By Patrizia Vassallo
Summer will be here in no time at all and for many that means internship season! It’s the chance to prove how valuable you really are in the real world, to bring all your knowledge and skills to the table, and to walk away with a sense of lasting fulfillment. With a little mental and physical preparation, you will be ready to make the most of this experience.
Before I offer a few pieces of sound advice, don’t let this article bring discouragement if you have not yet secured an internship – you still have plenty of time! Hundreds of agencies, companies, and corporations, both local and national, are still accepting applications for their summer internship opportunities. All it takes is a little motivation to search out a few that you would be excited to intern for, apply, and actively communicate your interest.
Now some ideas to try in the few short months between today and the start of your internship…
Talk to a stranger every day.
During your internship you will encounter a lot of strange faces, some of which could be very influential and valuable in the information they have to offer. To make the most out of your internship you want to network with as many people around you. This involves being comfortable starting a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t. Talking with the employees and personnel of all walks of life and ages will get you noticed in that people will flock to your social butterfly self and will appreciate the fact that you are interested in what they have to say. Additionally, the more you are exposed to new ideas and new people, the more you’ll learn. Overall, when talking to a new face become comfortable with asking questions and voicing your ideas, but of course don’t forget to listen.
Become a better listener.
This is easier said than done, but with practice the covetable skill of truly listening can be yours. Everyone thinks they are a good listener, and that may be true to an extent. The urge to voice your opinion can sometimes be overwhelming, and although it is important to let your great ideas shine as an intern, it is equally important to listen to those around you. Train yourself in becoming an active listener – one that pays attention, actually understands, and provides feedback. A good listener is just as admirable in the work place as it is in day to day relationships.
For detailed tips on how to become an active listener, refer to http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm
Think, and then do.
No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “don’t think, just do,” but this isn’t always the best option in the professional world. Make it a habit to give yourself even just a few minutes to think about something before you act on it. Start small – for example, do you really need that McDonald’s at 3:00 A.M.? Or those sweet shoes you could probably do without? In comparison to professional decisions these are trivial matters, but allowing thinking to become habit is key. During your internship, this will prove beneficial when faced with a new project decisions and having to make said decisions on short notice. If you can learn to simply think before you act, you will tackle each and every feat with confidence and the results will ultimately be more favorable.
Make yourself an expert.
Film editing. Photoshop. Social media. This expertise can be anything, as long as you make a dedicated effort to learn everything you possibly can about it. Don’t think you will be able to master an intricate set of skills? Become an expert in something relating to information. Learn anything and everything about the agency or company you are interning for by performing informational interviews with people at the company or in related fields. If it’s a set of skills, try to focus your attention on just one and make it yours. As McKenzie Koch, blog writer for Advertising Age says, “Whatever it is, find a way to increase your worth to the company. Know or be something that no one else can.”
Set personal goals.
Spend some time setting goals that you want to accomplish during your internship. Perhaps it’s learning a new skill on the job or setting a networking goal. If you are unsure of what area to specialize in or of which position you prefer in the agency or corporation, then maybe a goal to attain could be talking to people in every department and position in order to learn what fits you best. Whichever goals you decide upon, you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment once you achieve them.
Two important tips:
- Set aside time to think about your goals before the drive over on your first day.
- Make your goals realistic, yet challenging enough that you won’t attain them all in the first week.
Following this advice will give you just the preparation you need to rock that internship full of exuding confidence and energy, with a professional flair.
Again, I cannot stress enough – if you still are in search for an internship to fill your time this summer and give you that essential experience, don’t lose hope! Advertising and public relations related internships run rampant and many companies still have their application window open. Talk to your advisor and do your own research for opportunities in companies and cities of your preference to get the ball rolling today. Search the career sections of specific company websites and don’t forget that internships at small agencies/ companies are just as valuable those at larger ones!