The Intern: Keys to Success

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By Lindsey Barber

You’ve landed a new internship. Congratulations! Now what?

Impressing the interviewers is only the first step. Now comes the hard (or exciting) part – demonstrating that the company made the correct choice in giving you a chance. Public Relations, particularly in the agency setting, is a fast paced world, often leaving new interns in a “sink or swim” situation. I have discovered (based on my own personal experiences) a few essential keys to internship success and strategies for making a lasting impression on your new boss.

  • Introduce Yourself: The first day as an intern can be extremely overwhelming. Take a breath and put those feelings aside for the time being. Reflect on that never ending to-do list later. For today, get to know your team. If they haven’t set aside time to sit down and talk with you – request it! Starting out on the right foot is essential to your successful transition as a new member of the team. They may not be available immediately, but make every effort to put yourself in front of the people with whom you will be working. It’s your way of saying, “I’m eager to be here, and I am willing to learn from you.”
  • Be Proactive/Make Your Team Members’ Lives Easier: Once you become more comfortable with your work load, constantly look for new ways to help and make every effort to be a step ahead of the game. For example, you notice a brand you are working on is going to have a big announcement soon. Offer to write the first draft of the press release. This not only shows that you understand your work overall, but proves your eagerness to work on something new.
  • Raise Your Hand: Time permitting – always take advantage of new opportunities and tasks. Your internship is first and foremost, a learning experience. Don’t forget that you are there to improve yourself as much as help the company.
  • Network, Network, Network: As an intern, you have a chance to interface with experts in the field that you may not have met otherwise. Take that opportunity to connect with your fellow co-workers and learn from their experiences and find out more about their backgrounds. The beautiful thing about PR is that many of those working around you have followed unique paths leading them to this field. Learn from them professionally and get to know them personally. You may be fortunate enough to find a mentor that will guide you through your budding career.
  • If You Want It, Say It: You’ve fallen in love with the company you are interning for, but there’s a problem. You are interested in full-time employment, but don’t know if they have a spot for you. Talk to your manager and express that interest. Have an open conversation about what you want and feel confident in detailing the ways in which you have grown while working as an intern. If your supervisor knows where you stand, and you have proven your value, he or she is more likely to push for a potential hire.

Lindsey Barber headshot Lindsey Barber is a Marketing Communications Account Executive and Fellowship Coordinator at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Chicago, a global public relations and integrated communications agency.

4 thoughts on “The Intern: Keys to Success

  1. Great tips! I am a junior at Southeast Missouri State University and I am on the hunt for the most successful internships. One question that I had was pertaining to how to handle a bad internship? Is there such a thing? My worry is that I will apply to a place that does not give me the experience that I desire for the career.

  2. Hi Lindsey!
    I am going to be a senior at Southeast Missouri State University and I’m majoring in Public Relations. I currently have an internship right now and I absolutely love it! I work with their marketing team, but one thing I struggle with is asking for help. My boss will give me a list of five or more tasks I have to complete and sometimes I forget minor details because there’s so much information. How do I go about asking my boss for help on details I have forgotten? I don’t want to look forgetful or have her think I don’t listen!

    Thank You!

  3. Thanks, Denia!
    No, I don’t believe there are bad internships. I feel that internships are the perfect opportunity to figure out what you want in your career. We all have a picture of the ideal, but we may discover what we thought was the “dream job” isn’t the right fit. With every internship, I discovered something new about myself that ultimately led me to the agency I work for today. As far as how to handle the internship that may not be the best for you – try make the most of it. Find someone within the company that you can learn from. Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t work with directly, or have an open conversation with your supervisor about a skill you are hoping to learn and see where they can help. The worst thing you can do is check-out early and let your team down. You may end up walking away with a skill you never thought you’d have. Remember, internships aren’t permanent, but make the time you have worthwhile.

  4. Hi Emma!
    Congrats on your senior year! When I first began as an intern, I often struggled with the same issue. I recommend inviting your boss out to coffee and begin by telling her/him how much you are enjoying the internship experience. Share something specific you have learned during your time there and expand on how it has benefited you. Continue by saying that you appreciate all of the responsibility given to you; however you typically work best when direction/feedback is in written form/email. Explain that it is important to you that all work produced is detail-oriented and that you want to ensure you are contributing to the team efficiently. By requesting directions/feedback in written form, you have something directly to reference and a platform to review, if follow-up questions are needed.

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