The Valiant Virtuoso

The story of an Advertising intern at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

How to Be a “Superstar” Intern

I saw Hamilton last night… Wow. It really is what everyone is saying. OK—now to the blog post!


Dress to impress. At the Kennedy Center, the dress code is business casual. In other words, you see everything from jeans and polo shirts, to suits and dresses, and everything in-between. Essentially, some individuals dress more formally, while others dress more casually. When you’re an intern, I suggest dressing more on the business formal end (if you can do this, if not, business casual is just fine!).

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Dress professionally—after all, you are in a professional environment. You got this!

Make connections. This might seem obvious and cliché, but from the conversations I have had at the Kennedy Center, many people do not seem to understand what “making connections” actually means. Networking does not just mean talking to your colleagues as they pass your desk and, no, it doesn’t mean sending emails to say “hello.” This is socializing. While socializing is also good, especially with your fellow interns, you need to continue maintaining a professional relationship with your colleagues and supervisors. From my time at the Kennedy Center, I have learned that one of the best ways to make connections is by conducting informational interviews. Not only does this show that you are interested in that person’s line of work, it also shows that you are interested in learning more about different roles, and how that role’s responsibilities relate to your own interests and values.

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Networking is imperative. Don’t be afraid to build and maintain professional relationships. Chances are… people want to hear from you!

Ask questions. When I first began the internship, I thought that I was asking too many questions. But to be perfectly honest with you—you can never ask enough questions. Arriving at a new location, receiving unfamiliar responsibilities, and meeting new people are all parts of the process. Therefore, questions are only beneficial to you, and your own personal and professional development. How else are you going to grow in your craft?

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How do we grow as professionals? We ask questions from those who are experienced!

Show that you are committed. You can show your commitment in many ways. From arriving to work on time, to taking on extra assignments (but don’t overwhelm yourself!) and staying later during your typical work hours if necessary, are all important ways to prove how dedicated and devoted you are to your intern role. Again, sometimes even asking good questions can show your supervisor just how committed you are.

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Show your commitment and dedication. Don’t overwhelm yourself with work, but provide quality work on the projects you undertake.

Always request feedback from your supervisors. I cannot stress this enough. When I submitted my first print brochure, I received a lot of comments—not only from my colleagues, but also from NYC theater producers. While it was difficult to accept their feedback at first, I realized that, in order to grow as a thinker, as a writer, and as an advertiser, I need to acknowledge and reflect on the constructive criticism that I receive. In addition, if you request one-on-one meetings with your supervisor, ask them what they think of your current work ethic. Here is a question that I ask my supervisor during meetings: “What are some things that I have been doing well, and what are some areas of which I could improve?” It can be difficult to hear others’ opinions of your work style, especially if you think you’re doing an amazing job. Nevertheless, seeking out feedback is a life skill that will really contribute to your success in the long run.

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Request constructive criticism always. Don’t be afraid of the outcome. Most of the time (I hope!), your supervisor wants you to succeed!

Push yourself. In other words, if you are already really good at writing emails, interpreting data in graphs, or so forth, talk to your supervisor about taking on a project outside of your comfort zone. Remember—first and foremost, internships are learning experiences. Therefore, traversing uncharted land—areas of which you are unfamiliar—offers you a great opportunity to not only explore new work, but also to take on a worthwhile challenge that could benefit your professional growth. For example, I am not the best at writing print pieces for Ballet/Dance, mainly because I am more familiar with the symphony, opera, and theater realms. Nevertheless, working on the brochure introduced me to an art form of which I would otherwise be unfamiliar. While it may be difficult, I know you can do it. I believe in you!

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Venture into uncharted land and move outside of your comfort zone. You never know what your true passion is until you try it!

Write thank you letters upon your departure from the internship site. Now that I only have two days of the internship left, this has been my current “project.” When my friends ask me, “David, what are things that you should always have with you at college, at work, etc.?”, I always tell them thank-you letters. When you finish a semester of classes and especially an internship, you should take some time to reflect on your experience, and also address the ways in which the professor, supervisor, etc. has opened your eyes to new ways of thinking. My supervisor for the internship, Olivia, is so remarkable. While I admire many things about her, I really appreciate her confidence. For me, I sometimes evade confrontation, even when difficult conversations need to be had. Olivia realizes when things need to be done and she does them. I’m going to make sure I tell her that. No, it doesn’t make you a suck up. It shows that your supervisor really left an impression on you.

Thank-you messages: what to write in a thank-you card

Express your appreciation in words with a letter of gratitude!

Keep in touch. Add your supervisor on LinkedIn, or send an email once or twice a year to “check in.” It may seem “strange” (as I have heard from others), but it is important to keep in touch with people. Remember—you are building your network. In order to maintain these professional relationships, you need to keep in touch. You never know, that person may just be hiring in their department…

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You’ve built the relationships, now you need to maintain them.


Thank you all so much for following me throughout this journey, and thank you for your kind and considerate messages. I am more than happy to hear from you and/or offer further tips on tackling your internship. You can reach out to me at Until then, I wish you all the best, and hope that your internship experience inspires you to make a positive difference, and empowers you to do your best work always.


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