Like many other rising seniors, I spent my summer as an unpaid intern, working hard to get some “real world” experience before saying “hello” to the real world in a few short months. As a PR/social media intern at Inside Out Creative, a small (but fabulous) public relations and marketing agency near my hometown, I learned more than I ever could have imagined, both about PR and the professional world itself. Sure, I learned how to develop full-scale marketing plans, PSAs, and write client blogs, but the biggest lessons I learned weren’t really industry-specific at all. So, here are a few lessons for interns everywhere:
1. Always wear comfortable shoes. I know this is silly, but it’s so true. Luckily, I didn’t run around the City of York getting coffees (I think this is more of a negative myth than a reality in most internships anyways), but I did do a lot of walking that required comfortable shoes. I dropped off packages to clients, allowing me to interface with important individuals that I wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise. I carried boxes up and down the stairs when we got ready for big events, teaching me that PR isn’t all fabulous and glamour; it’s hard work. My trick? I’d wear heels but always tuck a pair of flats in my bag, so I was always prepared!
2. Always be prepared. From your clothes to your shoes to your planner, make sure you’re always prepared. The attire in my office was overall pretty casual. However, I almost always dressed up, just in case I was invited to a client meeting or other event — I didn’t want to miss any experience just because I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the day! If I did wear jeans, I’d throw a pair of dress pants in my car so I could change if it was really necessary (luckily, it never was). Beyond your attire, make sure you are prepared whenever you interact with a supervisor or client. For example, before any meeting, I’d briefly review any related information I had to make sure I could contribute my ideas (or at least be part of the conversation) during the meeting. Taking a few minutes each day to make sure you’re ready for whatever happens that day will demonstrate your responsibility and maturity to your employer.
3. Always ask questions. The only way you’ll learn is to ask! Interns never want to seem inept, but most supervisors are very understanding and receptive to questions. Oftentimes, I would save my questions throughout the day and ask them all at once, so that I wasn’t constantly distracting my supervisors from other work to ask questions. (Keep a sticky note or file with all of your questions so you’ll have them in one place.) It’s better to clarify what your responsibilities or tasks are before spending time doing them incorrectly!
4. Always keep track of your accomplishments. On the first day of my internship, I created a spreadsheet with the following columns: Task assigned, date completed, additional notes. I updated it at the end of each day so by the end of the summer, I could easily quantify my accomplishments and pull pieces for a portfolio! This is the first time I’ve done this faithfully, and I wish I had done it at all of my former internships. It takes two minutes each day and can be a great asset to your professional portfolio.
Good luck to all of the fall semester interns out there! What are your best internship tips? Share them with me!