It’s no secret that internships are the key to landing a full-time job after graduation. No longer is it just something great to have on your resume; it’s expected. However, it’s not just about how many internships you have completed, it’s about the experience you gained. And sometimes, in order to gain the most impactful experience, you may need to step out of your comfort zone and ask for it.
Last week, Obsidian welcomed our spring 2017 interns – Nathalie Barreto and Kelly Cook – the newest two of approximately 50 interns who have graced the doors of our firm in Obsidian’s 11-year history. Looking back over the number of interns that I’ve personally worked with, I can quickly recall a dozen interns who really took advantage of their internship and stepped out with gusto, setting the standard for making the most of the opportunity. (Some of those I still get to work with today, as we were able to snatch them up at the conclusion of their internship!)
While there are a number of tips we give interns to ensure they make the most of their internship, there are three things I would stress as some of the most impactful [and potentially uncomfortable] things that interns must do.
- Speak up.
At Obsidian, we encourage interns to engage in our world on a daily basis – from participation in team brainstorms to giving reports in weekly staff meetings to purposefully engaging with the team throughout the day. This can be intimidating to some interns, especially those for whom this is their first real-world PR experience or who haven’t been given this type of voice in prior internships. It can also be difficult for an intern to strike up a conversation with someone on the full-time team, but we encourage a great deal of interpersonal interaction at our firm because we know how vital it is to a healthy culture. Those who do engage walk away from their internship with a much clearer idea of what it really is like to work in a PR agency. This helps them know if the agency environment is right for them.
- Request more work.
The most successful interns are those who are eager to go above and beyond to get the most experience possible, particularly once their existing workload has been mastered. In addition to offering to take on more assignments (and thus serve as a greater aide to the team), request specific types of assignments. If you’ve got a couple of blog posts under your belt, ask to take a stab at a news release – and when you turn in the release, craft the pitch you think might go with it just to see if you are headed in the right direction. It may seem daunting to request work that you don’t know how to do, but remember that this is the time to learn how to do it! Not only will you add more tactical experience to your resume, but the more work you are able to get your hands on, the better you will understand the variety of services a PR firm offers. This is invaluable experience to talk about in future job interviews.
- Ask for feedback.
Many internships are naturally set up as learning experiences. Feedback is often built in as part of the process, but this is not always the case. Additionally, feedback can also be limited to that received from your supervisor, so don’t forget to ask for feedback from others at the firm. It can be scary to ask for someone’s opinion about how you are doing, but even the toughest feedback, while it may be hard to swallow at first, can be priceless to your growth as a professional. I’ve learned that many of us in the PR industry are Type A perfectionists who don’t like to hear that we’ve missed the boat in some way. However, being able to accept feedback and implement change always leads to improvement. That’s what the learning process is all about! And, don’t forget that asking for feedback can also open the door for the compliment or pat on the back that you need to know that you’re on the right path!