While the opportunity to network may have been a major draw for attendees, the word "network" may be inexact. One takeaway from this 4th Annual 1stFive Summer Intern Experience was that this summer's class of interns is eager to connect. We as an industry might consider switching one colloquialism out for the other. There is a more personal, meaningful connotation to our connecting with one another. We learned at the 1stFive Summer Intern Experience that personal connections are willing to open the doors to new, exciting opportunities.
An engaging panel discussion kicked off the event and featured MediaVillage Founder and Publisher, Jack Myers; Turner Ad Sales President, Donna Speciale; Turner Vice President/Group Creative Director, Otto Bell; Horizon Media Executive Vice President/Chief Talent Officer, Eileen Benwitt; Horizon Media Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer Donnie Williams; 4As Executive Vice President, Agency Relations and Membership Mollie Rosen. During this conversation, Donna encouraged young professionals -- including her own college-aged children in attendance -- to use their industry connections to get a foot in the door. Making connections and being prepared to make those connections were sentiments echoed throughout the dialogue.
Following the discussion, "break-out" sessions with each of the panelists were conducted to give interns that sought-after goal to connect on a more intimate level with the speakers and each other. The breakout which Donnie and Eileen facilitated with about 40 interns gave everyone the opportunity to compare and share their summer experiences in the industry.
Here, the conversation over connections continued, especially as it pertained to career advice. One woman pressed Donnie and Eileen for their thoughts on what Donna had said, asking if in this industry, is there a healthy balance between using connections and unaided perseverance. "If you have a connection, don't be afraid to use it," said Eileen, "but don't rely on it to get you the job." She also made note of just how differently people are able to connect now thanks to social media. Donnie offered that "connections are also for learning more," whether you're learning more about an industry, a job or an experience. Using connections is not a "necessary evil" but may be more about "capturing what made that person successful, internalizing that and trying to apply it outward for your own opportunity."
Several of the interns said they appreciated that their internship programs offered time to connect with senior executives through "lunch and learns" and "meet and greets". "Our manager does a great job making sure we know everyone," said a Discovery intern who noted how valuable it was to "see what [senior execs] do every day."
Matt, an intern with Horizon, made mention of the weekly senior leader series, which afforded him the opportunity to "figure out what people with a lot of experience in an industry they are passionate about think about the landscape and where it's moving...it's important to see where the opportunities are."
Josh, an intern at Turner, described "a huge sense of community" at the company and was appreciative that executives were so willing to connect outside of the structured group chats. "You see senior execs and they have so much experience and it can be intimidating, but it kind of goes to show that these are people…and with hard work and dedication you can get to that position too."
Eileen confirmed that point. "We all have a story. You see us being here but there is a lot that got us here."
One young woman had a differing point of view. She said her eight-week program at a talent agency did not afford interns the opportunity to interface directly with senior agents who were too busy and constantly on the go. Not having the structured time with senior employees, however, forced her to connect with them on the fly: "I bumped into them in the elevator, I bumped into them when I was getting coffee, I bumped into them when I was trying to get an Uber late at night. I would pick their brains for five minutes and those five minutes were the most important of my entire internship."
A young man, Jamal, another Turner intern, discovered just how important it is to be ready to connect. On the first day of his internship, he got lost. He asked for directions from a man with a briefcase, "who looked like he knew where he was going." It just so happened that this man was Turner CFO, Pascal Desroches, and it was he who personally escorted Jamal right to his floor on that first day. The story stands to show that you just never know who may open the door for you.
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