Throughout my time as a communications student, communications practitioner and an internship supervisor, I have learned some helpful pieces of advice when it comes to making the most out of an internship experience. Perhaps the most important thing I can impart on each of you is to find internships that interest you, personally and professionally. Don't apply for something without understanding the type of niche or product you'll be associated with - even browsing the company Web site can provide valuable insight and show your supervisor that you are knowledgable. I also think it's a good idea to approach each internship as though it's a career; after all, it's the first step in your career, right? You never know who your supervisor might network with or how a glowing reference may land you a dream job. In turn, a negative attitude, tardiness and unprofessional behavior can supersede you.
In these tough economic times, internship experience is crucial. Even taking an unpaid internship after graduation may prove invaluable if you work hard and show your supervisors that you are a worthy asset. If you are planning to do multiple internships, try to diversify - interning at a non-profit, advertising agency and a huge corporation will give you great experience. You will also learn what you like and your field and what you aren't interested in. Most students find they're able to get hands-on experiences at smaller companies and non-profits.
Once you have landed your internship, it is important to always show up on time (or early, if possible) and dress appropriately. It is true that everyone should dress for the job they want, not the job they have. When it comes to etiquette, you should not show up hungover or discuss your personal life with co-workers. Even though social networking sites like Facebook.com are rampant, it is important for students to portray a positive image. No employer wants to look up a prospective intern and find a profile picture of you doing a keg stand. Use your head - if you'd be embarrassed for your grandparents to see something, it should be deleted from public view.
One more note on decorum: in the communications industry, it is common to socialize with co-workers, supervisors and clients at press events, award dinners and happy hours. While these events may be fun and often necessary to network and advance your career, it is imperative that you behave like a professional. Nobody wants tobe known as the guy or girl who out drank everyone else. It is considered polite to drink as much - but never more than - your superiors. the exception, however, is if your co-workers drink excessively. In that case, my advice is to sip one drink throughout the night. If you want to go out and have fun, do so with your friends.
Upon mastering office etiquette, try to learn as much as you can at your internship. Think about it - your supervisor is there to help you learn. When you enter a career, the learning curve will progressively grow smaller so take advantage now. If for some reason you aren't learning much or you aren't being challenged, tell somebody. It's possible that your supervisor is too busy to notice or has never had an intern before. It is also crucial to let your supervisor know when you need assistance. For example, if you've never made a media pitch before, ask your supervisor for tips or even a script. After practicing a few times, you will feel more comfortable and your supervisor will know that you are willing to try new challenges. This will separate you from the interns who are satisfied with completing simple tasks.
My last piece of advice is to have as much fun as possible while learning as much as you can about your new profession. Internships are an exciting time to learn about your passions and motivations and may even guide you to the perfect career. Good luck on your journey.
By: Amy Muldoon
Amy Muldoon graduated from Penn State University in 2005 and worked in corporate public relations for three years before returning to graduate school at Holy Family University to become a secondary English teacher. Her strengths include: drafting speeches, writing talking points for media interviews, making corporate presentations, and writing for publications.