Kicking Off Our College Externship Program
Education isn’t just about academics, but the experiences we have in between. I always believed the reason for college is to land an internship. And that internship would lead to a person’s first job.
That’s how my career started anyway. As I worked towards my degree, I met an adjunct professor, Stan Byers. He worked at the time as the creative director at Rose/Glenn (and later started his own agency), and he helped me land my first internship.
As a design intern, I filled my time archiving client work on a hard drive and adding business cards to notebooks. The design work was limited. When I did have a project, I’d take too long and need the work to be polished by the team’s established designers.
Still, the time was incredibly valuable to me. I soon realized my future career was not being a designer. I eventually found my way into an account position with a different company and fell in love with the role, jump-starting my career in agency life.
College is a Compass
Not many people know exactly what they want to be after graduation. College gives people a sense of what’s possible; it highlights opportunities and offers a sense of direction. But all college graduation provides is a diploma, not a guaranteed job.
I currently volunteer my time to work with college students as the VP of Collegiate Relations for the American Marketing Association (AMA). A majority say they want to find a career in marketing. What do they want to do in this industry? That’s where it gets tricky – and where they lack specificity. They like marketing, but they don’t know what their next step will be.
College opens up a lot of doors with the people you meet and the experiences you have. For quite a few KPS3ers, our college experience really helped influence our careers. In fact, 20% of our team is a product of the Journalism School at the University of Nevada, Reno. For a handful of us, we started our working relationships way before KPS3 while we were at the University. (We’ll talk about our student campaigns for Visit Florida and the Toyota Matrix in another post.)
This led us to find a better way to partner with students as they navigated the college-to-career pipeline. We wanted to give back. We wanted to provide more guidance for people interested in marketing and offer them real-life experience in the industry.
And so, the externship was born.
You Mean The Internship?
No. We sadly didn’t have Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson applying. (But we’d gladly rename this program if they did.)
An internship focuses on completing tasks and spans weeks or months whereas an externship shadows an experienced professional to learn more about their responsibilities. Externships are also shorter in nature. These are subtle differences, yet an externship better aligned with our mission for this event.
Bite-Sized, Real-World Experience
We had a few goals as we built out our externship program:
- Give students a real perspective working in the marketing field.
- Open up the application process to students from UNR and Truckee Meadows Community College. Word spread quickly, and interest extended across state lines, attracting applicants from the University of Denver and University of Colorado, Boulder.
- Have at least five students as part of the initial program.
- Make it easy and fun for students, but not too heavy of a commitment to participate.
To accomplish these objectives, we dedicated the externship to one day. Students attended and shadowed the KPS3 team members in the divisions students identified with. If they love research and were organized, they followed our account team. If they are obsessed with TikTok and know how to produce an entertaining reel, they’d join our social team.
This provided students with a deeper understanding of the real-world experience their future career paths held. It also let meaningful connections unfold between students and those already in the marketing world.
The Big Day
Getting students excited about the externship went smoothly. Many eager students visited our booth at the UNR career fair. We reached out to students through various clubs on campus and connected with a few marketing professors to see if they had any interested students.
In January of 2022, we kicked off the externship with 19 committed students ready to learn from our team. We paired our KPS3 colleagues with the students who selected which division they wanted to shadow (creative, account, social, SEO/Digital Media, and public relations departments). Quite a bit of planning went into the layout of the day for each student, which made for a smooth process. (In fact, we reluctantly moved to a virtual format due to recent spikes in COVID cases in the community. But things still went off without a hitch.)
We were eager to get started. Once the day began, we kicked off our agenda. We started as a full group in an externship kickoff, each student partnering up with their assigned KPS3er. In the afternoon, we came together to share learnings, provide feedback, and wrap up. “Amazing” is the best word to describe it. We enjoyed getting to know our students and helping them learn what a typical day as a marketer looks like.
Afterward, we received feedback from the students that helped us improve the program’s future sessions. More importantly, we hope to have given a positive nudge to those eager to continue in the marketing industry or cleared up any misconceptions for those that were still questioning their path.
- "I did not know that much about working at a digital agency, but I am so excited to look more into it."
- "I appreciated learning more about KPS3. It was insightful, and I will try to incorporate the advice into my academics and career life to be a better fit in the industry."
- "I learned so much from you, and that information will be valuable for me in the future!"
- "It was an amazing experience… My mentor made it all the better. He invited me to another meeting call right after the externship farewell for even more insight into the Creative Director process, which was super inspiring."
We had such a great time that we decided to offer the externship program again. The second time around, we hosted the event in May and had 27 eager students attend. We also were able to meet in person, which only added to the experience! We again got a great group who had some great insights! Afterward, we asked for their feedback on what they learned. They never imagined how much work and thought goes into advertising. They also discovered the importance of having a strong company culture, which translates into producing amazing work.
It was another wonderful experience, which we’re looking to host next fall and future semesters. Cheers to the next generation of marketers!