A D.C. Summer Tradition Heats Up

Summers in Washington, D.C. are hot and humid. Walking about, you see fewer ties and more tourists. Summer is also when energetic and upwardly mobile interns descend upon the town to gain a few months of so called “real-world” experience.

Our two D.C.-based summer interns recently asked Bill Buff and me to a “lunch and learn” to discuss how we ended up on our respective career paths, what makes a good job, our proudest moments and our biggest regrets.

Here’s how we answered why we came to Stratacomm, and why we stayed:

  • Many of us at Stratacomm did not set out to get into public communications, much less work at a firm, but we gravitated or were otherwise drawn here along the way. Most of us (though certainly not all) were liberal arts majors, which helped hone our critical thinking and writing skills – two areas vital to effective communications.
  • Most of Stratacomm’s partner group had worked with the firm one way or another before working here full-time (as a client, partner or even an intern).
    • Partners, on average, have been with Stratacomm 13 years, validation we promote from within and are fiercely loyal to the firm, to our employees and to the clients for whom we serve.
  • Our proudest moments tended towards those activities where we took calculated risks and won, and/or where we did incredible things with our clients they could not have achieved on their own.
  • And nope, we didn’t have any regrets of note.

We also offered some general advice that underscores our company values:

  • Do what you love and you will do it well. If it’s not fun, you should do something different.
  • Look to your left and right and work harder than those around you.
  • Look to your boss: watch her or him, model their winning behaviors and avoid those behaviors you believe to be negative or counterproductive.
  • Take the initiative. Be a problem solver. Try to make your boss’s job (or your client’s job) easier, anticipate his or her needs and make yourself indispensable.
  • If you screw up – or rather when you screw up, as we all do – own it, don’t repeat it. Learn from it and understand it’s how you get better, wiser and more experienced.
  • Hone your speaking and presentation skills so you can stand up in any situation to explain an issue and offer an informed point-of-view.
  • Good writing takes time. Get feedback and know that strategic writing is in high demand, though not often in high supply.
  • Technology is vital, but keep it in context. Email is a crutch (and a burden) and no replacement for actual conversation.
    • While many young professionals grew up with social media, it’s a completely different ballgame to apply that experience in a professional setting. Looking at social media through a professional lens opens up untold new opportunities for younger professionals to add value.
  • Find a mentor. Nobody got to where they are today without help and advice from others.

Our interns do more than just make copies and do grunt work (though they do that, too). They sit in client meetings, join new business brainstorms and conduct needed research. One recently provided emergency in-office babysitting support when an evolving project deadline kept a working parent here longer than planned (A+ for going the extra mile on that one!). So our interns absolutely get that “real world” experience. In return, Stratacomm gets their help and unique perspectives, as well as the satisfaction of playing an active role in helping next generation leaders take another step along their lifelong professional journey.

Finally, as for editing, proofing and uploading this post … I’ll be thanking the interns.

John F. Fitzpatrick co-manages Stratacomm.

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