Tuesday, November 4, 2014

5 Ways to Succeed at Your PR Internship

I first wrote this piece three years ago but all of the tips I came up with are from more than 25 years of working with interns.  Some have been great, some not so great.  Some people think it is harder to get a job now then it was when I started in the 80s but I beg to differ, there was a huge downturn in the economy then and there are more PR jobs then ever before.  Regardless, when you get an internship, how can you leverage that into future success?  Here are some of my ideas....

How to Make the Most of Your Summer or School Year PR Internship

So you made the big decision not to life guard but get a ‘real’ job.   Does PR sound right for you?  At Lisa Lori Communications, my PR firm, we had many interns over the years and, after watching all of the talent that has passed through our offices, I thought it would be good to dispense some easy advice on how to get the most out of your job

1. Be on time, dress professionally and be earnest.  We’re not kidding.

Sounds easy right?  Not really, many college or post college kids have a very hard time transitioning from the casual college atmosphere to a work environment.  Working in an office where there is often a lot of other young professionals, also gives the illusion that things are casual.  Not true.  Work is not school, showing up on time counts, dressing professionally, every day matters (even when there are no clients in the office) and most importantly, a positive, can do attitude stands out.  Supervisors are looking at how you conduct yourself, how interested you are in learning and seeing why you are there.  Presentation in PR is key.

2.No job is too big or too small.

So you work hard in college, you earn good grades and rather than stuffing gift bags you think you should be running the accounts.  News flash – even when you run the accounts you might be stuffing gift bags.  Going to parties, getting your picture taken, that all is glam and wonderful, but there is a whole lotta work that goes into events and communications programs, and much of it is getting down on the floor and getting your hands dirty.  If this is a career you think you would like, make sure you check your ego at the door because this is a service business, and we’re here to serve our clients.

3. Ask for More Work

If you are a quick learn and get your work done, the logical thing would be to ask for more work from your supervisor.  However, many interns instead wait for the next direction and waste the time on social media or socializing at the office.  In all my years of supervising interns, it is always the one that says, “What’s next” that is usually the most impressive.  Of course, socializing is fun and reading magazines is swell, but you are there for a very limited time, learn as much as you can.  Believe me, it will make all the difference between landing a job or not, speaking knowledgeably on an interview or not.

4. Read, read and then, read.

Read every newspaper, magazine, blog or book you can get your hands on.  Reading makes you better informed and a better writer.  It’s almost shocking to see how many young people don’t read anything beyond their social media pages which are now more about pictures than anything else.  It is impossible to know how to pitch or speak with a journalist unless you are familiar with their world.  Whatever area of interest you have in pr – beauty, fashion, philanthropy, finance, get to know the writers, the outlets and the trades, absorb as much as possible.

 5. Ask for an Exit Interview

When I went on interviews back in the Middle Ages, you needed references and a portfolio of work to get a job.  Turns out you still do today.  Most interns never even think about this until a year later when you get a call from someone saying they want to check on you as a reference for xx employee.  .Big PR pet peeve of mine is when people don't ask you if you will be a reference but just give your name out randomly.   

Before you leave your internship, ask to meet with your supervisors to see what they thought about your work, areas for improvement or get advice about career direction.  Mentors come in many shapes and forms and can help you throughout your career, these relationships are often fostered when you are seeking their advice about how to move ahead.  If you admire someone you work with, ask them for advice, it’s free.

The Freebie

Don't make jokes about your job or about your colleagues, clients or bosses on your company email, twitter or other social media accounts. More than once I have had employees find snarky remarks made about someone and it has caused hurt feelings.  Most often, people just don't know if they were really joking or really meant what they said because the person has left the company.  Social media is so powerful today but there is no mistaking it has given young people in particular, a bravado that was just never around when I was young.  Work is not all rainbows and butterflies so no one expects you to be happy all the time, but PR is a team environment and people should try to be kind to each other.

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