The summer after my junior year of college I was fortunate enough to have a public relations internship at The Castle Group. My time those few months was eye-opening, educational and inspiring. For the first time, I saw what a PR agency was all about. I got to learn from some of the best in the business, who were eager to include me on the team and give me hands-on projects I could really sink my teeth into. That experience gave me the tool kit I needed to launch a career in PR. The next year, I was ecstatic when I was offered a full-time position as an account coordinator and given the opportunity to expand on what I had learned during my internship, leveraging those skills in a new, more involved and client-facing role. A few key points stuck with me from that time that I have carried with me through the transition, as I navigate my rookie year in PR. If you are currently going from intern to full-time employee or hoping to do so in the future, keeping the following tips in mind can help guide you through this transition.
Be a Sponge
These three words are always at the top of my mind before embarking on a new endeavor, especially a new job. Not only in the workplace but with any new experience, this sentiment is echoing in my head. To be a sponge is to soak up and retain every bit of information that comes your way, regardless of its perceived importance. Especially as an intern, I made sure to be ready and eager to learn no matter what. I think it’s incredibly important to bring this sense of curiosity and desire for knowledge that I had as an intern into my job as an account coordinator. I now have a bit more know-how and spend less time asking questions and more time actively involved in client work. However, I am always trying to be a sponge, as you never know what bit of information that you paid attention to will serve you down the road.
This is a mantra that has served me well in every job I’ve had. During my internship, I was given access to various aspects of the agency. There are always tasks that need to get done and always someone that could use support, so particularly as an intern, you get the opportunity to taste test a lot of different job duties. I always looked forward to new tasks that came my way and made it clear that even though I might not have the expertise, I was available and eager to help. Now, as an account coordinator, I have a more strictly defined job description, and more direction for the tasks I need to do day-to-day. That being said, there are a million different things that go on at a PR and event management agency and I will always see the value in volunteering to step outside my role to lend a hand. It can never hurt to diversify your skill sets or capitalize on an opportunity to take the lead on a project.
Take a Moment
I’ll always remember the first time I got a story placed in a newspaper as an intern. After several versions of a press release, scores of emails sent and just as many follow up calls, I finally found someone interested in what I was saying. Those first couple of media hits I was involved with were small potatoes by some measures- small-town newspapers with a short snippet of text announcing someone’s promotion or an upcoming local fundraiser for instance. To me, however, they might as well have been the cover story in the New York Times. I was so proud of that work and so excited to have contributed. Now a few months into a career in PR, my goal is to build valuable relationships with people in the media and gain access to higher-profile media opportunities. I hope that as I gain experience and progress, I will always be able to take a moment and appreciate how great it is I get to do this, just like I did as an intern the first time I realized something I had written would actually come up in Google when you searched my client’s name. How cool!
Make It Count
I knew as an intern that I only had a summer to make my mark. I had a limited amount of time to get everything I could out of the experience, and I wanted to leave with the feeling that I did this amazing opportunity justice. Now with a full-time position at Castle, I find it is critical to maintaining this same drive. Of course, having a full-time position allows me to build out long term strategies and hone my skills over time. However, I do work best under a time crunch and it is important to realize this and to bring some of that sense of urgency I had as an intern into my job now.
Internships offer students the opportunity to test out different career paths and hopefully provide some clarity around their answer to that fateful question – “What are you going to do after college?” Luckily my internship at Castle helped me discover a passion for public relations, and I was able to continue in the industry. What I didn’t realize was that my internship would also teach me things about being a full-time employee that continues to guide my thinking and focus my efforts going forward.