10 Tips for First Agency Internship

Spring break traditionally launches the start of the intern search season.  Despite the weak job market, many agencies will hire Summer interns this year. 

  Chuck Merydith

Chicago PR consultant Chuck Merydith recently shared 10 internship tips with Northern Illinois University PRSSA chapter members.  Chuck developed the list for students at his alma mater after talking with veteran agency pros who have worked with dozens of interns over the years.  Here’s their list:  

1.  Even if you’ve never had a traditional PR job, think of skills you’ve learned that have prepared you for one.  When interviewing a candidate, I’m most interested in seeing/hearing from someone:

  • Who can work in a team environment.
  • Is a problem solver.
  • I can see cold-calling reporters.

You might be the best writer in the world, but more than likely at the intern level we want someone who can research, find information quickly, step in on last-minute requests and be a bulldog with reporters. 

2.  Keep it professional when at work.

I’ve heard of interns downloading Gossip Girl at work, spending all day on PerezHilton.com.  This is the easiest way to lose a spot as a full-time employee, even if you are not being kept fully busy.  Word spreads fast on whom is a hard worker and who is a slacker.  As the economy changes, companies can be choosy about who they hire and they always will select the hardest worker.

3.  Treat everyone with respect.

From the admin to the senior VP, you never know who has the ear of the person making the decision on your hire.  You’ll also work or be in contact with everyone eight times in your career (it’s a very small world).

4.  Keep trying.

I sent my resume to every agency in town and it wasn’t until the third follow-up call that I landed an interview. . .and job.

5.  Agencies are looking for Summer interns now.

Unlike corporations and financial firms, which tend to plan long in advance, PR firms don’t make Summer hires in the Spring.   

6.  Outshine everyone in your intern class.

Come in early, stay late and raise your hand for more opportunities.  People will notice.

7.  Be patient.

 PR seems unfair in the beginning of your career.  Others are doing the “fun stuff,” and you are asked to make copies and media lists, but remember you need to learn the basics before you can lead a program.

8.  You’re going to mess up.

It’s human and expected.  But own your mistake, apologize and let your manager know how you plan to avoid the mistake in the future.  Managers will respect that you’re accountable and honest.  

9.  When starting a new project such as a report or memo, ask your manager for examples, templates, etc. 

Chances are someone has done a similar project before and the manager has expectations of what they want to see (but may not think to share with you).

10.  Find a mentor and listen/watch carefully to what they say and do.

4 thoughts on “10 Tips for First Agency Internship

  1. After reading this post, Kathy Cripps, President of the Council of PR Firms, offers some additional good news and advice: “I’ve heard several firms say they want to support their intern program despite the economy. For recent graduates securing an internship may lead to a permanent job. It may not pay much; however, if a career in PR is the goal, staying in the field as an intern may be a more direct route to achieving the goal. Find-a-firm on the Council’s web site is a good way to search for agencies in any of the 40 cities we have members. “

  2. I apologize if I am misreading something, but number five confuses me. You say agencies are looking for interns now but don’t hire summer interns in the spring.

    I am currently waiting for my fiance to land a job so I know which agencies to apply to (we don’t know which city we will end up in). Is this plan going to flop if he doesn’t get hired until May (he’s a teacher, so that is likely).

  3. Kelsey:

    It’s going to be really, really tough if you have to wait until May to apply for internships. Hopefully you can narrow your cities down to probable candidates and apply to the agencies in those cities now as if you’re intending to move there. At best, you’ll become an expert at applying for internships and perhaps secure the job you’re looking for — at worst, you may have to renege.

    Good luck!


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