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How I survived an internship at ZPB

By Harry Milnes

I have just completed a three-month internship at ZPB. It’s been intense. From meeting the boss’ children on day one to crunchy advertorial deadlines on a Friday night, to organising an event for a report launch at the House of Lords, I’ve somehow made it through. Now I’m on ZPB’s graduate programme and before Charlie, our new intern starts next week, I thought I would share my top tips on how to survive your first internship.

So here they are:

  1. Be confident

  2. Go the extra mile

  3. Communicate

  4. Be a sponge

Harry in his intern position helped to launch a white paper on clinical home care in the House of Lords

Harry helped to launch a white paper on clinical home care in the House of Lords as part of his internship

Be confident

A generic, typically overused tipple of advice, but never has it been more important than in my time at ZPB. You will be in at the deep end from day one: embrace it. This involves enjoying the challenge, and putting the opportunities ahead of you in a positive light. Don’t think: ‘oh no what happens if…’, rather: ‘imagine how much I could get out of this’. Remember you are an intern, no one will expect miracles. Be confident in your own ability, you have got this far, now work hard and enjoy the ride.

Go the extra mile

ZPB is not the type of office where people clock-watch. The company philosophy is clear: you get out what you put in. The dynamic team makes for a motivating atmosphere in the office. One in which everyone wants to work with each other, to get the best results for clients, but also we are all passionate about making a difference in healthcare. By going the extra mile, be it checking something you’ve written once more than you might usually, or realising someone is over-capacity and taking the initiative to take something off his or her hands, this will instil trust in you, as a member of ZPB. This is invaluable.


The successful delivery of your tasks and challenges will rely heavily on good communication. And a lot of asking. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. If you don’t know what something means, which isn’t uncommon with the NHS acronym jungle, ask. This is a crucial skill, naturally followed by greater efficiency, time management skills and better outcomes.

Being clear around the briefs you are given is important; an extra ten minutes of fact checking could save you hours of missing the point. This is just a form of expectation management, a key skill you will need in such a client-facing organisation. Keep the channels of communication open at all times and remember the team are on hand to help.

Be a sponge

The people around you are talented, be ready to soak it all up. You are not one of a thousand interns doing a ten-week placement in any old corporate. You are exposed, you are connected, and you are in a fantastic position. Meeting Zoe’s children on the first day may have been a little too ‘connected’ (not because they were in the office by the way, but because I joined on ZPB’s 6th birthday party), however the Aperol Spritz allowed me to be a little more ‘gutsy’ than usual. The dynamics of the team are clear and each member of the team brings unique strengths to the table. So observe and be a sponge. Take notice of why people are good in their areas and actively think: how can I do that?

The potential to learn as an intern is incredible. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but by following the tips above, you’ll get so much more out of it.

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