In Sum: My TDH Internship
After two months of working at Tom, Dick & Harry, I’m walking away with five big insights.
1. Ration toilet paper like an army marshal.
Not because the agency was stingy. Because the rolls of cottony white fluff were my downfall. Despite its innocent façade, every inch of plush fiber is a potential disaster in the making.
Trying to force it down with an induced whirlpool, and another, and another—was a mistake.
Unknowingly, with each flush I conjured up another torrent of water, and the dam flooded. The water rushed to the edge of the toilet bowl and spilled all over the bathroom floor. I watched in stunned horror as the accursed rivulets flowed right under the door crack and into the adjacent room.
I panicked. I was condemned to be forever known as The Intern Who Clogged The Toilet. I desperately tore off a mountain of paper towels and spent an excruciatingly long time mopping up all the water. Having dealt with that, I plunged the hell out of that toilet—but to no avail.
Having done everything I could, I had no choice but to reveal my disaster to another human being—three, in fact. Afterwards I slunk back to my desk, trying to forget my complete shame and horror. From that point forward, I rationed my toilet paper like an army marshal.
2. Research is a necessary evil.
It will eat up your life but it needs to be done.
One of my largest assignments was conducting deep-dive research on the potential client’s background, consumers, competitors, and more. The project involved:
- 2 weeks of time
- 40 pages of research
- 100 slides to present
- 3 separate presentations (to the same team) for 1 hour each.
The good news is that the hard work always pays off. They were impressed. Several people came up to thank me, saying that they were more prepared than ever to meet the client. Frankly, I’m not sure if I have ever received so much positive reinforcement in one go.
By then, however, I also desperately needed a break from doing research. Research is like a black hole that sucks away all time and energy. It has no real end, because there’s an infinite amount of information to gather and questions to answer. Sometimes it can be satisfying to accumulate all this new knowledge and sometimes I wonder how much I really needed to know about things. Ask me anything about cat litter, private schools, retirement homes, or MRIs. I dare you.
3. Ask for work you want to do.
Wanting to take a break from research, I would go out of my way to sniff out other interesting projects that were happening around the office. This involved sitting in on meetings to learn more about the project, and then following up with the team if it piqued my interest.
I learned that it was okay to occasionally ‘pester’ the team by asking if they needed any help, excitedly squirreling away my new assignments and then coming back and asking for more. I always stayed eager to do something new, creative, and challenging.
The most interesting projects that I’ve done were the ones I sought out myself:
- creating a video for Fourth of July
- animating a TDH theorem
- brainstorming a shot list for a photo shoot.
So don't wait for projects to just drop on you. Go and seek them out.
4. Take a break
Taking a break is crucial, or else you’ll end up in a tired stupor where you’re typing “duck duck duck” in order to convince yourself and others that you’re being productive.
When I first started my internship here, I thought a 9 to 5 work week meant 8 hours of working nonstop; 8 hours of staring at a computer screen, 8 hours of feeling my body fuse with the chair until I became a cyborg office chair. And that was what I did the first few weeks. But after the first month, I felt my energy petering out. It was an unsustainable work style to maintain for a whole day.
So I took advantage of lunch as a much needed break. It’s amazing how taking a walk around the neighborhood and getting a breath of fresh air completely refreshes your mind. In this time you could: try out new restaurants, go to the bank, take a walk in a park, visit the library, or slip into an university building and take a nap in an empty classroom.
Pace yourself. If you need a break, take one.
5. Don't be afraid to voice your opinion.
Meetings were surprisingly fun—creative brainstorms, client pitches, internal reviews—because I got to see how all the people on the team joined together to create cohesive brand strategies and deliverables for the clients. All the parts fit in an impressively seamless manner.
At first, I was too afraid to speak up during meetings because I didn't want to overstep my boundaries. But, on the inside, I was simply bursting with ideas. By the end of the meeting, my ideas spilled out in a torrent of words as I talked rapidly and excitedly to whoever would listen. Despite being an intern, the team listened intently to my ideas and treated me as an equal member.
It was exhilarating to voice my opinions and suggestions, especially when I saw people jot down little notes while I was talking. I felt like my thoughts had a real impact, no matter how small, on the final product. Like I had signed my name in a slab of wet cement and could one day come back and point to it and say, "I did that. That's me."
I arrived at Tom, Dick & Harry wanting to learn more about advertising. After two months, not only have I absorbed a massive amount of information and accomplished things I never would have done otherwise, I have also talked and laughed with a team of amazing people. Seriously, these are the friendliest people ever. I still have much to learn and many slabs of wet cement to make my mark on and this was a great way to take my first steps.
08.27.15 The Biz