The adage ‘practice makes perfect’ has never resonated more than the day I walked into my first internship – bright eyed and bushy tailed, with a solid GPA and unrivalled enthusiasm only a 19-year-old was capable of.
Not only would I soon realise nothing I had been learning throughout the semester applied in this office, but I would also grow to understand that practice was key, and a solid university result did not equate to a perfectly crafted media release.
Amidst the red pen mark-ups on my writing and, what seemed like never-ending media list development, grew confidence and skills that only an on-the-job education could teach. Soon, days would become weeks and those weeks would begin to pay, and practice did actually make perfect.
So, if you’re tossing up between your truly-treasured day off or a commitment to unpaid learning in the field of your study, I would highly encourage you to take the latter option – and here’s how you can really make it worth your while:
Establish your intentions
Internships should be mutually beneficial. You should learn a lot and meet some fantastic industry contacts, and similarly, the team should have an extra set of hands to assist with relevant PR tasks in the office. As such, it’s important to meet with your internship contact at the start of your time in the office to agree expectations, roles and responsibilities and goals for your learning.
Further to your internship contact in the office, keep your eyes peeled for someone who can take you under their wing during your work experience. This might not necessarily be the most experienced person in the team, but perhaps it’s a graduate who sat in your seat just 12 months earlier – with valuable tips and learnings they can share with you.
Establish your intentions
Agency is busy. We’re juggling up to 12 clients at any given time, and we might not always be able to review your work immediately and provide you direct feedback. But please, follow it up! Ask if you can see the final version of the release and the edits made when you’re next in the office. The most valuable learning comes from having a thick skin and an appetite to hear how you can improve.
Showing your interest in the team and your ability to fit in is a true skill. While nobody expects you to be the star of the office brainstorm, your enthusiasm to participate, absorb the knowledge of your peers, and even share an idea or two will not go unnoticed.
Well, that’s the main reason you are interning, right? At least it should be. Industry connections are critical, and when getting your foot in the door is truly the hardest step you’ll make in your career, you should do everything in your power to help ‘future you.’ Ask a team member to lunch, learn people’s names, and take an interest in the business you are working for. These people could be your future references on your resume, or even your future employers. Put yourself out there and leave the experience with a little black book of people you can learn from.