Making Connections: How Golin’s Second ‘Untern’ Learned the Power of Communication

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Megan Duncan- Golin UnternBy Megan Duncan, Golin Untern

I’ve been a Golin employee for only a few weeks, but what’s struck me most in that short time is the power that human connection plays in the communications industry.

As the second Untern at Golin, a global communications firm, I’m getting paid to spend six weeks traveling across the country. I’ll experience six different cultures with the goal of better understanding what the human connection can do for us on a personal and professional level. This kind of outside-the-office learning is what the Golin Unternship encourages, taking inspiration from the unconventional career of Golin CEO Fred Cook. I will document real-world experience anywhere except an office, and at the end of my journey, I’ll take what I’ve learned on the road back to Golin as a full-time employee. 

When I started my journey in Savannah, I couldn’t help but feel the power of a smile, starting to communicate with people by understanding where they’re coming from as individuals. I spent my time there immersed in the city and the daily lives of my hosts. I had the opportunity to share breakfast with chefs, farmers and restaurant owners from throughout the Southeast to discuss how we can nourish communities both literally and culturally.

I try to find individual connections each day of my Unternship. It’s part of how I won this incredible experience in the first place. During my final Untern interview in Chicago at Golin’s headquarters, the three finalists were given $40 and told to improvise, to have an “unlikely” adventure as inspired by Fred’s book “Improvise: Unconventional Advice from an Unlikely CEO.” The only guideline? Find meaning in a place I had no experience in or knowledge about.

Where do we go to find meaning? Back at my alma mater Pepperdine University, that’d probably be a philosophy lecture. On the ground in Chicago, I needed to think on my feet, “finding meaning” meaning by somehow, some way, making a connection. To find meaning in the everyday, I asked myself, where should I go for the right inspiration? Where would I find the right mix of people to start?

The answer was a coffee shop. Turns out, the answer to most things is usually coffee, something we can use to make a personal connection. So to start my unlikely adventure, I set out to find the story behind a latte.

I asked if I could try my hand at latte art, but the baristas kindly declined. Undeterred, I spent time getting to know them and some of the patrons. Eventually, my new friends let me jump behind the bar and learn the secrets of what makes each latte as unique as the person who orders it.

As my Untern journey continues, I’ll be looking for more opportunities to understand and connect with new communities. I’m particularly looking forward to my visit to the remote city of Sitka, Alaska, where I’ll meet with a friend who works for a local conservation society. She’s invited me to come with her to understand how the Sitka community and environment affect each other, how people are connected to each another and to the environment. While I’m connecting with others on my journey, I hope you’ll connect with me by following along on Instagram at @golinuntern, on Twitter at @GolinUntern and on my blog.

 Throughout my time as the Golin Untern, I’m hoping to show that the world really does get smaller when you take time to listen to people with a curious, open mind. For me, that’s what Golin’s “Go All In” motto is all about. Because once you invest in yourself and your community, it’s amazing how much more you can learn.

About the Author: Megan Duncan is the winner of Golin’s second annual U.S. Unternship competition.  She recently graduated from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. and began her Unternship.  She is spending the summer immersing herself in six unique U.S. subcultures across the country before joining Golin as an associate in the U.S. office of her choice.

2 Comments

  1. Ingrid Greene on at 5:06 PM

    Great job, Megan. Way to go!

  2. Merri Ann Hinkley on at 9:38 PM

    Megan, your message is inspiring!
    I agree, if we all took the time to see what connects us rather than devides us, then the pendulum could shift.
    Well done ?

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