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Five Pieces of Advice for Interns

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Summer internships are in full swing! Your internship not only gives you hands-on experience in the communications industry, but it also can be your stepping stone to a full-time job. Here are the top five things to remember during your summer internship:

1. Raise your hand (volunteer). I’m not kidding, literally say “yes” to everything. It doesn’t matter if you are asked to answer phone calls or asked to make copies of a deck you’ve assisted in creating. Volunteering is also an opportunity to be exposed to things that you might not have tried before. In high school and college, community service is looked highly upon, and same thing goes for work—your community is your office. Remember, someone is always watching. Going the extra mile demonstrates your work ethic, which is something employers consider when making hiring decisions. And everyone is always appreciative of a helping hand.

2. Be transparent with your time. Transparency is key. It’s OK to say, “Yes, I can help you with this request, but I also have other things on my plate for today. May I get this to you later today or tomorrow?” Managers would rather know upfront what you’re working on and help you make the right decisions in prioritizing your work. Remember, as an intern, you’re not expected to know which tasks are a higher priority than others. You are expected to let people know what you’re doing so they can help you make decisions. I use my Outlook calendar and Post-It notes for everything. Find what helps keep you organized and stick to it; it will assist in developing a routine and will help you “manage up” in time.

3. Be a part of the community. Getting involved is important because that’s part of the learning experience! We work in PR and our job is to help communicate with our clients’ audiences, so get involved and “communicate” with others. When I first started my internship, I would see company emails that would say, “Join us for a happy hour on the roof” or “Looking for volunteers to help with a non-for-profit project” and I wouldn’t join because I didn’t know anyone and I got nervous. The first media mixer I went to with my manager was awesome, and I regretted not having attended any similar events earlier. I was glad my manager encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone because now I attend everything when I can. Branching out also helps with networking and, in our field, that’s a necessity. Do it sooner than later, trust me!

4. Ask questions (wisely!) Most of you starting your internships are rising seniors or straight out of college. People in your field know a lot more than you do and have real-life experience. We come from college with limited experience, skills, and knowledge, so make a point to be open-minded and listen. I don’t believe in, “No question is a stupid question.” If you can Google it or ask a friend, do that before asking your manager. If not, I suggest bucketing questions together so you have a list of questions to ask at once rather than having one-offs. That being said, do still ask questions, but make sure they’re smart questions. You’re here to learn and grasp as much as possible, and everyone understands that, so if you don’t get something and you can’t find the answer, ask!

5. Be a sponge. Your internship is the perfect time to meet people from different departments, so learn more about their roles, clients and a little bit about them. Since you may not know what department you want to go into, it’s good to learn and meet people to hear their opinions and what they work on (it’s much more realistic than a job description).

Everyone’s skills differ, and you can learn so much by just listening. Don’t be afraid to ask to sit in on meetings or dial into calls. Be an active listener, take notes, send around a recap or suggest ideas following the call. Your team will then recognize your interest in learning and be more obligated in asking for your help.

These may be commonsense tips, but keeping them in mind throughout your internship will help you demonstrate hard work and a willingness to learn, and that can help you land the full-time position. Enjoy your internship because it flies by, and remember that the key to a happy work life is to love what you do—what better way than to see and experience what others do during your internship, so you can be sure that’s what you’ll also love to do. You may even get lucky and land some time to grab coffee with a senior leader, so be ready for that opportunity.

And finally, always have your elevator pitch ready in case you get into an elevator one day with head of the office or even the CEO! Work hard, have fun and be yourself. Good luck, newbies!

Melanie Santos is an assistant account executive, Edelman New York.

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