If you’re an aspiring PR professional, you have probably heard your professor say “If you want to land a job right out of college, you should have at least two internships on your resume.” Talk about pressure! As students, we have enough on our plates, and now we have to worry about an internship too? Well, the answer is yes, but I promise it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. Being an intern can even be, dare I say it, fun! Getting that first internship can be tough, but once your foot is in the door it will feel like you have the world at your fingertips.
Given that competition is stiff and employers want the best-of-the-best, it makes perfect sense that the top PR agencies want their candidates to have tangible experience. While a college education is a must, internships give you the opportunity to apply the skills you learned in the classroom to the real world. The question is, once you land that internship, how do you make the most of it? Here are ten bits of advice that will help you nail your first internship:
1. Be enthusiastic. Have a great attitude and be pro-active. Finished an assignment early? Go ask your boss for the next assignment.
2. Dress for success. During your interview, make an effort to get a sense of the company’s culture and the dress code. Look around the office and take note on what other people are wearing and how they interact. Is it a smaller, laid back company where business-casual is almost too “dressy?” Or is it a Fortune 500 where suits and ties are a must? If you still aren’t sure of how to dress, go by the mantra: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
3. Learn to say yes. Don’t turn down the opportunity to work on a fabulous project just because you don’t know how to do it. This internship is supposed to be a learning experience, right? Say yes without hesitation and learn as you go! And don’t forget, it’s okay to make mistakes.
4. Work hard.This should be a no brainer. Whether you are writing something as simple as a Facebook post or as detailed as a shareholder letter, give your best effort and your boss will take notice.
5. Stay on task. There are going to be days where you have so much on your mind that you want to explode, but it’s crucial that you give your full attention to the task at hand. You are on the company’s time, not your own; stay off personal social media accounts and stop texting your friends, it can wait a few hours.
6. Get to know people in other departments. Just because you are interning for the communications department doesn’t mean you are locked in to the field for life. Talk to people from marketing, sales, finance or anyone else that strikes your fancy! You are testing out the company just like the company is testing you out, so don’t be afraid to put your networking skills to use.
7. Take notes when given instructions. Not only will this show your boss that you have an attention for detail, but it will prevent you from forgetting any main points when executing the project.
8. Be open to criticism. Again, the point of an internship is to learn! Ask your boss for feedback and take the advice to heart. Know that your boss is there to help, so don’t feel threatened or offended when they offer constructive criticism.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re struggling with a project or the instructions don’t make sense, ask for help! It is better to ask questions at the beginning of a project than to spend hours doing the wrong thing.
10. Send a thank-you note. Once your internship is over, send your boss a hand-written thank-you letter. Your boss spent a lot of time showing you the ropes, so let them know how much you appreciated the opportunity. You will probably get an awesome letter of recommendation out of it, too!
My last piece of advice is to relax and have fun! Be proud of yourself for making it this far in your young career and keep up the good work.