NY Creative Interns is proud to announce our new weekly feature: I Was a Creative Intern. Each week we will be highlighting a creative professional who started as an intern.
This week we invite you to meet Adri Cowan, Senior Publicist at nonfiction book publisher, Adams Media (a division of F+W Media), based in the Boston area. Previously, Cowan lived in NYC for several years, working full-time and freelancing in the publishing and comic book industry. Cowan is also a blogger of all things geeky, for sites like AOL’s Comics Alliance, and her own blog, HappyBlogtime.com. Follow her on Twitter at @adrileya for more Adri goodness.
How many internships have you had, and where?
During my time at Emerson, I had a brief internship (unpaid, non-credit) with a small local fashion magazine and did some writing and assisted with a seasonal fashion show – dressing models, organizing outfits, etc. – which was totally strange and outside of my interests, but I wanted to experience everything. After that, a “real” internship at PUMA – surprisingly headquartered in Boston – as an intern in the international public relations department.
What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a result of an internship?
Honestly, the whole path of what followed could not have happened without the internship – I think everything in life is a chain of events, and one link can’t happen without the other. The internship absolutely gave me some clout when applying to jobs, especially since I was working on an international scale. It prepped me for my first job out of college at a travel technology company, which eventually sent me to Italy and around the country for major clients.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that you did/happened to you during an internship?
My internship at PUMA was an eye-opener, especially as a headstrong college kid – I learned I really needed to keep my mouth shut at times. In my attempts to seem cool and ambitious, I acted a bit embarrassingly – but I guess I needed to learn these things firsthand. I worked directly under the Director of PR and the Manager of International PR and wanted a job there after graduation, so one day I decided to go up to the big boss’s office (my boss’s boss!) and introduce myself, and let him know I was available to do even extra work than what I was doing, to prove that I would make a good fit at the company. Needless to say, my own managers were appalled that I went over their heads and spoke to their boss – I even heard them talking about me in the break room about how it had been “ballsy” of me to do something like that, especially as just an intern. It affected the way they treated me from then on, and could have affected my overall review (it didn’t) – but I had taken that risk. If I were to do it again, I would have spoken first to my manager about introducing me to her director – going over your manager’s authority makes them feel like you don’t respect them. I was SO embarrassed – but learned my lesson.
Did you ever do anything over the top to get an internship?
Never anything over the top – but my biggest piece of advice for getting an internship is to get yourself a part-time job at places where managers, directors, and other people in your desired industry might frequent. It’s a great way to network and gives you an excuse to chit-chat and talk to these people. I actually got my foot in the door for my internship at PUMA because my part-time job during college was as a receptionist at an upscale salon where the Director of Publicity for PUMA got her hair done. I got to know her through booking her appointments, chatting to her about college and my job search in PR, and I told her that if she was ever looking for an intern, that I would love to come interview. It didn’t guarantee me a position, but it did get me an interview – and from there, it was up to me.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received a lot of fantastic advice from people over the years – but the biggest piece of advice came to me from my geeky mentor, Jeff Newelt, in the form of a little book: the pocket-sized version of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching. I’ve kept that copy with me at all times for the past few years and refer to it whenever I need a reminder that life can be as simple and as beautiful as we make it – and that though we will always have stresses in our lives, no matter how brutal, everything will be okay.
What’s your favorite part of your current job?
I LOVE my job. Really. I recently moved back to the Boston area from spending about 5 years in NYC, working in Manhattan, and have been blown away by the difference in work/life balance, and the down-to-earthedness of the employees here at Adams. My boss, the Director of Publicity, Beth Gissinger, and the Publisher, Karen Cooper, have been incredible to work for – they work their butts off, get their stuff done, and manage departments while still being open-minded, understanding, and making sure to have a great sense of humor through it all. I know how rare this is, because, with the exception of a couple, I’ve had some less-than-awesome experiences working with women (especially in the fashion industry – cattiness abounds!). That’s my favorite part – the people. And our super coffee/latte/hot chocolate machine, for sure.
It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. What are you doing?
I’m either responding to emails from authors, media, or creating reports, meeting with the marketing/PR team, blogging, Tweeting or Facebooking (I’m on that alllll day) or getting a refill on one of my seven coffees of the day. And/or harassing the editorial department for one thing or another.
If you could intern anywhere now, where would you intern?
If I could intern anywhere right now, I would hands-down intern at the Howard Stern show – those interns get their own radio shows! Plus, I’m a huge Howard fan; he’s an absolute genius and I’d love to learn from him.
What would you put in an Intern Survival Kit?
The intern survival kit will consist of: a journal and pen (keep track of EVERYTHING you do, EVERY day to include on your resume), professional looking business cards with your personal contact info (you’ll need those for networking), a book to keep biz cards you’ve collected, a permanent grin-and-bear it attitude, Post-It notes, Band-Aids (for paper cuts from filing), and gummy vitamins because they’re delicious, and you’ll need them if you’re working in an office (germmms!).
Knowing what you know now, what is one thing you would have done differently as an intern?
I would have started interning during my first year of college, right away. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue more internships – I think it could have been great for future networking, my job search, and experience. You can NEVER know too much.