5 ways to get more experience at your first PR job or internship

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Written By Carla Isabel Carstens

The process of securing an entry-level PR position or coveted internship position can be quite stressful – after applying to countless opportunities, creating customized documents, personalized cover letters for each one, following up, interviewing, sending thank you notes, makes for an exhausting search.

When you do finally land the position, there is nothing more frustrating than discovering you aren’t actually going to be learning what you came to learn, or able to help with the client or brand work you are so eager to contribute toward. If you’re a few months into your new job or internship and are worried it’s a dead-end, don’t worry, you aren’t stuck.  In order to get take a step up from being the media clip scanning queen or king, get more responsibility and access the decision-makers, here are a few suggestions to make that happen.

1. Master your immediate task list

Before you think about asking for more to-dos, make sure you are taking care of your tasks flawlessly. If you’re still making little mistakes or taking a bit too long to complete assignments, you won’t have a leg to stand on when requesting more responsibility from your supervisor. Focus on what you have been assigned to help with, and make sure you’re completing those tasks without any supervision or re-dos, and always meet your deadlines. Once you’re confident that you’ve mastered your day-to-day tasks, you’re ready to take on more responsibility.

2. Discover the value of the tasks you are doing

While you may be antsy to get your campaign idea approved – or simply be asked for your opinion –  you are most likely not ready to start pitching or planning an event. There is a reason you are being given the tasks you are given. If you are spending a bulk of your time coordinating sample deliveries or looking for media placements online – consider how these essential tasks help support your team while educating you on client product offerings, headlines that work, editor’s names and client news. A positive attitude and willingness to do the grunt work will get you noticed, but any sense that you are above putting stickers on swag bags or loading the dishwasher will surely keep you on coffee cup duty for a long time.

3. Ask for more work

You won’t be given a chance to prove yourself out of the blue, so instead, look for places where you want to contribute and ask to be included. Take notes in client meetings, do a social media audit on a slow afternoon, make it clear you are ready and willing to jump in, and that you are capable of more than writing the perfect meeting agenda. Don’t turn projects in and idly wait for the next project to be assigned to you. Take action and ask what else needs to get done. If you notice your supervisor is bogged down on something, or seems stressed or rushed, ask her how you can help. If no one has anything to work on, find something little to do, like organizing the sample or office supply closet, swapping out old magazines in the reception area, or writing a blog post.

4. Identify and fix inefficiencies

A system can always be improved upon and oftentimes companies are simply doing what they have always done, with no real time to take a step back and refine a process. After a few weeks in the office, see if you can identify any flaws in your daily duties. Is there a checklist or spreadsheet that would help you to be more productive. Could you create a binder or internal website with important items for future interns or colleagues? Point out optimization opportunity to your boss, and propose your solution. I guarantee they’ll be impressed.

5. Have an honest conversation with your boss

Your boss cannot read your mind and is probably being pulled in a hundred different directions each day, just trying to keep up with her own work. She may not know you’re feeling bored and underutilized. Schedule a time to meet and remind them of how quickly and correctly you are completing your existing task list, clarify your career interests and strengths.  Make sure to have ideas of how you can help her, the agency and clients. Type out a proposal that details additional tasks you’d like to take on, noting any skills you have that can be useful. Perhaps you have project management or social media design skills to bring to the table.

Your job is your responsibility, so make sure you are being proactive and asking for the role you want. As tasks become effortless and you can clearly see where you could provide value, you will find yourself in the ideal position to ask for more responsinility.

About Carla

Carla Isabel Carstens is a career coach and keynote speaker who specializes in helping college students and young professionals take control of their future by helping them to take a proactive approach to attain their dream career, leading to increased self-confidence and a deeper understanding of what makes them unique. Over the course of twelve years working in fashion PR, marketing, and celebrity entertainment relations, Carstens held director-level positions at top PR firms, as well as senior-level in-house positions. Additionally, she is the founder of FreeFashionInternships.com, a website that features internship opportunities for fashion hopefuls around the globe, and is trusted by brands such as Hermes, Christian Louboutin, Saint Laurent, Jimmy Choo, and more. Connect with her @carlacarstens

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