I've worked with dozens of interns over the last 10 years. For the most part, I've encountered motivated, organized and fun young people who have really embraced the challenges that have been handed to them, and found a way to really contribute to the team in a very short period of time.
Here are a few tips to kick off your summer work experience and to get the most out of your internship.
- Be Humble: You have a lot to learn, so a cooperative and eager attitude is appreciated.
- Listen more than you talk: My Mom used to tell me that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
- Contribute: In PR or in any other professional career, participation in meetings, brainstorms and just in general workday interactions is expected. Don't spout every little comment, but make carefully chosen remarks when appropriate.
- Ask questions: Don't be afraid to ask questions. Internships are there for you to learn. If you don't take advantage of the opportunity, you'll be shorting yourself.
- Mind the rules: Be on time. Don't sneak out early. Clean up your messes.
- Dress appropriately: Don't be tempted to dress down just because it's summer. Avoid clothing that does not completely cover your "business." Also, beach-type flip-flops are never appropriate for the office, even if someone else wears them. I've had to send people home for poor fashion choices - let's just say it's not a great reflection on you.
- Be curious: Intellectual curiosity is what separates good PR pros from great ones. Be interested in the world around you.
- Write: Blog for your employer, for yourself, or keep a journal. It will be great to reflect on it several years later when you can congratulate yourself for your progress, and it's always good for managing emotions and feelings.
- Get paid: If you've accepted a non-paid internship, you are shorting yourself. Unless your internship is for a governement agency or a non-profit, chances are it's illegal for you to work for free. Go to the Dept. of Labor website or your state attorney general to file a complaint. And PLEASE...I'm begging you...don't ever accept another unpaid internship. Fortune 500 companies who "hire" unpaid interns are committing a crime against you and your family.
- Smile: Even if you're having a bad day, take a deep breath and smile. This is just a trial run for real life. If you like your internship, great. If you don't...you can leave at the end of the summer.
Good luck, and have a great time. You're a rock star!