When I was in college, I was fortunate to have an amazing internship experience under the guidance of the brilliant Dr. Joe Brennan, who was leading the University of Toledo’s PR department at the time. As he’ll tell you, two weeks into the job I found myself in the midst of a major crisis situation. The university’s president resigned and the entire PR department (other than Joe and myself) was out sick, out of the state or otherwise unreachable. I was answering media calls and helping organize a press conference — it was such a rush. Apparently, I held my own though. Joe continued to give me amazing learning opportunities throughout my internship, helped connect me with my first job, and when I decided to launch my own communication firm, he was one of a few people I turned to for advice.
I tell you this long story because I think we have a responsibility to help aspiring PR pros, just as Joe helped me. But, I also think interns need to take it upon themselves to get the most of out their internship experience. For the past few months, Geben has been blessed with an amazing intern, Mandie Emerson, this week’s “Follow Friday,” Mandie is one of those students that you just know is going places. She’s been the ideal intern — she asks the right questions, is a good team player, deadline-oriented and a self-starter. What’s her secret? Read on to get the scoop…
Let’s face it, the job market is beyond competitive for incoming young professionals, and having a competitive edge is crucial. Regardless of the path you choose to take in PR, having internship experience is vital to your success after college. There is a difference between being an average intern and setting yourself apart from others, and this not only helps you to grow as a professional, but truly represents your future professional abilities to employers. Below are five pieces of advice I have picked up in my four years of interning to help you get the most out of your experience.
- First and most importantly, your reputation will follow you. If you decide that an internship may not be an exact fit for you and you decide to slack off until your next opportunity emerges, the chance of that emerging opportunity will be significantly decreased. On countless occasions, I have found myself making connections between my employers. If I were to have developed a negative relationship with one employer due to lack of work ethic, this easily could have ruined my chances with the other.
- Remain Flexible. As an intern, you are there to learn and try new things. You may be uncomfortable with some of the tasks that are asked of you but that is why you are an intern. If your employer expected you to know everything, they would have hired a full-time employee with multiple years of experience. Never be afraid to ask questions and learn something new.
- Communicate well. This follows up with asking questions. Give your employer status updates on completed work and ongoing projects. This gives your employer the chance to give you feedback and make sure expectations on each side are clear.
- Receive feedback. As I said before, with each internship experience I have had, tasks and expectations have differed significantly and I have only grown by receiving feedback. Feedback is one of the most constructive ways to learn in an internship. If you are not receiving feedback from your employer, don’t be afraid to ask. This will only help you to grow as a professional as well as help you address and conquer your weaknesses.
- Build your portfolio. Most importantly, internships can prove professional abilities. Just writing the name of an internship on your resume does not show future employers what you learned during these experiences. Keep writing samples you have written, communication plans you have contributed to, as well as any type of work that may embody skills you may want to represent in the future.
A great internship experience can be the foundation to a great career. Each internship will offer something different and taking advantage of these opportunities will give you the competitive edge that young professionals strive for.