You don’t need experience to be a Digital Marketing Intern

So what does it really mean to intern at Seer?  I could list hundreds of cliché, but accurate, answers like:

  1.      The whole team here is really nice and helpful
  2.      You’ll learn more than you probably have in an entire semester of college
  3.      Be prepared to work hard

But in an attempt to avoid restating what the Seer website already makes pretty clear, I’d like to share with you the one thing that surprised me the most about this opportunity.  If you want to be great at digital marketing, you need to ask questions, challenge what’s accepted, and be willing to go outside of your comfort-zone.

When I first started as an intern at Seer, I had absolutely no formal digital marketing experience – if I’m being honest, I don’t think I even fully understood the difference between SEO and PPC (don’t worry guys, I get it now).  My college didn’t offer a class called “Digital Marketing 101,” there was no typical cheat sheet. I had no idea what to expect, but I felt ready and excited to embrace everything Seer had to offer.  

The management team had taken a chance on me and brought me on regardless of my experience level, so I was determined to prove that I was worth it.

On Day 1, I found myself surrounded by extremely intelligent and passionate individuals, who were ready and willing to help guide me into the world of all things digital.  But when asked “Do you understand?” during each training session, I simply nodded yes every time.

Growing up in a suburb of Boston, I never really struggled with words. I was used to talking often, loudly, and fast.  But the sheer wealth of knowledge surrounding me at Seer was simply overwhelming and silencing - something I had never expected.

The Reality Check

After I re-read my notes from Day 1, I realized that not only did I not understand, but I had so many questions that I wanted to ask. So why hadn’t I asked them in the moment?  Thinking back, I can sum up why in four thoughts:

  1. I’m probably supposed to know that - I don’t want to look dumb
  2. I can figure it out on my own - I’ve always been independent
  3. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time
  4. I’m so confused I don’t even know what questions to ask

All four of those thoughts crossed my mind that first day and I’d be willing to bet that regardless of your rank and title, at some point in your professional career, those same thoughts have entered your mind. Ironically, the desire to impress those around me resulted in the repression of the exact thing that would make me stand outa genuine curiosity and tenacious desire to learn.

So how did I go from silently nodding “yes” in training sessions to hearing my mentor say, “I love that you’re never afraid to ask questions and that you ask really good, solid questions”?

I’ll share the following steps that I learned over the course of my internship to ask more meaningful and thoughtful questions.

1. Read the task assigned

Now I don’t mean skim it like you’re reading the morning paper - I mean really read it. This may seem obvious, but for me it’s something that I truly had to teach myself.  I’ve always had trouble slowing down, no matter if I’m driving a car or reading an email. 

When I came to Seer, I quickly realized that you needed to be fast in digital marketing; it's constantly transforming and you need to be on top of all changes.  But moving too quickly can lead to failure; missing crucial details can easily lead to disastrous results for clients or your company.  In order to combat this haste in my own reading habits, I try to read everything like I’m taking the SATs. You didn’t rush through any of your reading comprehension questions on the SATs because each one could directly contribute to your future success.  Treat work emails, written assignments, and SOWs the same way--like the stakes are high--because minor details lead to bigger picture goals, for you and your clients.

2. Read it again

After realizing the mistake I made on Day 1, I thought back to the interviews I’d had with Seer team members and the offer letter that was sitting in my inbox.  I remembered the excitement I had felt when I accepted the internship and soon realized those feelings were gone, replaced with nervousness and fear fueled by self-doubt in my marketing knowledge.

To combat this fear, I re-read all my assignments, notes, and work emails.  Just like on the SATs, when you don’t understand something, you go back and look for context clues.  I found that a second read-through helped me better understand how to piece together small details into achieving larger goals.

3. Google it

As I was reading through my training notes, things I claimed to understand the previous day were suddenly so confusing and way over my head.  I wrote down all the questions I had on a separate piece of paper.  I spent the better part of my second morning at Seer Googling questions from Day 1.  I quickly found answers to most of the questions on my list, the straightforward ones like  “What does API mean?” or “What is domain authority?”.  But it was the more intuitive questions I had trouble with: “How do you determine KPIs?”, “At which level should I negate this keyword?”, and “How do I know which metrics to include on my dashboard?” were all still on my list.

4. Ask a peer for help

With a more refined list of questions, I turned to my two co-interns for help. Collaboration led us to answer a few more of my original questions.  I left their desks feeling confident that the questions I had left were meaningful and insightful enough to bring to a superior--no one would feel like their time had been wasted or I had not done enough preliminary research.

5. Ask a superior for help

I took the questions I had left and reached out to the people responsible for those particular training sessions.  Everyone was so receptive of my inquiries and eager to help.  When I got around to checking my email on Day 2, I was surprised to see it filled with countless emails from individuals at Seer containing questions posed to the team.  And that’s when it clicked.

It takes a great leader to ask for help, to see asking a question not as a sign of weakness but instead as a deeper understanding of personal limits.  When you ask a thoughtful and intelligent question, yes - you are admitting you don’t know everything.  But who says that has to be a bad thing?

Finding your own “ah-HA” moment

By following this process, I felt more confident that the questions I had would be applicable and insightful and not waste team member’s valuable time. Every person is different and will come to realize what that certain something is that’s holding them back - and then have the courage to take steps to improve upon it. For me, it was when my co-worker explained to me that he never simply asks “do you understand?” because many people are nervous to ask follow-up questions. It was then that a light went off in my head - other people are feeling that same way I am. Your “ah-HA” moment may come from talking with a coworker, re-reading your notes, or simply observing those around you. After identifying your problem and uncovering what’s holding you back, it’s much easier to find a remedy.

The secret to having a successful digital marketing internship

For me, writing down my problem-solving process not only served as a guide to tackle the rest of my internship but it helped me realize the key to being a successful digital marketing professional--don’t be afraid to ask a question, to push those around you further, and to challenge the norm.

From the outside looking in, it may seem like everyone at Seer knows all there is to know about digital marketing.  But from the inside looking out, it’s exactly the opposite.  Don’t get me wrong, the Seer team is made up of some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met and are phenomenal at what they do. But that doesn’t come from knowing everything, it comes from understanding that there is always more to learn and that the best way to do so is by asking the right questions. What makes Seer such an innovative company is that not one person here has become stagnant in their learning, and that is something I will carry with me wherever I go.  

So yes, the people I met here were awesome, I learned a ton, and I worked really hard. But the most important takeaway for me and for anyone looking to land the rare internship in digital marketing? Never be afraid to say “No” when asked “Do you understand?”


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