As a public relations student, I learned quickly how internships are key to gaining the skills and experience necessary to enter the communications world. While classes are helpful for building a strong foundation and teaching writing skills, internships give young professionals like me the hands-on and real world experience that will set us apart from other interviewees. I just reached the half-way point in my internship here at Braithwaite and wanted to share five of the most important things I have learned thus far.
1. Be proactive
Getting assignments from account executives isn’t like getting assignments from professors. There isn’t a syllabus or set schedule. It is up to you as an intern to approach your team members and find out what they need help with. Every day, I see what people in the office are working on and find out what I can do to help. Once I am done with one assignment, I go to find more work. Sitting around isn’t productive and won’t help you learn or grow.
2. Come in early
Some days, I will wake up early and come into the office earlier than my 9 a.m. start time. I like being there early because I get a head start on assignments, the chance to see what is going on in the news and the time to plan out what I am to do that day.
3. Ask smart questions
While it is debated if there are such things as dumb questions, asking smart questions will benefit you in the long run. You might be timid to ask questions on your first assignment, but any questions you ask to help you complete a project efficiently and correctly is better than guessing and handing in sub-par work. It’s also the only way you’ll learn. Try to think of questions while you are talking to your team member instead of waiting to think of them once you begin working and approaching your team member multiple times.
4. Write everything down
Always have your notebook and pen in hand. You may have four or five assignments a day, and sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of all of them. The small details are critical to you completing the task and for the account executive to be able to use your work and help the client. Don’t make silly mistakes or leave things out of an assignment just because you forgot. Taking notes is also great for cataloguing the insights shared by industry professionals as they walk you through processes and tasks.
5. Get to know your co-workers on a personal level
Yes, you’re at an internship to gain skills and learn about the field, but all the employees are real people too. They have families and spouses and believe it or not, were college students once too. Talk to your team about what they did last weekend and their hobbies and interests. You’ll make long lasting connections that go beyond the press release they just assigned you. After all, internships are great opportunities to build a professional network ahead of graduation.