Despite high hopes and the best laid plans, chances are those are two words that induce stomach knots and noticeable cringes for the majority of us.
It’s not that your first PR internship was intended to blow up in your face, and it’s not that we don’t want our interns to succeed. It’s just that somehow… there seemed to be a disconnect, leaving all parties wishing they could hit the ‘redo’ button.
Wanted: Dream PR Intern (We Need You!)
We’ve already ruled out some of the things you can’t expect from an unpaid intern, so today let’s broach the subject of what we all want and desperately need when it comes to internships – a dream intern. If you’ve just landed your first PR internship or you’re a new grad starting to look for one, print this post out and get your highlighter ready.
It isn’t Just an Internship
Before we dive into five ways to ace your first PR internship, I want to emphasize one vital precursor to making the most of your first PR internship and, ideally, getting hired on full time: See the internship as an interview.
It isn’t just an internship. But it’s not a job. It does not have a salary (though you might land a paid internship) and, although it looks great on your resume and is a necessary part of becoming a PR professional, it’s still just an internship.
That said, you need to put your best foot forward and hit the ground running because, I’m assuming, an internship isn’t your ‘end-all, be-all’ life aspiration. Treat your internship as an extension of your interview. It’s the hands-on portion of the test. It’s your chance to show what an all-star you are, while gaining valuable career experience.
With that in mind, are you ready to make your future employer’s dreams come true? Heck yes you are!
Five Ways to Ace Your PR Internship
- Think like a creative problem solver. You’ve landed your first PR internship and now your mission is to add as much value as possible to your corporate or agency employer. It’s time to make them wish they had hired you sooner! How do you do this? By being a creative problem solver.This means if you’re given a task and it doesn’t come together on the first try, try again. Then, try again. Come at it from a different angle. The task could be anything from a printer that refuses to work, tracking down editorial calendars, or navigating a new online software. Experiment and don’t give up after your first few tries. Commit to finding the solution.
- Expect to work until the project is done. A PR internship isn’t a 9-5 deal. Sorry to burst any pre-conceived bubbles here, but let’s be real. As a PR intern, your job is to help take some of the workload off of the rest of your team. You cannot be the best help to your team if you’re leaving projects unfinished or missing deadlines because five o’clock came along and you had plans with friends.Remember, this isn’t just an internship, it’s an interview, and you want to ace it. Demonstrate you’re a team player who understands projects are promises – and you keep your promises.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate! I cannot tell you how many interns and entry-level PR team members I see fail in this category. Ironically, this is the communications industry. Yet time and again there’s a complete lack of status updates on projects and goals. Worse still, as mentioned above, are loads of broken promises in the form of missed deadlines and half-completed projects.You absolutely cannot leave your assignment statuses up to the assumptions of others. Not communicating = not completed. If you’re stuck or you’ve made progress but haven’t completed a task, report back to the person who assigned it to you with an update. This can be as simple as an email that communicates a project status. If you don’t communicate, the assumption might be you’re either not good at a given task, or worse, you’re irresponsible.
- Think before asking. This. Is. HUGE. As I said, it’s perfectly OK to ask questions. However, there’s this super amazing, easy-to-use, free tool called Google and if you can use it to get the answer…don’t ask. Be quick to think and slow to ask. This is where creative problem-solving comes into play. You aren’t expected to figure everything out for yourself, but you are expected to think for yourself.
- Strive to add value. This is an extension of the creative problem-solving, but it’s different. Treat your employer’s business as if it was your own. This mentality means promises made to clients must be fulfilled, and deadlines need to be met. If you can’t figure out a solution to the problem, and you can honestly say you’ve given it the best you could, think through a potential solution and then ask for help. I’m not trying to discourage asking questions. Questions are a part of the learning process and if you’re truly listening and have questions, ask them. Asking questions can demonstrate you’re thinking critically and trying to get to the best result through the most direct way possible, thereby adding value.
There are definitely more items that can be added to this (*cough* like knowing about SEO *cough*) but if you follow these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to acing your first PR internship.
PR professionals, what do YOU look for in a dream intern?