When you hear the word intern, what are the first words that come to your mind? Busy work, coffee runs, unpaid hours, paperwork filing, grunt work, lowest on the totem pole, etc.? Without further knowledge of the company an intern is working for, these are all safe to assume apply. However, none of these apply to an intern at Symposia Labs, a Digital Marketing Agency. This past summer I had the pleasure of coming on board to the Symposia Labs team as their Marketing Research Assistant. I had no idea what was in store for me or what expectations I would be held to. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of respect, accountability and faith I was given as soon as I stepped into the office. Symposia Labs is a company that values their hardworking employees, has a strong foundation and mission, and culture that people can naturally fit into. It is a company that understands the true value of a positive work environment and those within it. Before I started working for Tim and Symposia Labs, I had some experience in the “real world.” I had been a lifeguard for five years, a waitress, and intern, but none of these jobs really tested or overwhelmed me. I always jumped right into whatever task needed to be done and I did it with ease and without much challenge. That all changed when I started working for Symposia. I was challenged because I needed to learn how to self-manage, and to learn the in’s and out’s of the digital marketing world – a world that I was intrigued by, but knew very little about. Symposia Labs has taught me how to work in an environment that exceeds the four walls of our office. I’ve learned that what I do affects my coworkers, our clients, colleagues, competitors and more. Symposia has made me feel valued, as the young college intern that I am, through being given a multitude of responsibilities that have a significant impact on our company. This kind of responsibility and pressure is something I had never experienced before. A majority of interns my age fly under the radar, do not get paid, and run errands before they get the chance to even touch content or work in the field they want to, and that is the complete opposite of what Symposia has given me. From day one I have been managing email and print campaigns, completing URL audits, attending and managing networking events, leading workshops and presentations on how to mange social media, updating our company’s website, doing market and competitor research, and much more. I have learned how to master these tasks and find new ways to improve as I have moved forward in this position, and that is something I will never get from a 50-minute lecture or an internship that utilizes my time by having me fetch a latte with no foam. Symposia has opened my mind and helped direct my path to what I want to do with my career in the marketing world. It has taught me what it means to be held accountable, to contribute, and to truly be a part of a team. I could not be more blessed as a student to be working my own hours, having an office just five minutes from campus, enjoying the ability to telecommute, working with incredible and thoughtful people, and to do what I love. I am thankful for all that I have learned over these past months at Symposia Labs and I cannot be more excited to see what lies ahead. Dear 15-year-old Tim, You’ve probably locked yourself in your room again to play Roller Coaster Tycoon until 3:00 AM. Take heart! You have purpose. Someday you’ll start your own business and discover a passion that will be the perfect combination of technology, sociology, and education. On your way there, please remember a few things: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail: Just because you didn’t make it past level three of swimming lessons doesn’t mean that you can’t become a good swimmer. Many will tell you that starting your own business is a mistake. They’ll tell you that you’re taking the wrong route, doing things in the wrong order, and being unrealistic. Ignore them. Do it anyway. Don’t be afraid to fail at the things you love. Never Stop Learning: The best part about your future career is that it will never cease to evolve. Marketing moves at the speed of light, so make sure you keep up. Stay hungry. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts. Learn from your peers and predecessors. Talk to people who are smarter than you and don’t be afraid to say “I’m not sure” out loud. There’s joy in the discovery. Make It Personal: There are those who will say, “It’s business, not personal.” They are wrong. As a small business owner, you’ll wake up every morning earlier than you want to because you believe that what you do is a gift. You’ll work sometimes while on vacation because you consider your clients to be part of your extended family. Your passion is what fuels you, so it’s natural to be heartbroken when you let your team down, just as it’s important to celebrate when the team succeeds. Knowing when it’s time to move on is essential, but don’t be afraid make your work personal. It is. Be Honest at All Costs: There are those in the advertising and marketing world who believe that lying is acceptable, that stretching the truth is unavoidable. Don’t be one of them. Clients would rather hear “I’m not sure” or “that was my fault,” than stories and fairy tales. Honesty will cost you, but it will always be worth the price. Know When to Say “No”: Just as some relationships and partnerships will succeed, others will not. There are times when walking away from something you’ve started is not only okay, but necessary in moving forward. Develop an appreciation for the power of “no.” Be honest about your constraints. Time is not limitless, and you’ll find doing a few things well is more rewarding than doing many things half-heartedly. In business and in life, know that more opportunities and exciting ideas are yet to come. Whether it’s a person, a project, or simply an idea you’ve held onto tightly, go with your instincts and know when to part ways. You Can’t Take It with You: When you enter the startup world, you’ll get sucked into long days and late nights. You’ll become obsessed with “doing” and you’ll sometimes forget about the “living” part of the equation. Remember that no matter how many awards you receive or how much money you make – you can’t take it with you. There are weddings, new arrivals, and lazy afternoons at the beach I’ve regretted missing. Make the time – you’ll never regret spending it with family and friends.