6 Lessons I’ve learned as an Intern at Different Narrative
Hi there, my name’s Freya and I am nearing the end of my 6-month work placement at Different Narrative. To add a bit of context, I currently study Graphic Branding & Identity at University of the Arts London but decided to take a year out of university to gain some real industry experience before I graduate next year and am released into the big bad world.
I have learned so much during my time here, but I have just about narrowed it down to 6 key lessons (Apologies, I really did try to stick to just five…).
- It really is who you know
After a long summer of countless applications and unanswered emails, constantly refreshing my emails for that glimmer of hope that I was so desperate for – I suddenly remembered my former neighbour was an editorial designer and swiftly messaged her on Facebook to see if she had any suggestions. She had more than that, she had contacts – real email addresses of real people and not the dreaded ‘careers@’ or ‘sayhello@’, that despite sounding friendly, never did say hello back – unless in the form of an automatic response. This was my ticket in, and once my foot was in the door I didn’t intend on moving it.
2. Say the silly ideas
Now that I was in the agency, my shyness and imposter syndrome often encouraged me to hold my tongue, thinking that as the most inexperienced in the team, any input I could probably come up with had probably already been thought of and disregarded already. However, as I became more comfortable and found my voice within the team, I found that when I did contribute my ideas, they were listened to, valued and sometimes (to my surprise) quite often used. At a creative agency, silly ideas are often the best ones.
3. Even the best designers watch Youtube tutorials.
As an intern, it often feels like you’re making it up as you go along, secretly googling terminology you hear people throw about the office so you can look like you know what they’re talking about. Then one day, I walked past the desk of one of the designers and saw them watching a YouTube tutorial on how to do something or other in photoshop, the ones I had shamefully watched so many times before. ‘So I’m not the only one who watches those?’ I asked myself, astonished. It was refreshing to see and made me realise that we are all still learning and that there is no shame in that. In fact, when someone proclaims to know everything, that’s when you should worry.
4. Have some haste
One of the biggest changes from uni-life to working within an agency, was the speed of the work. Unlike a university assignment, in an agency you aren’t given three months to complete a set of brand guidelines – no, instead you’ve got three days, oh and on top of that here’s work that needs done for two other clients too. To put it bluntly, these guys get sh*t done – and I have so much respect for that.
5. 9-5 doesn’t really mean 9-5
My ‘draining’ university timetable of three hours a day, three days a week meant that the 9-5 grind of agency life took some getting used to. But when colleagues would come in the next day with a whole new concept and a set of designs, I realised 9-5 didn’t really mean 9-5 at all. I learned that you often get your better ideas when you’re not actively trying to, than when you are sitting at your desk trying to force a good idea into existence. Creativity can’t be turned on or off, sometimes it just has to happen in its own time – whether that is at 2am or not.
6. There’s a whole lot of people that keep the wheels turning
Admittedly, previously to Different Narrative, I had no idea how agencies were structured, so I was fascinated by all the behind the scenes of the behind the scenes. I had only ever experienced group work at university where you’d be lucky if one other person in the group felt like participating. In the office, there were account handlers, resource managers, director of operations and an agency manager all keeping an eye on the smooth sailing of, well, everything. You’re not expected to be good at everything, because that’s what the rest of the team is for.
Overall, this placement has been such a valuable experience, not just in design, but in work, and life in general. I have had the chance to work on some great briefs, make great memories and great friends that I will cherish forever.