I was a bit of an overachiever in college. I entered with half a year’s credits under my belt, took no less than 18 credits a semester and juggled simultaneous marketing and journalism internships. The fear of an empty résumé encouraged me to shoot for the moon and it was to no one’s surprise that I decided to spend my final semester back at home, interning at LaunchSquad, a digital tech PR agency, full time.
The decision to leave campus was a difficult one. Since I’d be spending the last of my college days at home, I vowed to make the most of my internship and really prepare myself for entry level. After all, an agency internship would be the final brick in the bridge from college to the real world.
It took about a month for me to realize LaunchSquad was the place I wanted to call home and another to begin the application process. Toward the last leg of my internship, once I was offered a position, I began finalizing the transition from intern to Account Associate. Whether you plan on working at the agency you’re interning at or not, there are several key ways you can start preparing yourself for the big leagues, even within your first weeks. Here are some helpful hints I learned along the way.
Show what you know. The first few weeks of an internship often feel like an extended orientation. While it’s important for you to learn the goings on of your accounts, it’s perhaps equally important that you catch your manager up on your own talents and interests. Take the initiative and really own your strengths. Are you a great writer? Don’t just say so in your interview—show off your blog and published pieces. Social media savvy? Engage with relevant journalists on Twitter. And don’t wait for projects to be assigned for you—show your team that you’re always thinking by brainstorming new bylines and finding trending topics for your clients to share their voice in.
Don’t say no. An intern is a welcome presence in any office. An extra pair of hands frees up your coworkers’ time, allowing them to focus on other projects. Everyone wins. Once you learn your way around, don’t be surprised if other account teams ask for your help with projects. Lend them some brainpower when your schedule permits. Every account has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities and can further color your PR experience. The more industries you’re exposed to, the more well-rounded you become. You probably won’t have as much time to dabble as a full-time employee, so expand your horizons while you can.
Make yourself invaluable. Depending on the maturity of your company’s intern program, it’s likely your coworkers have worked with a number of interns before you… and will coordinate with many more after you. In this game of numbers, it’s essential to stand out and make a positive impression. Make yourself invaluable on each of your teams– be the first to share an opinion, offer to take the first stab at a draft, never be the person that someone needs to email twice. It’s easy to regard internships like college semester– you do as well as you can and then exchange one for another. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking yourself as a temporary employee. Instead, consider yourself an important part of the team and put your heart into everything you do. Your passion will help set you apart and may come in handy when asking for job references…or a permanent position.
Stay organized. Things can get hairy quick in an office. The phone rings off the hook, your inbox refills instantaneously, to-do lists have a habit of expanding a mile long. To stay ahead of the curve, make an effort to over-communicate with your team and outline all your priorities for the week. Whether you prefer digital planners like Asana or you’re a notebook-and-pen kind of gal like me, there are many resources out there you can utilize to ensure efficiency. As an entry level employee, one of your key responsibilities will be to make your team stays on top of client calendars and timely email chains. Help set a foundation your team can depend on by fostering seamless communication and staying on top of deadlines. Your future self will thank you.
Forget what you learned. While college is a key facet of a person’s personal development, it’s important to take what you learn a grain of salt. The industry changes – rapidly – and professors aren’t always tuned into industry trends. In college, I primarily dabbled with press releases and PR plans. However, once I arrived in my office, I realized I had more pressing priorities. Instead of drafting constant releases, my time was spent running social media programs, drafting speaking abstracts, and composing client blogs and bylines. Many of the things I had learned in class also contradicted office culture. We were taught how to avoid verbal conflict– my office communicated almost exclusively over e-mail. We were taught not to add coworkers on social media– our employees have an engaged social presence. At times, it’s frustrating to navigate what you learned versus what’s expected of you, but experience is the ultimate teacher and before long, you’ll be able to navigate the PR world with well-earned confidence.