It’s Halloween and thoughts turn to… an internship? Makes sense to me. Both are scary, but if you get over your shivers, they can be a lot of fun and give you what you need for the future: experience.
Internships provide that wonderful yet terrifying life experience in between student and working adult when you’re both really sure of yourself and not so sure at the same time. I’m sharing that experience right now with some other awesome, yet spooked interns. We can agree that given the season, ghosts and ghouls have nothing on being a public relations intern. Here’s what we think can bring double trouble boil and bubble to interning in PR.
A comment I get constantly after telling someone that part of my work in PR involves social media is, “So you pretty much just tweet all day?” What they don’t understand is the brand building and reputation managing that goes along with the social media aspect of PR. At my first internship, I was given a two-hour long presentation showing all that could go wrong with companies using social media. I was shown a tweet about scoring a case of beer and, ‘#gettngslizzerd’ that showed up on the American Red Cross twitter account. It was a simple mistake of an employee not switching back to a personal account. The Red Cross handled the faux pas well with a little humor and all was forgiven, but the story stuck with me.
Of course, as an intern, I’m not given free range over any social media accounts, but there is a nagging fear that I will somehow get accounts confused and send out a post that should not be connected with SDI. While it can be easy for people to blame the intern and damage control isn’t too difficult by posting a follow up to explain the blunder, you never want to be the one to cause that chain of events in the first place. It can be unnerving when the beginning of your adult career can be tarnished with a rogue click of a button labeled, ‘Tweet’ or ‘Post’. Thankfully, that has never even come close to happening to me. I get all the posts I write okay-ed before I put them up and haven’t accidentally left myself logged onto the SDI account. If anything, my fear has helped me be more particular and pay more attention to the work I’m sending out, which is never a bad thing!
New internships are ALWAYS scary, no matter how much experience you’ve had. But more often than not, it’s just that newness that makes them intimidating. I think what may have been the “scariest” part of this particular internship for me was coming in blind. By that, I mean that I had never met anyone at SDI, seen the office, or gotten a feel for the environment. In fact, I sent my resume, interviewed and accepted my internship all over the phone from England this summer. My past internships, for the most part, have been near my school (The University of Georgia) so I’ve been able to talk with others who have gone through the position and visit the office for interviews before taking the job. So, navigating the DC internship process was intimidating on its own. And to add to that, though I had visited DC multiple times, I had never experienced “real” life in the city. I knew it would be a challenge to start a new year in a new city with a new internship, all experiences I really haven’t had before. And it’s been a challenge. But, it’s also been one of the best semesters of my college experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. SDI has helped me become better at PR and at navigating the professional world in ways I never could have learned without this internship. I can’t believe it’s been two and a half months since I came into SDI “blind,” because now it’s like home here in DC.
As I was winding down my second year at Penn State, I found myself asking reflecting on, “When was the last time I did something for the first time?” I had always been an explorer; but it dawned on me that I was half way through my four years of college, and I really craved some challenging new experiences in order to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I decided it was time to take a sabbatical from the college life that I loved, to spend my junior year away from campus in order to experience new things, grow and expand my perspective. Life can get pretty boring if you stay within the limits of your comfort zone, so I decided there was no time like the present to get a jump start on my career working at Susan Davis International. Here are the scariest aspects that I’ve experienced so far with my internship and D.C. experience:
- You are forced to learn how to become independent. Although moving to college and starting a life away from home required independence, it is nothing like traveling to a new city alone and throwing yourself into a workplace with full-time professionals. You don’t get to have your best friend as your roommate helping to keep you from missing class, or even as a buddy to walk to work together. From day one you are forced to pave the way, and be fully accountable for yourself.
- Time Management. Time management is crucial to your college career, and it was always something I felt I could handle. In fact, I find it easier to manage my time when I have more on my plate. Not in D.C.! Public relations is definitely not just a 9-6 office job. There are endless amounts of work and something can always be improved. Also, it’s difficult to step away from the work in order to study for the three classes I am taking as well. In addition, I need enough time to visit my friends in and explore the city, because all work and no play could make Julie a dull girl!
- Networking. Dressing up in a suit and going to a fancy restaurant to make small talk with professional and successful alumni is definitely not something I had on my top priority lists before coming to D.C. Although these functions were intimidating, I can now answer the question, “Why did you choose public relations?” like a pro, and I have even started to work on my “elevator speech.”
- The people. One thing is for sure, every person in D.C. is on a mission. Whether they are asking for change, power walking to work, or even shopping, everyone is usually always serious! There are some friendly people that you may meet in your travels, but for the most part, they do not make up the majority. On our first day, we were instructed to stay out of several sections of the city, and that we always have to be careful when walking alone especially at night. The people I work with, however, have been amazing, and I am learning something new every day. This really is a life changing experience, and I have been really fortunate!
Despite our pre-internship jitters and concerns as we plunged headfirst into the PR world, our experiences have made us all more capable interns. By facing our fear and doing what scares us, we have been able to navigate through the challenges thrown our way and find ourselves better prepared for whatever lurks ahead!
Maddie Packard, SDI
Maddie is a senior at St. Norbert College studying Media Communications and Business
October 29, 2015