Keys To A Successful Internship

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on August 8, 2013

Just so everyone knows, I was never asked to bring my boss, Amanda Keeney, a cup of coffee (or Diet Dr Pepper). You laugh, but it is the harsh reality that many interns these days face on a morning-to-morning basis. On that note, nor was I ever humiliatingly exploited like the original “Ross the Intern.”

Ross Van Zandt Brick Headshot 20130808

Jokes aside, from day one I was treated as a team member, an equal. I was able to capitalize on the opportunity and therefore was exposed to the inner workings of a globally functioning public relations firm. From social media support for Dentsu’s co-creative “Happy Hacking” panel at Cannes Lions; to brainstorming sessions; to helping prepare Mitchell for its expansion into New York and Chicago – it has been a great learning experience for me and the Intern Task Force (our intern gang).

And with that, I leave for senior year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth with some insight on how to be a better intern:

  • Know your place: Despite being treated as a team member, it is important to know the intern’s place on the hierarchal ladder of employment, which is most definitely below the first rung. With that being said, interns should always be prepared to take notes, show a sense of urgency, a servant attitude and active listening skills. Assume at all times that notes should be taken and offer help in any way. Keep in mind that a spot below the first rung, however, is also a huge opportunity to take full advantage of the rest of the ladder.
  • It’s not just about the grades you make; it’s about the hands you shake.” This recurring phrase tends to gain popularity during final exams in college. It’s reassurance before that test you didn’t study for, yet it’s also a statement of truth. An internship should be viewed as a networking opportunity. It is a resource; an encyclopedia of information at the intern’s disposal. More than information is the wisdom an intern can gain from every employee in the company. I have learned it is important to remember names and to develop relationships with everyone in the company – be noticed and be gregarious. The relationships lead to trust and a favorable opinion of you. By the end of the internship, you should have a breadth of experience in various sectors of the company and a Rolodex of wisdom that could come in handy in the real world.
  • It never hurts to ask. Be curious: I was always that kid in school that asked way too many questions. Voltaire once said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” Similarly, know when to probe your superiors. They have important work, and you don’t want to be like the annoying fly in your cubicle that never leaves you alone. When the time is right, show interest and spark curiosity. At the end of the day, an internship is for learning. Questions are a good way to make you seem interested, even if you have no idea what is going on and to ensure work is delivered the way it was intended. Finally, ask to be included – a fresh perspective in the PR industry is valued, and even if the meeting is top secret/not meant for an intern, the answer “no” never hurt anyone. If anything, your superior will recognize your go-getter mentality and include you when appropriate.
  • Never say no, and seek out extra credit: A task may seem daunting or your plate may be full, but an intern should never say no to an opportunity. Seem excited to do whatever the job is, even if it is your sixth spreadsheet of the day. Be mindful of your workload, however, and communicate deadlines clearly. Always go for the extra credit – be entrepreneurial and propose ways to take the task at hand a step further. For example, in the PR world a simple way to be entrepreneurial is to recommend ways social media can be involved.

Looking for a great internship opportunity? Check out Mitchell Communications Group’s Big Break program for spring break internships.

Have you ever worked as an intern? What are some other key ideas you’ve learned from your internship experiences? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.