Tom. During my four month term, I was able to leverage the expertise of my colleagues to help deliver exceptional client work. Whenever I needed help understanding a concept, everyone was very helpful and was there to provide support when needed. Their mentorship and guidance helped me gain a fresh perspective and contribute more to strategy decks. It was very rare that I was left to tackle a problem alone because there are so many people here that wanted to see me succeed.”

What was your greatest experience during your internship with Major Tom?

Zoe: “Major Tom is home to some of the best SEO strategists and naturally, I wanted to grow my knowledge within this space. Search engine optimization can be incredibly complex, but it is the first step in the marketing funnel and can be a huge part of the overall user experience. While working on the SEO Audit for Last Door Recovery Centre. I was able to assist with building the strategy deck to help the client improve their search engine rankings. Not only did I work on this project from start to finish, but I also showcased some of the technical skills that I’ve developed on the job.”

Iris Chau, Marketing Management: Entrepreneurship

Iris is a marketing intern studying at the BCIT School of Business.

What are some key takeaways from your internship that will prepare you for your future?

Iris: “Although my time at Major Tom was a mere eight weeks, I have been able to soak up so much experience from a real digital marketing firm in such a short period of time. The experience I received from a work environment is so vastly different than that from a classroom. Even though we had to work from home during the current pandemic, the level of real-time interaction using Slack and Zoom with other colleagues has shown the need to be well-informed and prepared for anything thrown my way.”

“I had originally set up my internship with another company, however, when COVID-19 hit, that company canceled my internship. But in order to complete my course, I had to find another company quickly. That was when Nicholas introduced me to Ariana Kolaitis, the HR of Major Tom. Knowing the importance of finding an internship, the agency was able to make room for me, which I'm very thankful for.

As the pandemic had forced most of the staff and businesses to work from home. My job was to inform Co-founder, John Blown, of the constant updates from the Canadian federal government in regards to CERB and CEWS. The updates were almost changing daily and I always had to be prepared so that I could inform all the changes accordingly.”

How did the experience help with your personal growth as an intern?

Iris: “While working as an intern at Major Tom, one of the things I learned was to always have a backup plan. For example, I was really impressed with how Major Tom dealt with the pandemic. Everything was changing and evolving by the day due to the COVID-19 crisis, yet I was able to witness during conference meetings how they were really quick to adapt and change their solutions in order to still operate.”

“Everyone at Major Tom was extremely professional and allowed a glimpse into the daily workings of a digital marketing firm. Although working from home was a challenge, it brought a new perspective for me to see that work doesn’t necessarily need to be in an office setting. With strict discipline, I can work just as efficiently, if not more, from home.”

What challenges did you face while working with Major Tom?

Iris: “Without a doubt, I think the biggest challenge was not being able to physically be in an office setting. I’m such a people person and I like to learn by interacting with others. By not being able to turn to a colleague and ask a question or receive feedback, I had to come up with a solution to make the situation work for me. The work from home situation has taught me about self-discipline and to stay productive, however, I do miss the connection with my fellow colleagues and humans.”

Do you have any advice to give future interns?

Iris: “I do genuinely hope that the next group of interns would not have to deal with a pandemic. Working from home definitely has its challenges. But be it working from home or from an office, everyone needs to be well prepared before the day starts. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas because Major Tom holds such a creative-driven company culture.”

“During meetings, be attentive, and write down any important takeaways. As an intern, you will always have more questions than answers.  Make sure to ask your manager on any assignments you have problems with and know the deadlines. And above all, have fun! Enjoy your internship at Major Tom cause everyone has been so friendly allowing me to make the most of my experience there.”

How did the work culture allow you to do the best possible job?

Iris: “Even though my internship took place remotely, I felt really welcomed by the team. A key thing was the level of openness and friendliness at Major Tom. I’ve worked at places where unhappy managers existed and that really hinders the learning process. Major Tom was the complete opposite. My manager was a message away from returning any questions I had and was patient with me for new assignments I wasn’t familiar with. With Major Tom being such an innovative company, they also embrace change, as adapting and evolving to clients' needs are a necessity. This sort of work environment is what is needed to excel in the future.”

What was your greatest experience during your internship with Major Tom?

Iris: “My greatest experience was being able to participate in projects and working with both co-founders, John Blown and Chris Breikss. There’s no better experience any intern can get than from working directly with the founders of the company. I learned a lot from their leadership. I was able to experience the creativity and the operations of how new projects start and I was fortunate to be part of it. I also had a chance to pick their brains and understand how Major Tom came to be.”

As us interns have been given the chance to share our personal experiences, we have come up with five tips to help future interns prepare for their opportunities. 

5 tips for future interns 

The transition from post-secondary to industry can be quite intimidating, leaving you to question what to expect. These five tips are shared insights of what has worked well for us during our time with Major Tom.

Checklist on black cardboard

Get out of your comfort zone

One of the most important reasons in landing an internship is the experience you will get out of it. It can be nerve-racking entering an industry and workplace with little experience; however, getting out of your comfort zone is a way to assess your strengths and weaknesses. By taking on new responsibilities, you will be able to find your true capabilities and interests otherwise unknown. This can shape what you truly want to pursue in your career.

Take initiative

By landing an internship, this is your chance to apply the knowledge learned in your years of study. Taking initiative will show that you are eager to learn and are willing to get your hands dirty. Don’t hesitate to find solutions to problems, as problems could arise at any moment. The best way to learn is to practice the application of your knowledge, where you can come up with solutions as to what works best.

Listen and communicate

Making yourself heard may seem like the right thing to do when you are first introducing yourself into the working world. However, one of the best ways to learn is through listening — taking in information and advice is effective. Communicate through asking questions, and give daily updates to ensure that tasks and responsibilities are completed properly and on time. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When starting at any new job, it is intimidating to seek help from others. However, your peers have tonnes of experience in the industry and are willing to lend a helping hand. It is much better to ask questions and complete tasks properly than to miss certain details due to lack of clarity. There’s no such thing as a bad question; this is your chance to get as much information you need to grow.

Get to know the team

When starting any new job, it is important to get to know who you are working with. Get involved with the company culture and look for ways to connect with your peers. This is also a great opportunity to network with many people within the company, as they can share valuable insights and advice to help with your personal development. Having to intern from home? Have casual conversations on their messaging app (e.g. Slack), organize a Zoom lunch date, and join in on their virtual happy hours.

As the marketing industry is competitive, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. With COVID-19 effects in full force, none of us really know when these uncertain times are going to end. Spill da green tea is an evolving platform for university students just like us to help students succeed in a changing job market. Keep up with Zoe’s career advice on their Instagram page.

It is amazing how an internship can influence personal and career growth. I hope the advice shared can prepare you for your internship in whichever field you are in. I’m glad to say that interning at Major Tom was a truly meaningful experience, allowing me to meet great people (albeit via Zoom or Slack) and open my eyes to the marketing world. 

Nicholas Hernandez, Marketing Coordinator

Hidden capabilities are discovered through embracing challenges.

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