The perks of being an intern: Why the internship is a must-have first-step in your career

Professionals on the computer.

Landing your first “real” PR job following an internship is an exhilarating change of pace, to say the least. The added responsibility, people coming to you as an expert in the field – not to mention the added perk of financial compensation. While it’s rare to see someone break into the PR field without at least one internship under their belt, there may be the tendency to see it as an obligatory hurdle you just have to get through on the way to your real career.

Huge mistake.

Having completed two PR internships, I can tell you with confidence that no matter the place, the role or the assignments, you should work hard and treat your internship with the same “YOLO” philosophy you had as a university student.

Here are the top three internship perks you should take advantage of:

1. You’re not the expert.

While the expert moniker gives you a pretty great bump in confidence, take advantage of your novice status while you can. Interns are expected to perform and speak up, but your employers know that you don’t know it all – learning is the whole point of an internship!

Take every project as an opportunity to test your skills. Your boss won’t expect perfection, and while it is a perk for them if you can compose a full news release with minimal edits required, you’re expected to make (reasonable!) mistakes.

The tips:

  • Volunteer to help with a new project even if you’ve never done anything like it before. If you’re asked to take an assignment and don’t feel confident about your ability to perform, take it anyway. Your employer likely knows this and trusts your ability to work through it and learn as you go. Ask lots of questions.
  • Ask to sit in on meetings even if you don’t have much to contribute, and be sure to ask questions when appropriate. Take advantage that most employers are very willing to expose interns to as many learning experiences as possible.
  • Spend time chatting with staff to learn more about what they do at the company, and how they got there. Asking about their projects not only gives them the opportunity to offer you tips for success, but also opens the door for you to offer a hand with an interesting project.

The key takeaway of this perk is that you should embrace not knowing it all, and leverage this position into learning opportunities that will turn you into an expert.

2. You’re not bound by a title.

This perk is all about skill building. You may have been hired as a Media Relations Intern, but I’ve found that most permanent co-workers are very willing to include you in some non-related projects if you ask.

This also applies to interns convinced they already know the path they want to follow. For those of you too stubborn to expand your breadth, I have two words for you: resume building.

The tips:

  • Dip your toes in as many pools as possible. Not only is volunteering for different types of projects a great resume builder, but it allows you to figure out what you’re good at to sell to a future employer.
  • Ask for more responsibility. As an intern you have lots of wiggle room in terms of the responsibility you’re willing to take on. Always ask for more. Not only will you impress your employers with your initiative, but increasingly proving yourself may just get you in on that high-profile project you’ve been hearing about.

3. You’re not a brain to be picked.

I’m not discounting your experiences as an intern, but with all that seniority above you, one of your major focuses throughout your internship should be being the brain picker. The key here is understanding your own career goals and ambitions, and paving yourself the best path to get there.

The tips:

  • Set a lunch meeting with the higher ups in your department. Learn about their career path. Ask about the lessons they learned and how they overcame hurdles. If your goal is to climb your way up to the C-suite, who better to give advice than those at the top or currently making the climb?
  • Build your network. As an intern it’s crucial to get to know as many people as possible. I’m talking around the office, in the elevator, at events you’re assisting with – you never know what these relationships may bring.

When it comes to internships, my philosophy is this: if you’re not getting as much as you’re giving, you’re doing it wrong.

What are some tips you’d give to a current or future intern? 

Follow PR+Ruse on Twitter @ruse_pr

Image courtesy of supakitmod/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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