Landing an internship is just the beginning of gaining practical work experience. How you maximize your internship experience could be the difference between getting a post-grad job or losing a great opportunity. Intern experience gives an inside look on what it is like to be part of the fast-paced PR industry, and is the “real-world” setting that no communications project or textbook can give you. Positive internship experience sets you apart to future employers, over your classmates who may have done just as well on college curriculum.
Public relations pro, social media guru, content writer, digital marketer — whatever your role, you want to make it a worthwhile investment for the company you’re interning for. Whether your objective is to gain meaningful experience, develop your contacts, or land a post-grad job (hopefully all of the above!), rock your spring or summer internship with these 6 insightful tips!
1. BECOME AN ASSET
Make it a point to learn all you can about the company and the industry they serve, and get familiar with their clientele. Your fresh perspective can be very valuable. Research your new job, your team and your supervisor ahead of time, so you can hit-the-ground-running on day one. Show initiative by contacting your supervisor and ask if there’s anything you can do to prepare for your first day. Be ready to introduce your team or supervisor to new ideas and emerging trends and influencers that could gain traction for their brand or their clientele. Set the tone by showing them that you are serious about your internship.
2. KEEP YOUR END GOAL IN MIND
Your internship is what you make of it, so take ownership of your opportunities. Start your internship by identifying what new bullet points you are looking to add to your resume. Boutique agencies offer opportunities to learn more facets of the job versus a big name agency or fashion design house where you will most likely hone in on a particular subset of skills and what is important to that brand. So, volunteer for new assignments. Look for opportunities to shore up their weaknesses, tap into their strengths and be willing to go beyond what is expected of you. As a bonus, you can use this as a way to identify a prospective mentor and learn what you like and don’t like on the job.
3. BE A CREATIVE PROBLEM-SOLVER
Problem-solving is at the core of all job descriptions, and in an industry that is all about relationships, thinking outside of the box is a prerequisite. Focus on finding the solution and keep it simple – be resourceful. Entry-level assignments like tracking down editorial calendars, project research, press book design and learning new software may seem challenging, but don’t over analyze it. Try different angles, experiment with solutions, and look back in the archives. The best solutions are often the simplest ones. Asking thoughtful questions is important to let supervisors and others know you are learning, but if the answer can be easily found [thanks Google!] opt to find a solution yourself before asking for help.
Look for opportunities to shore up their weaknesses, tap into their strengths and be willing to go beyond what is expected of you.
4. PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING
Hearing someone is one thing but actually listening is another. Active listening allows you to create conditions for discussions and productivity through your verbal and nonverbal reactions. Asking poignant questions and gathering information shows you are interested in the company, the message, and their needs. Not only is this satisfying for the other person to feel that they are being understood, but it also creates a positive environment for constructive and productive conversation. Bonus points if you say “I” instead of “you” when possible to signal your ability to take responsibility. This opens up dialogue because you are expressing an interest in doing a great job and growing.
Also, more than 80 percent of all communication is nonverbal — your facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, arm crossing, and tone of voice. Unfold your arms and legs, lean into the conversation, lessen the physical distance to your employer and put your phone on vibrate or out of sight. Be mindful to keep your voice calm and friendly- these are all implicit messages which are expressed through our nonverbal behaviors to let a person know if we are actively or reactively listening. This creates a lasting impression and earns brownie points towards your ongoing relationships.
5. COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY
Effective communication skills—written and spoken—are the most valuable transferable skills for most employers, especially in public relations. PR is a deadline-oriented industry from pull requests to issue closings to RSVPs. Whether you got stuck or made progress but haven’t completed a task, keep the person who assigned you the task in the loop with a quick email or messenger update. Lack of communication can create uncertainty and conflict.
During your downtime or social activities, get to know your colleagues on a deeper level. Ask them about their professional experiences and ask what helped them advance in their career. This is an easy way to practice your professional relationship-building skills as you grow your network on-the-job.
6. DON’T QUIT UNTIL YOUR JOB IS DONE
Public relations is not a 9-5 industry. Like the news cycle, our jobs go around the clock. Going the extra mile doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. What makes anyone a stellar employee, freelancer or consultant is showing up AND doing the job. Missing deadlines or leaving projects incomplete because you had plans sends the wrong message. Show your commitment through task execution and completion of daily assignments like sending out pitches to confirming event RSVPs or pulling looks for a stylist pickup. Let your work ethic speak to your character. This industry is based on relationships, and people want to work with someone who will put in the extra effort alongside them.
Going the extra mile doesn’t stop at 5 p.m. What makes anyone a stellar employee, freelancer or consultant is showing up AND doing the job.
7. EMBRACE COMPANY CULTURE
The company culture is likely one of the reasons you applied to intern at your agency, so embrace it. Interns, like any other employee or executive, are an extension of the company’s identity externally. Get to know the “why” behind the company’s core values and apply them to your day-to-day efforts in the position. If you work with a fashion brand, forecasting trends is part of the job. Mix in a few trend pieces and statement accessories with your wardrobe essentials to show you understand how to make trends work in everyday life. If you work in entertainment, staying up-to-date on the emerging artists and the newest web series allows you to introduce your boss to new outlets for client pitching, sponsorship opportunities, product placements or brand ambassadors.
Remember, this isn’t just an internship; it’s an extended hands-on interview. The team is looking to see how you handle your assignments and hone in on interpersonal skills-which are just as important. Keep in mind, this is where you can apply classroom theory to real-life scenarios as you learn more about your career options and enhance your resume. It’s okay to be nervous on your first day, just arrive on-time and communicate.
Finally, with your strong work ethic and integrity, practice humility and self-awareness- these are critical values that will guarantee you success in your relationships, on and off the clock.