3 Commandments from a ‘Professional Intern’

Allison Bradley

I’m going to be honest here:  I’m thrilled my professional title no longer includes the word “intern.”  After completing five PR internships in the past few years, I was recently hired as an AAE at Olson in Chicago.

It’s tempting to ditch my identity as an intern as quickly as I updated my LinkedIn profile, but the truth is I’m proud of the hard work I put in as an intern, and the insights I gained are just as useful as an entry-level employee.

SO… while you’re working your butt off as an intern to earn that first job offer, follow these three commandments I’ve learned from past supervisors and fellow interns alike:

1.     Be resourceful – Truth:  During the first week of your internship you’ll have a LOT of questions and you might not know who to ask for help.  My suggestion is to do as much research as possible before asking for help.  Read through previous documents written for your clients, pay attention to any emails you’re copied on, and try your best to solve problems on your own before reaching out to your supervisors.  When someone is explaining a project, don’t just sit there.  Take as many notes as possible so when you actually start working you’ll have a reference point, and pay close attention when you receive your supervisor’s edits.  You’ll make mistakes at first, but that’s okay!  Remember your mistakes and learn from them.

2.     If you see something, say something! (Thanks, CTA) – Believe it or not, internships are supposed to benefit YOU!  Depending on the internship, this can be easy to lose sight of, but it’s up to you to get the most out of it.  If you’re into social media, offer to help with a Facebook project.  If you want to learn more about media relations, volunteer to help your team with pitching.  In the same spirit, speak up if you find a way to make things easier for your team or the company as a whole.  Something as small as pointing out a spelling error will show you’re paying attention to detail.

3.     Own it – First, own your projects.  From start to finish, take responsibility for your work and become an expert so you can report on your project’s status at a moment’s notice.  You never know when a client will request an update (although, it will likely be a Friday at 5:00 p.m. J).  Second, own your deadlines.  We all have days when it seems impossible to cross things off the to-do list, so if you’re going to miss a deadline, let your supervisor know in advance.  This may seem daunting at first, but they’ll appreciate your honesty and more often than not they can adjust the deadline.  Last, own your mistakes.  Every intern I’ve worked with has a story of one mistake they were SURE would get them fired.  If and when this happens, don’t panic!  In my experience, if you can prove your ability to stay calm under pressure and find a solution, it’s worth more than never making a mistake in the first place.

I’m excited to (finally) have more responsibility in my new position and a chance to grow as part of an agency, but one thing I love about my job is the opportunity to work with interns and help them find their true potential.  I know I owe my success to those who have done this for me.

Good luck, and don’t give up!

Allison Bradley is an Assistant Account Executive in the brand practice at Olson in Chicago.  She recently transitioned from interning at Olson to her current position.  Allison graduated from Columbia College Chicago in December of 2010, where she majored in Marketing Communications with a focus in Public Relations.  She completed three undergraduate internships and two post-graduate agency internships.  You can follow her on Twitter


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