Ten Steps to a Successful Internship
Intern season is upon us. Congrats to those who have graduated and hats off to those who have already landed an internship.
In the spirit of the season, I spent some time compiling a list of keys to a successful internship to help you advance to the next level – full-time employment. These suggestions are based from my experience as a former intern, as well as my current roles on Taylor’s internship committee and account teams.
As the infomercial goes, results may vary – always use your best judgment depending on your given situation. These actionable suggestions should serve as a guide to help you formulate your own plan.
- Be great at executing simple tasks ~ This little guy is fundamental. No matter how many internships your resume touts or how impressive your GPA was, you will at some point have to do some “intern” work. After all…you’re the intern. Embrace it. This is your job, so treat those media lists and clipping assignments as if the account depends on it. Also, take it from someone who relies on quality, vetted out media lists that if you make my job easier, I’m going to appreciate you for it. Before demanding the big stuff, do the little things with great effort and do them with a smile on your face. Being great at executing simple tasks will build trust among your colleagues, which will lead to greater things.
- Impress the decision makers within your company ~ While your young professional colleagues can affect your hiring decision with a positive recommendation, it’s also beneficial to make an impression on the senior management in the office. Time with these decision makers can be limited, so make the most of it. If you request to put time on their schedules during your program, come in with an agenda. If you have an opportunity to work directly with senior management for an assignment, regardless of the level of difficulty, aim to exceed their expectations. I remember compiling a media coverage report for an account director during my internship. I had a list of deliverables that I had completed, so I used my remaining time to proactively calculate our message delivery rate and a few other figures before he returned from his meeting. I’m not sure if those figures were ever shared with the client, but that small task came up in my job offer meeting several months down the road.
- Eat with your colleagues ~ Fitting into the office culture goes a long way. Something as simple as eating in the break room can help you establish great relationships with your colleagues. If offered, participating in social events outside of the office (happy hours come to mind…) will help your peers get to know you better and vice-versa, often translating into you feeling a bit more comfortable in the workplace.
- Find a mentor
- Give unsolicited ideas ~ Show your colleagues you have an understanding of your account. Spend some time, when appropriate, to create a point-of-view for a program extension, ideate media bureau angles or a research opportunity outside of your current scope. Find articles to share with the team and explain how you could leverage the current event as part of the team’s media relations. Take an idea from a brainstorm back to your desk and blow out the details of how it could work. All of these suggestions will demonstrate your commitment to your position and will allow you the opportunity to showcase your potential.
- Be vocal in team meetings and brainstorms ~ Your team wants your ideas — they don’t want you to be the invisible intern in the room who quietly dictates notes during meetings. A great icebreaker to become a vocal member of your team is to ask questions. Simply be heard. Eventually, you will become comfortable enough to share your own insights and your team will take note of your ability to contribute.
- Have catch up meetings with your supervisors ~ If you listened to my advice from yesterday’s post, you’ve already “defined success” with your supervisors. Schedule catch up meetings to track your progress. Solicit honest feedback and pinpoint areas for improvement. Establish an action plan to continue your development. Talk about how things are going — this ties into getting to know the decision makers at your organization, so take advantage of your time.
- Ask for opportunities to play up ~ We all knew this one would make the list, but I have to throw in another disclaimer — make sure your other responsibilities are taken care of before asking for more work. When the time is right, offer to take a first stab at some press materials or take part in some media relations. Keep your ears open for colleagues stressing out about their workload. Be grateful for any assignment you receive and learn from the experience.
- Produce when you pitch ~ Media relations takes creativity, communication skills, flexibility, persistence and many other attributes that organizations look for in an employee. The opportunities may be sparse, so do everything possible within the rules to get the results. Share feedback with the team and exchange best practices. Grow your media Rolodex — build relationships for future outreach.
- Package your work ~ Creating a portfolio will tangibly show how you’ve grown during your internship. I advise you to compile samples (a few from each week) throughout the program to make it less of a task. Separate the portfolio either by week or type of assignment. You may not necessarily present the portfolio as evidence of your growth, but it will help you digest an entire summer’s worth of work.