This is part of a series of posts from MIT students currently involved in the Student/Alumni Externship Program, which connects current students to alumni in workplaces worldwide during MIT’s Independent Activities Period. Alumni, learn how to get involved.
Guest blogger: Jeffrey Lin ’13, architecture major
Alumnus host: Robert Scalea ’77
I’m working for a brand-strategy agency called The Brand Union, whose clients have included Kahlua, Absolut, and Coca Cola. The agency does everything from advertising to brand design, and I am completely ecstatic to be able to get to work with such a great group of passionate and friendly people.
The Brand Union is located in New York City, on the 11th floor of an amazing high rise in Union Square. The perks are pretty fantastic. I get my own cubicle, a company computer, a company email address, unrestricted access to all their client portfolios, and free coffee whenever I feel like it. I’m allowed to dress anywhere from business casual to sneakers and jeans—whatever my heart fancies.
Right now I’m researching the packaging design of hair care products produced by a client’s competitors. I’m learning a lot here, and everyone seems pretty eager to help out the youngest guy in the office.
But I wasn’t this positive on my first day of work. My first day was absolutely terrifying. I was being thrown headlong into my first actual job, and I had no clue what to expect.
I strode into the office about to wet my pants. My heart was pounding and I tugged nervously at the collar of my dress shirt. I tried to calm myself by crossing my fingers and hoping for the most menial of tasks that anyone could do. Maybe I’d be a gopher and fetch them coffee and fax papers? Maybe they’d pretend I wasn’t even there, and I’d get to twiddle my thumbs the whole time? I hoped for anything but actual work—I was afraid that I’d prove to be the most incompetent fool in the workplace.
Things took a turn for the worse when I meet the other intern. Catherine is a second year MBA candidate who did her undergraduate studies at Stanford and worked for several companies before pursuing her master’s. She has a great personality and carries valued experience as a veteran of the workforce.
I am a sophomore majoring in Architecture and ten years her junior. What had I just signed up for?
We were introduced to our new supervisors, who briefed us on the projects we’d be working on for the month and their expectations of us. Throughout the meetings, Catherine was jovial and completely at ease. I mustered a smile with the occasional head nod, mostly shutting up like a well-mannered child at the dinner table.
Meanwhile, industry terms were being thrown around the room. Brand architecture? VISEQs? Brand essence? I understood less than half of the conversation and I was expected to spend a whole month working on actual projects for their clients with them? Boy did they choose the wrong kid to extern at their place.
I went home after the first day feeling rather defeated. I was daunted by the road that lay ahead, but I still dragged my butt off to work the next day. And I found that the second day wasn’t all that terrible. Neither was the third day. Or the fourth. And heck, Friday was actually kind of fun.
It’s been a week and a half since I first set foot in the office, and I’ve been happily working away at my desk since. Although the first day may have been a bit overwhelming, it was only because I had absolutely no clue what they expected from me. Now that I can even use the same industry terms in conversations with my supervisors, my ego has inflated a bit. For someone who started off knowing nothing about the industry, I’m getting along just dandily. I can’t wait to see where the next three weeks take me.