Four office essentials for an Intern: Laptop, pen, paper and a sleepy dog for company.
The story of how I went on the adventure of a lifetime, equipped with only a laptop, dodgy Wi-Fi and 5000 glasses of water to get through the July heatwave.
A bit of background…
Back in 2017, I went on a volunteering expedition to Tanzania which was centred around a community project at a rural primary school. The trip was as eye-opening and inspiring as I could have wished for at a time when I was beginning to feel the need to broaden my horizons with new people, places, and experiences.
Fast forward to 2022, and I have been able to satisfy my appetite for these three things all over again. Only this time, my adventure has required no visas, no backpack and, thankfully, no obligation to take a malaria tablet with breakfast every morning.
A New Journey
The journey I am referring to is my summer internship at Elephants Can’t Jump. A journey that started with a relaxed interview where I was asked “What is your favourite brand and why?“.
I had only one thought in my mind. ‘Just don’t say Nike. It’s the most unimaginative answer for someone of your age and you need to say something that stands out!’.
After a good five seconds of uneasy silence, I finally gave my answer: “I umm… well uhh… I guess it would have to be Nike…”.
After a great first interview, I was asked to create a research deck on why a certain supermarket chain was struggling to sell fresh vegetables. Upon presenting my deck to the team, I realised that I had already gained a strong flavour of what the internship entailed, giving me a vital confidence boost for when I eventually started the job in the summer.
Learning about Brand Building
My summer as an intern has generally involved two key areas – brand building and consumer insight. The former has taken up the bulk of my time, working on branding with clients from all sorts of industries, from Italian restaurants to FinTech to plant pots.
I quickly learned that branding is far more complex than I had previously thought. The blame for my prior misconceptions lies with The Apprentice. The show has spent years teaching novices like myself that branding simply involves asking a few people for their opinion on a topic and then designing a logo.
It turns out that ‘Brand Building Intern’ is the perfect title for my role since building a successful brand is not too dissimilar to building a house…
There are endless ways to decorate your home and make it look pretty. However, if the original foundations aren’t laid correctly, they will fall flat as soon as they encounter a minor storm. Brands are the same. They require a solid internal structure before the charming exterior can be layered on top.
Sitting in on consumer insight sessions opened my eyes to the depth of understanding needed to build a successful brand. It contributed greatly to what has been the biggest lesson I have learned over the last two months:
No matter how good an idea is, it will never catch on in today’s world if it is not communicated in a way that resonates with consumers.
Internships – More than making coffee and filing cabinets
When I applied for this role, I distinctly remember a particularly moody friend disparagingly referring to internships as “just like a long version of work experience”. He continued to say that he would “wait and see” whether my decision to spend my summer making coffees and clearing out filing cabinets (according to his erroneous prediction) was worth it or not. I can safely say that I have never been more pleased to have ignored a good friend’s advice.
The time to start my internship rolled around, and I was presented with a very simple job description: “To add value to the business in engaging, exciting and meaningful ways”. Hopefully the rest of the team feel I’ve lived up to the task.
I hope that at the end of my career, I will look back on this summer’s adventure not as a quick foray down a forgotten cul-de-sac but as the first few steps in a long and gratifying journey as a brand building specialist. To borrow a phrase from my aforementioned moody friend, I guess I’ll have to ‘wait and see’.