While potential employers stress the “work experience” factor as a great way to get your feet wet in the fast-paced PR world, you can’t help but cringe when you hear your friends’ intern tales of boredom, meaningless work or endless coffee runs
While a PR internship may not stack up to the so-called glamorous lifestyle you may envision from watching entirely too many MTV “reality shows” – I’ll let you in on a little secret: If you’re an all-star intern, you’ll get a taste of the real side of the PR world. As we round the corner of summer internship season, here are some tips to avoid being classified as only capable of pouring coffee and operating the Xerox machine.
- ASK SMART QUESTIONS: It seems simple, but asking questions is a strength not a weakness. As an intern, we don’t expect you to know EVERYTHING. And as much as we may think we explained an assignment in the fullest and covered every possible question you may have…well sometimes we don’t. Which means if you are working on a project and suddenly think, “hummm I wonder if I should format this in ‘X’ way,” or “I wonder if they wanted me to all ‘X” information or just ‘Y” information?” do yourself a favor and ASK. Clarification will only allow you to deliver a perfect project that meets the exact expectation the person who assigned it had, rather than an assignment that requires additional work or changes because it does not showcase what was needed. Allow yourself to look good – ask questions along the way and get it right the first time.
- GET FEEDBACK: Now that you’ve completed an assignment, it doesn’t mean the work is over. Ask for feedback. An internship is about learning how to do new things, which means sometimes your first crack at a new undertaking may not be on-point. But if you never know what you did wrong, how will you know how to do it right the next time? Even if your manager seems busy, ask how you can do better – you will stand out because of it.
- DON’T WAIT FOR AN ASSIGNMENT: There is ALWAYS something to do in PR. Media lists need updating, interesting articles can be shared with a team, documents need to organized … If you find yourself with an empty list of to-dos, ask around. It’s a great way to interact with new people in the office who may need assistance – which means new professional references, new connections and the opportunity to get exposed to projects you may not have had the chance to work on had you not spoken up.
- COME PREPARED: Meetings are the biggest opportunity to gain insights into how a PR team works together, how a client or account operates, even a chance to get basic PR lingo down. So do yourself a favor and write everything down. It may not be the best time to stop everything because you have questions, but if you come ready to take notes, you’ll avoid feeling lost in daily activities.
- SCROLL, DON’T SKIM:We live in a world of emails and online content. So much information will come your way. It can be overwhelming but the worst thing you can do is skim. Read instructions thoroughly, scroll through the entire chain of an email to make sure you have the information you need to finish an assignment. Exhaust your resources before stating “I can’t find it.”
- FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT: I saved the best for last. The sure fire way to prove your more than the stereotypical intern is by acting above your level. To be an all-star intern means you push yourself beyond the limits. Example: Someone in a meeting is talking about a cool new project they will be working on. You think, “Wow I’d love to work on that,” but stay quiet and minutes later you’re grabbing coffee. Don’t limit yourself; if you want to do more, then say you want to do more. The best case scenario is that someone will say yes, the worst is silence.
Follow these tips and you’re on your way to becoming an all-star intern!