I had my first intern about two years ago. It was such a great opportunity for both the intern and me. I was able to learn how to manage another human being, how to teach and learn about the new strategies/websites/etc. that j-schools are teaching these days. (I know, I’ve only been out of college three years, but my industry is quick-paced and always changing.) Anyway, I’d like to say I did an okay job at mentoring the three interns I’ve had the past few years. I always end up saying the same things.
Please, ask me questions!
That’s pretty much the first statement I make after introducing myself. Questions are important, plus I want to know what you are wanting to learn. I want to know what you’re having trouble understanding. On day one, start by asking about the company and the way they do things. Find out where everything lives on the computer and research. In the communications industry, it’s all about communication. But…
Exhaust your resources.
I’m not going to lie – the first couple of years, I lied about what I knew. I said yes to every opportunity and every project I could get my hands on. If I didn’t know how to work a certain program or do something in excel, I went on Google or YouTube to teach myself. Personally, from a soft-core managerial perspective (because, let’s be real, I’m still a newb), it’s very admirable to see someone taking the initiative to solve a problem. Naturally, of course, every company has their own protocol and style. Learn it, then get to work.
No task is beneath you.
This is a test of what kind of human being you are. Are you willing to help do things beyond your job description? Are you willing to help your admin person order lunch/supplies or tidy up the office? No task is beneath you. So yes, maybe you will have to make a billion copies or water the dozen plants in the office. Own it. Embrace it. Because, truthfully, most companies operate in a team environment. Everyone pitches in to get the job done, whether it’s helping with those copies, making sure supplies are ordered, etc. (Plus, no one wants to work with a snob.)
Take notes. In fact, keep a work journal.
I have to take handwritten notes. Even in college, I just had to physically write it down or the content wouldn’t sink in. Some people have to type it out, whatever it may be — take notes. Even if this meeting is a one-off and not a recurrence, take your notebook because you never know when useful information will fall upon your ears. In PR, you never know if a crisis will happen and your account manager is gone, so YOU have to step in. In fact, I’ve been keeping a work journal since day one. I find it easy when going over an email from months back, I can go back to that date in my notebook and see that email in context for that week. Use it to log your wins/accomplishments, your work goals, and ultimately use it to cover your butt. If something happens, you can always refer back to a date.
And, of course, soak in the experience. For most, this is internship number one. This will be your first exposure to your industry, the real world, etc. Soak it all in, because this is an opportunity to test out the waters and see if it’s really what you want to do. Make the most of it and have fun!