Last week, a professor of mine organized a panel to speak to the class about internship experience. The panel was comprised of
upperclassmen studying public relations who also held enough experience to try and advise future interns. They each had great advice for fellow students of public relations looking for their first internship.
To begin the discussion, panelists discussed smooth navigation of the interview process:
A common consensus was that the first internship is the hardest to get. In order to be successful, hopeful candidates must do their research and be persistent. Furthermore, the power of networking should never be undermined and may very well lead to getting your foot in the door. Make use of contacts that you have made as they are there to help you. It is wise to start building a network of trusted professionals now, as you’ll likely never be in a place with this many future public relations professionals and journalists again. Years in college are crucial because your classmates may very well form the foundation of your contact list. Above all, panelists stressed that capability is crucial. Connections and contacts can only help those in a position to be helped. In other words, if you can’t get the job done, why would they help you get it in the first place?
After wrapping up advice on how to successfully prepare for an interview, speakers advised on how best to succeed inside the interview:
Walking into an interview without some specific knowledge of the company is a mistake that is all too easy to make. Taking the time to research the company’s culture, clients and mission may end up being the difference between getting hired and never hearing back. However, research and preparation shouldn’t lead to entering the room with a script. Being yourself and sounding confident are important because if you sound rehearsed, the interviewer will be able to tell. After the bulk of the interview is behind you, it is good practice to ask questions since employers want to see that you are genuinely interested in the tasks they will have you perform if hired. A final important detail is to follow up with the person who interviewed you with an email, phone call or hand-written note. The more personalized, the better; but don’t overstep boundaries of appropriateness.
Final bits of advice from the panel focused on how to succeed once you’ve been selected as an intern:
Once you’ve been hired by a company, it is necessary to begin to understand the corporate environment that you have been placed into and how to interact with fellow interns and superiors. If you end up feeling the pressure on the first day, this is normal. It is important to remember that everyone starts somewhere, and not to freak out as long as you adapt over an appropriate period of time. Keeping this in mind, it is important to ask for help when you need it. Your superiors cannot read your mind, and should not find out that you needed help after you’ve already messed up an assignment. When receiving advice, take notes so that your boss won’t have to repeat what they have said. Internships are designed to introduce you to your field of interest, and you should gain valuable experience from them. Dont bother your boss, though, to the point where they are unable to work efficiently. Additionally, it is important to keep networking in mind when getting to know the other interns at the office. They can become your future network, and you make the most of this opportunity.
After receiving all of this valuable advice, the class felt more confident to start searching for internships. The process can be very competitive, and it is important to utilize the advice of those who already have a foot in the door because that’s exactly where you’ll want to be.