The process of applying to jobs and internships is very daunting. After all of the time you spent editing your resume and cover letter over and over again, you get a call saying you’ve been called in for an interview. The feeling of being on top of the world sets in and lasts for a little while before you realized you’ve only fought half the battle.
Your world comes crashing down, but don’t fret–this is the part where you can make a difference. This is the opportunity to show your future employer what makes you great and even more spectacular than you seem on paper. Here are some tips to place you on the winning side after the interview:
1. Do your research and stay up-to-date on current events
Nothing is worse than getting the question “So why did you apply to this company?” and having your mind just freeze. Whether it is the company, their clientele, or anything in between, there had to be a specific reason, something unique, as to why you applied for a position there. Make sure to check out resources on the company’s website or social media accounts so you are prepared for this question. Also, since the PR world revolves around current events, make sure you know the top stories of the day. My personal favourite news source is theSkimm, a newsletter that sends out emails daily around 7 AM, that gives information on the top stories from the previous day. The main thing is to try to read material on current events from places other than your Twitter newsfeed.
2. Dress confident, feel confident
The popular saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has truth to it, but would you choose a ratty book over a brand new one with the same material? Exactly. First impressions are everything and they can only be made once so it’s important to do everything you can in order to make a positive mark. Invest in a nice blazer and a pair of dress pants to show the interviewer that you are serious about the position. Also, when you look great, you feel great. Before strutting into the interview, make one final outfit check and listen to some upbeat music (no song gets one more pumped up for a battle than Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”).
3. Don’t be afraid to have the final say
After confidently answering the interviewer’s questions, it’s time for the tables to turn and leave a lasting impression. It is important to show the interviewer that you have been listening to him while he’s been questioning you. Now is the time to ask questions about research that you did prior to the interview on the company’s goals and clientele. Ask questions pertaining to specific campaigns that the company has conducted as well as how each team is set up. Another popular question to ask the interviewer is to ask him or her the atmosphere and culture of the company. If you are hired, it is important to know how the office works so you know if you can envision yourself in that environment.
After the interview, make sure you thank the interviewer for taking the time out of his or her day to talk to you. Also make sure to send a follow-up email a few days later, saying thanks again. Try to find something new to add that refers to a topic you discussed in the interview. With these tips and a positive attitude, you will be able to take on any interview with ease.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern and study abroad through BU Abroad’s Dublin Internship program. Dublin has a phenomenal growing start-up scene with tremendous opportunities for any aspiring public relations professional looking to gain more experience in the tech sector. As a public relations and social media intern at a children’s developmental product start-up, I was able to refine my engagement evaluation and analytics skills and cultivate mentorships with my supervisor, a self-made entrepreneur. Why do I think every PR student should intern abroad? Read on.
1. Gain an international perspective on the industry
It’s no secret that PR is a global industry. Practicing PR in a foreign country can give you good insight into what it’s like to work with professionals from all over the world. It can also give you a better idea of what aspects of public relations vary by country versus those that are a global standard. For example, the way an Irish press release is structured is very different from the way an American press release is.
2. Network with global professionals
Interning abroad gives a whole new definition to the concept of networking. Rather than limiting your professional network to just American practitioners, you now have the chance to interact with professionals from all over the globe. This is particularly helpful if you plan to specialize in corporate or political public relations where you’ll often find yourself in multinational situations.
3. Earn college credit
If you’re a public relations major at BU, you already know that you have to complete at least one four-credit internship for graduation credit. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and knock out my internship while studying abroad. I earned four credits through the BU Dublin Internship program plus another four credits for the history class I took through Dublin City University (bonus points: that class completed my minor!).
4. Discover a new country (or continent!)
Interning isn’t all work and no play. Obviously, one of the best parts of interning in a foreign country is being able to travel and explore during your off-hours. In eight weeks I travelled all over Ireland as well as Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. While I loved my internship, one of the best parts about being abroad this summer was exploring outside of the office and classroom.
5. Diversify your resume
At career fairs, I’ve found it to be a great talking point to discuss with potential employers that my most recent professional experience was interning for a burgeoning start-up in Dublin. I’m interested in working in a technology or corporate setting, so employers immediately recognize the value of my experience in such a competitive start-up city. Having this foreign experience really helps my resume stand out too!
Written by Dana Finley
Last semester, I wrote about taking the initiative to discover doors full of opportunities. I’ve applied that mantra to several aspects of my life since then and have discovered that mustering the courage to take that first step can lead to many directions. This semester I wanted to challenge myself by securing an internship, but I had no idea where to begin. I knew it would be difficult for a freshman to get an internship let alone an interview, but I took the initiative and not only have secured one, but two internships this semester.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Follow your passion: I live and breathe fashion on a daily basis. I’m no Eva Chen, but I keep track of trends and constantly read style articles. While I might not know how to write the perfect pitch letter, I knew my knowledge and interest in fashion would my biggest assets.
Save those Contacts: I save all of my contact information from networking on an Excel sheet with the person’s name, email address and a quick note about them such as where we met or something we had talked about. I saved the contact information from a speaker that I had met last September and wrote him an email about my interest in interning, which proved to be a smart move on my part.
Speak Up: The wonderful part about having friends is that they are always there to help. Speak up to your friends, professors and peers, asking if they have any ideas or contacts they may be able to share. I spent two weeks asking every person I know if they had any ideas—not one of them turned me down.
Do Your Homework: Before I went for an interview, I made sure to research the company to get a general understanding of its background, goals and reputation. Interning should be taken as seriously as working a job; it’s a big commitment and a lot of work. Also, it is useful to take the time to practice answers to questions before interviewing and have friends give feedback.
Believe in Yourself: Easier said than done, but do not sell yourself short. You might not have a lot of professional skills under your belt, especially if you are a freshman like me, but the skills and lessons you may have learned from sports, summer jobs or campus clubs can be used to your advantage. Make sure to include those activities on your resume.
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.
This past summer, I spent my days with leather samples, die-cuts and handbags. I had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in fashion PR while working with Brynn Capella, a Chicago-based handbag designer who sells products online and through various boutiques. As the only intern in the public relations department, I quickly learned the ins-and-outs of the jobs and tasks related to the field.
A large part of my job as an intern revolved around handling social media and product promotion. Brynn is an independent designer who produces all of her products in the United States to ensure high quality and customer service. Another important part of my duties were to get the brand more involved in philanthropic groups around Chicago. We were able to partner with a local animal rights group, PAWS, for black tie events on Lake Michigan.
Working with Brynn, I was also able to learn about the fashion business, aside from the PR side, as well. I was able to gain first hand experience for what goes into preparing and executing a fall photo shoot as well as understanding HTML coding. When coding with HTML, I helped reformat the company’s blog and website, outfitting it with modern updates. These were both areas that I had no experience with prior to starting the internship, but with Brynn’s help I was able to quickly learn how to effectively plan for a photo shoot and learn the language of HTML.
Another large part of my summer experience was focused in working on upcoming events. It was extremely important to promote events and trunk shows to let customers know where they could purchase Brynn Capella handbags around the Chicagoland area. The largest event we participated in was Chicago’s Annual Sidewalk Sale, which featured various local designers who came together to share their designs with the city. During the event, a fashion show was also presented to showcase featured designers. Prior to the event, we made sure to promote the Sidewalk Sale to our friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Even during the event we tweeted and shared photos on Instagram, which helped remind our customers to stop by.
By the end of the summer, I had learned so much about the fashion industry as well as the challenges that an individual business owner faces each day. Expanding beyond PR, I also gained experience with marketing, sales and design. Overall, the internship encompassed a variety of fields that helped me to get a better grasp of the industry as well as my role in the brand. The skills I learned were invaluable and have even helped me succeed in my current internship.
Feel free to tweet me at @jenprobst23 if you have any questions about the challenges or experiences with fashion PR.