Dos and Don’ts of Summer Internships

Internships are a crucial part of your academic career, especially for PR students. Paving the way for future opportunities and providing hands-on experience, an internship is the best way to prepare for life after graduation. Like many college students, I’m spending the summer at the office instead of the beach–but it’s worth it! In my first month at The Zimmerman Agency, a nationally recognized full-service firm, I’ve gained more knowledge than coursework could ever provide. While I still have a lot to learn, I’ve compiled six tips that are sure to lead to success.

Do get to know the other interns
Not only are other interns great resources for questions about assignments or tricky media databases, but forming friendships make work fun! Plus, relationships are everything in PR. You may not realize it now, but your fellow interns will soon be your colleagues. Whether they know a journalist you need to pitch or work in a sector you’re curious about, these professional relationships will prove to be beneficial.

Don’t wait around for an assignment
Finished the day’s to-do list? Instead of waiting for another assignment while scrolling through Twitter, ask around the office for additional work. Volunteer for everything–even mundane tasks like sifting through magazines or organizing paperwork. Showing initiative not only builds trust, but proves you can meet the demands of a full-time job.

Do keep an intern journal
After work, I like to reflect on the projects I worked on by jotting down a few notes. Recording day-to-day activities will come in handy when updating your resume, and the journal is a helpful tool for job interview prep. I include critiques, like breaking an AP Style golden rule, to ensure I don’t make the same mistake.

Don’t leave without checking in with your team
It’s 4:59 on a Friday and Happy Hour awaits. But don’t rush out of the door before asking your supervisors if they need help with anything. Side note: never go home without completing your to-do list, even if you have to stay a bit later. Treat your internship like a full-time job, and it could turn into one!

Do research your clients
Know everything there is to know about the accounts you work on–follow their social media, set up Google Alerts and familiarize yourself with their website. Not only will this help you discover the clients’ needs, but full-service agencies like Zimmerman also handle social media and web design, so it’s a great way to see what the firm is doing. You should also research the agency’s other clients, even if you don’t directly work on those.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If an email pitch leaves you stumped or you’re confused about a project, ask! It’s better to seek clarification early than mess up later on, especially when the deadline is looming. That being said, exhaust all resources before going to your supervisor. Ask another intern or do a quick Google search – let your problem-solving skills shine! Kate Finley, CEO of Belle Communications, puts it perfectly: “Be quick to think and slow to ask.”

What are your tips for summer interns? Let me know in the comments!


5 Tips for a Stellar Phone Interview

It’s the middle of March, and thousands of public relations students across the globe are scouring job boards to secure the coveted summer internship.

Internships are competitive, especially those in big cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. Agencies and companies alike use phone interviews to ‘pre-screen’ candidates through Human Resources.

Phone interviews are a lot different than in-person interviews, so many don’t know how to prepare. Lucky for you, I compiled 5 tips to ace your interview.

1. Do your research

Important for every type of interview, this tip should go without saying. In the week before your interview, find out everything you can about the company. What is their mission and values? Who are their clients? What campaigns or projects are they currently working on? You’ll likely be asked why you want to work for the company and why they should hire you. By familiarizing yourself with the company, you’ll be able to make your responses more relevant.

Equally important to researching the company is researching your interviewer. Do your best to find out this person’s name in advance. Usually this information is included in your invitation to interview. If it’s not, call or email the Human Resources team and find out. Then, look up your interviewer online. A basic Google search provides you with blogs, publications and social media accounts. LinkedIn is a great tool to research background information, like education and previous work experience.

Finally, use your research to prepare questions. Ask about current clients, reference the interviewer’s history with the company, etc. Make a list of five strong questions for your interviewer. You may not use all of them, but you’ll be prepared.

2. Make a cheat sheet

Think of a phone interview like an open-book test–all of the information you need is at your fingertips. Tape your resume and cover letter to the wall (to avoid papers rustling) for easy access during the interview. Make a cheat sheet with background information on the company and the job description to reference throughout your answers.

3. Practice, practice, practice

‘Practice makes perfect’ is a cheesy cliche, but in the case of interviews it’s 100 percent true. Prepare your answers to common phone-screen questions. Then, have a friend or family member call you to mimic the interview experience. Start practicing a week in advance!

4. Find a quiet space and a working phone

When it comes time for the interview, be sure to control your environment. Find a quiet space with no distractions and set up your station–water, cheat sheet, resume/cover letter. If possible, use a landline to avoid shaky cell phone reception. If you must use your cell, make sure it’s fully charged.

5. Dress up and stand up

Even though the interviewer can’t see you, dressing well enhances your performance. Promise. Imagine how you feel lounging on the couch in sweatpants–comfy, sure, but professional? Dressing like you would for a face-to-face interview will naturally add professionalism to your answers. Also, stand up! While sprawling out on your cozy bed is tempting, standing up and walking around enhances the projection and quality of your voice.

Bonus: Follow Up!

The bonus (and most important) tip is what sets you apart from other candidates. In the next 24-48 hours, follow up with your interviewer! I like to send him/her a quick email the same day as the interview and mail a handwritten thank you note the next day. This shows that you genuinely want the internship and value the interviewer’s time. Try to mention something specific that you talked about during the interview and reiterate how much you want the job.

Did I miss anything? If you have additional phone interview advice, please comment with your thoughts!