It was the beginning of my last spring semester at San Diego State University, and I needed an internship. Graduation requirements, my parents, and friends were all telling me so. I had taken a variety of classes within my journalism major—including public relations, media studies, and advertising—but was unsure of how I wanted to take all that information and apply it to a “real world job.” With the help of my SDSU advisor, I found about a little advertising agency called Civilian that offered an intensive 90-day internship. I was just happy that it was paid. But little did I know how much I would gain just three months later.
After lots of research and preparation, I knew Civilian was the right place for me even before my interview began. I was impressed and intrigued by their non-profit clients, environmental efforts, and creativity in their approach to change people’s lives for the better. My internship was part of Civilian’s Talent Accelerator Program (TAP), and I was the TAP for the account services department. This meant I was in charge of multiple daily accounts tasks, and even took on a few projects including marketing briefs, a photo shoot, website content migration, trademark research, and interview recruitment and scheduling.
For the past 90 days, I’ve spent much of my time working side-by-side with Account Executive Chelsea Daus on a regional marketing campaign for San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges’ Career Education programs. I assisted with coordinating a Career Education photo shoot across ten community colleges in San Diego County. This allowed me to get out of the office and be on-site, watching professional photographers and lighting specialists do their magic capturing photos of majors and programs. I also reviewed websites, creative, and media briefs, and attended weekly status calls, plus the client’s monthly marketing committee meeting. Through this direct experience, I’ve learned more about the marketing funnel, corresponding tactics, and KPIs than I ever would in the classroom.
If all that sounds foreign to you, you’re not alone; it would have to me as well before I started as a Civilian TAP. I was surprised by how much I didn’t know when I started—even though I’d studied advertising as part of my major! Account Services is not something they teach you in college, but everything that department does is essential for a marketing campaign’s overall success. I know now that the role of Account Services is to guide the stream of communication from the client to the agency, contributing to a little bit of everything by listening to clients’ needs and putting projects into motion.
However, what surprised me most about working at Civilian was the agency culture itself. The open office space with communal desks and working nooks welcomed dialogue and teamwork among colleagues. It made me feel like my voice was being heard, even though I was “just” an intern. While it was a challenge for me to juggle my last semester of school with agency life, Civilian made the transition easy and flexible. As tired as I was, I woke up every morning excited to go into a fun and lively work environment. Between the informative lunch and learns, group trips to the gym on “Fitness Fridays,” a friendly dog or two roaming the office every day, and the tantalizing possibility of a new brew on tap in the kitchen, my Civilian experience showed me that the “real world” of work can be pretty cool too (even if it’s sometimes exhausting).
Being a Civilian TAP has truly been a unique learning experience that has challenged me and encouraged me to reach outside my comfort zone every step of the way. I am very grateful to have worked with such an inspirational group of people. It was a pleasure to see an advertising agency implementing marketing strategies that consider the community, environment, and the common good. The past 90 days have been anything but a paid internship that ticked a box—they’ve set me up for success by TAPping (pun intended) into a passion for marketing and advertising I didn’t even know I had. I am eager to take what I have learned at Civilian and apply it to wherever I land next—and I can’t wait to see where that will be.