Intern Spotlight: George P. Johnson Experience Marketing

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February 14, 2017 by texasbbacareerservices



Jennifer Icaro
Major: Double major in Communications/Advertising & Art
Grad Year: Fall 2015
Creative Intern (previously an Event Services Intern).

Tell us about your intern experience.

Every day is different, every day involves something new to learn, a new challenge to conquer and a new memory to keep close. Admittedly, the beginning of the internship seemed daunting. I had started my training a week later than the rest of my new hire class due to a scheduling conflict so I had started right in the middle of everything. There were so many acronyms and processes being thrown at me that I thought I would never be able to catch up. But as I shadowed events and completed various tasks, the more the acronyms made sense and the better I began to understand the lifecycle of an event and all its moving parts. The more I understood, the more confident I became with my work. And the work is the most rewarding part. Being able to see an event move throughout the planning process to being onsite and seeing it executed is incredibly satisfying. There are few job opportunities that allow you to see every step in the creation process. With most jobs, you may be one moving part amongst an entire machine, never getting to see the final product. But at GPJ, you have the ability to be involved in every step of the journey. You can see how a team of people can an experience concept before an attendee ever touches the show floor, to being at the convention yourself to see people interact with and enjoy something that was once a concept on a piece of paper.

How did you go about getting your internship?

In mid-December, I got word that the Austin Office was looking to hire an intern for the Spring and spent about a week and a half just revising and editing my resume before I sent in my application. Because it was around the holiday time, I didn’t hear back until a few weeks later, when I was contacted by HR to possibly come in for an interview. We set a date/time for later that week and I was interviewed for the position. A few days later, I received an email offering me the job and a form that I filled out and submitted to HR. About two weeks later, I arrived at GPJ for my first day at work.

What classes do you think were the most valuable in getting your internship?

I believe the classes that were most valuable in getting my internship involved challenging my interpersonal skills as well as courses that provided opportunities to showcase unique skills or leadership roles. For example, I took Local Advertising Campaigns and Media Planning courses which involved teams of peers to come together to develop strategic plans, ideas, creative pieces and unique digital campaigns. In these classes, I was able to exercise leadership skills, prove responsibility by complete ownership of my own tasks and use creative problem solving not only on the project but within our own team as well. I’ve found that the courses that allowed me to develop and hone cognitive abilities in a wide variety of situations and skill sets were the most rewarding. Other examples of courses I found most valuable: Advertising Copywriting, Computer Imaging, Graphics Applications, Intermediate Video Art, etc.

What advice would you give to others as they search for an internship? My advice would be to:

Do your research: Before you walk into an interview or before you even click “Apply” on the webpage, do some research. What does the company do? What kind of style of work do they produce? Who are their clients? What’s the company’s history? How does that compare with the type of work being produced by other companies? Many of my professors spoke about the importance of showing your investment in the company you’re applying for. Go beyond thinking, “This is just a job” and show them, “I’m interested in the work you produce and would love to be a part of what you do. Here’s why.”

Constantly revise: There’s nothing wrong with revising your resume. Start with a master list—everything you think an employer would need to know you’re qualified for the job. From there, tailor each of your resumes to each company and type of internship. Pick information that highlights certain skills and experience that reflect the role you’re applying for. Do you want to showcase your leadership experience? Or would it be more relevant to highlight unique skill sets and depth of knowledge (photography, digital applications, app development, etc.)? Were you involved in projects where you were given a large amount of responsibility? If you don’t have experience in one skill, how can you highlight another to compensate? Every company is a little bit different, so re-read and revise whenever you can.

Can you describe how your interview went?

I had taken my previous research about the company and wrote in quick facts on the back of my notebook to try and memorize so I could casually slip it into any of my interview answers and had printed every piece of information I had on hand in previous discussion with HR (the Internship Program syllabus, a one-page overview of the Internship Program, four copies of my resume, a cover page and a notebook and pen). I even wrote down key things to bring up in answers like, “ability to be flexible,” “want experience because I want to be somewhere long term,” “proactive” and “want to grow both personally and professionally.” Needless to say I was a little over-prepared, but it eased my nerves to have as much tangible information in my hands as possible. My interview consisted of a three-person panel – HR, the Intern Program Coordinator and a previous intern, now current employee. The interview was conducted in an office, but the environment was casual and friendly as one person sat at a desk, another on a couch and the last sat at a small table. We discussed a bit of who I was, where I came from, my education and skill set. In depth, we discussed my overall goals to which I had answered honestly—I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, but I wanted to use this opportunity to find what my passion was and to learn and grow. I came into this with no event planning, logistic managing or design experience (at least, not professionally) but that was what intrigued me about the role. I was ready dive in and to learn everything I could about the industry and what GPJ had to offer because I was a blank canvas. The people in the room seemed to genuinely care not only about my credentials and what I could offer the company, but they wanted to see me reach my own goals and to help me find where I needed to be.

What were the hardest questions they asked in your interview?

For me, the hardest question I was asked involved relating my experience (or lack thereof) to the skill sets required to the job. Because I was unfamiliar with this line of work and insecure about my lack of professional experience, I think that finding connections between skill sets that didn’t directly apply to event management but were still relevant to the job itself was critical to the interview process. It wasn’t that the question was difficult to answer, but I felt that the importance of justifying how being a Drum Major in high school or being a Team Lead in a college course project connected with attributes required for this line of work—responsibility, flexibility, dedication and the ability to view something from multiple perspectives—would be key in showing everyone that despite my inexperience, I would be just as good and work just as hard as anyone who walked through the door with a long history in event management and logistics.

Please share your general career advice?

Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This internship has exposed me to so many various roles and types of work and it has opened me up to endless possibilities of career paths. I’ve met people here that have worked 3-4 different roles within the company before they found their passion. There is always something to learn and always something new to try, so don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and experience something you may not have considered trying before. And personally speaking, when I first graduated college and started my internship, I felt this huge need to prove myself. I wanted to prove I could do it all, I could take anything on and that there was no such thing as “too busy.” But when you stretch yourself too thin, you start to break. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the people around you and ask for help. Especially as an intern, the people at your company are there to support you and guide you. You’re not just there because it’s a job, but you’re there to learn and grow as well.

Please tell us about your career path and how you found your way to GPJ.

I was nearing the end of my college education and had been talking pretty often with my cousin about my fears after graduation–what did I want to do, what were my career goals, where did I want to go–and she recommended starting with an internship. She mentioned GPJ and a little about the work they do and that, with the many various roles offered within the company, being an intern would allow me to shadow all kinds of career paths to help me find my passion and what I wanted to do. I had written the company name, “George P Johnson” on a sticky note that sat, gathering dust on my desktop for the longest time and it wasn’t until my final semester of college that I finally got the courage to look up the company and research more about them, the type of work they did and what “experiential marketing” meant. What fascinated me the most was GPJ’s approach to building a brand. It wasn’t just about selling a product, or selling to a consumer. This was about building a relationship between the consumer and the brand. How can this brand help you? What solutions does this brand have to offer to help solve your problems? How can you and this brand work together to innovate and revitalize your company? Every event strived to include something multi-sensory and interactive—a brand immersive experience—that told a story rather than pitched you a sale. GPJ was taking the idea of an event like a tradeshow or conference and redefining what an attendee experience should be.

What do you like about working for GPJ?

I like that every day is different. There is always something new to learn, to challenge myself and to experience. On a day-to-day basis, yes, we work on events. But every event is like a snowflake, comprised of the same elements but unique in their own way. And the same goes for the people that work here. Everyone is so welcoming and diverse, and to be able to come in and work with your friends every day is something really, very special that I don’t think happens very often in other workplaces. I also enjoy the wide range of creativity. Everyone has something special to contribute, whether it’s design creativity or creative problem solving, there are a hundred ways to solve one problem and that only comes from the cultivation of inspiring and driven people coming together with one common goal.

With over 29 branches across the globe, each specializing with their own clients and events as well as the flexibility to work remotely, opportunities are everywhere. I’ve interviewed many people as part of my internship, and nearly every single person I’ve spoken with has had multiple roles within the company. The amazing thing about GPJ is their flexibility and willingness to help you find a place where you can really shine. There’s also a mentorship program which is incredibly helpful not only if you’re transitioning to a new role, but also for when you’re first starting off. There’s never a moment where you feel isolated because everyone is willing to help and guide you. And the office culture committee, Fun in Austin, TX (FIAT), strives to create activities and events that bring everyone in the office together. From Happy Hours to crafts and charity work, we work to give back to our peers and our community.

What does this internship entail?

As an Event Services Intern: You will have opportunities to shadow and assist Event Logistics Managers, Project Managers and other Operations roles in anywhere from venue research, planning call meeting minutes and project plan development to leading your own planning calls and greater event ownership responsibilities.

As a Creative Intern: You will have opportunities to assist in Traffic Management and creative workflow, attend meetings, brainstorms, internal launches and client presentations and shadow various creative roles including 2D Experience Design, 3D Experience Design, Production Design and Experience Strategy.

As part of the overall Internship Program: You will have various administrative responsibilities including the planning and execution of office activities and events, manage the office culture committee’s calendar, the employee birthday wall and office package distribution. As checkpoints to mark your progress of knowledge within the internship, you may conduct a venue search for a hypothetical roadshow with several cities or create a Strategic Experience Plan for an event and present it to a panel of managers and team leads.

What skills make a person successful in this position? Every skill is an asset to this role, however, a consistent trait I’ve seen amongst people in this office is the commitment and dedication to producing quality work, in any situation. To be successful in this position, I believe you have to work not just as hard as everyone else in the office, but you have to be willing to work even harder. Be proud of your work and your role; own it. You have to be willing to sit down and do what it takes to complete the job, but never sacrifice quality. I also believe that empathy is a key strength. Understanding not only the needs of the client but the needs of your peers around you is important to creating an environment that welcomes ideas, innovations, creative problem solving and teamwork.


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