Lessons From a Swimtern

Amber Ooley

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Director of Digital Strategy

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Tanner Blaschka, 2015 Swimtern

As my internship at Swim Creative comes to an end, I’d like to share some of the experiences I’ve had the privilege to be a part of and some of the key lessons learned.

I graduated in May from the University of Wisconsin­-Madison with a BBA in marketing and supply chain management. While I was hoping for a tropical location to land my first out­-of-­college internship, Duluth has a lot going on that I didn’t expect.

Namely, Swim Creative.

I found Swim Creative while searching for career opportunities and was instantly impressed with their stellar portfolio. Plus, who wouldn’t want to live the life of Don Draper?

My first few weeks were an eye­-opening experience in the chaotic life of an agency. Sitting in on Monday morning traffic for the first time felt like my high school Spanish class. “How do they do this?” I thought.

Slowly but surely I caught on to the nuances and agency ­speak, and found myself taking note of different lessons throughout the summer.

Here are the main takeaways.

Lesson One: ​Time Management​.This is needed to keep clients and colleagues happy, ensure projects stay on budget, and to keep yourself within deadlines when bogged down with a seemingly endless list of projects.

Lesson Two: ​Learn everything.​ As an intern, try to learn everything and anything about the industry. This means taking initiative to work with others throughout the company and leveraging opportunities to grow professionally.

One of the first things I noticed while at Swim is that everyone here is truly a black belt ninja at what they do. Don’t be afraid to ask to join meetings that don’t directly pertain to you, it will help you to gain a more well-­rounded knowledge of the departments, roles and processes of an agency.

Reading is another way to understand the industry. Ask people throughout the company what their favorite books, blogs, and websites are and perform your own research to learn as much as possible. This will help to show that you have a genuine interest in the industry and eagerness to learn.

Lesson Three: ​Start small. ​​Performing case studies for Fortune 500 companies as a business student tempted me to pursue a career at a large corporation. However, my internship at Swim Creative taught me the benefits of working at a smaller company.

Working at a smaller company meant that I had the opportunity to assist with multiple jobs and gained various experiences at the beginning of my professional career. Plus, I helped with projects that actually made a difference for the agency and the client.

It doesn’t get much better for a wide-­eyed college grad looking to make an impact on the workplace.

Lesson Four: ​Have confidence.​​ As an intern, I wanted to do everything possible to impress the team and let them know what I was capable of. At the same time, the last thing I wanted to do was make a major mistake by trying to do too much. It’s a dilemma that all interns face.

As the internship progressed, I came to the realization that Swim Creative saw something in me and hired me for a reason. Presumably, they had the hopes that my unique experiences and different perspectives could be of value to the team. I learned to embrace this and have confidence in the work I was doing, even if it was something I was new to.


My internship with Swim Creative has been an unforgettable experience. Not only have I learned some incredible lessons about agencies and the business world, but I’ve had the chance to make some great friends and be a part of some amazing work. For anyone looking to jumpstart their career, I highly recommend looking at a place like Swim Creative.

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