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Avoiding the Personal Assistant Trap

Posted: October 2, 2014, 4:48 p.m.
by Amber Patterson.

We hear it all the time. Make sure you get an internship. You need the experience. Without an internship, there is no hope for your dream job. As public relations students these realities are constantly thrown at us. It is no wonder that we go into a frenzy while searching for internships and develop an “I’ll take what I can get” attitude.

We all know that our chosen career path is not an easy one. When I told my parents my major they spent at least a day researching what it actually was. The confusion surrounding what public relations professionals do contributes to how internships in our field become rare and coveted positions. Even more rare — the PAID internship. The internship hunt can turn into the next installment of The Hunger Games in the blink of an eye. So with these conditions, it’s no wonder we all reach this point of desperation and easily fall into what I like to call the Personal Assistant Trap.

This trap is easily disguised as the opportunity of a lifetime; you walk in blindly with these hopes and dreams of writing press releases and media kits galore. Instead, you are thrown to-do lists that consist of personal errands and tasks that should be done outside of office hours. You suddenly realize that your internship went from public relations to personal assistant quickly — and then you are stuck. How did this happen? You did your research; you saw the actual clients; where did you go wrong? Allow me to show you…

4457794763_ba603e7064_zDon’t let the website fool you
In our internship searches, we have all run across a company that has an awesome website. It looks brand new and shiny like the latest iPhone on the market. The company is owned by this daring entrepreneur and you fall completely in love. You see all the pictures with notable people, and you decide that is where you want to be and hit apply before even visiting Google or LinkedIn. DON’T DO IT!! Take your time and comb through every aspect of the company; look at blogs, reviews and whatever else you can get your hands on.

Is the company known?
Ask your professors about the company or ask your fellow students. ASK SOMEONE! If no one can recognize the company or has not run across them in their internship search, then there might be reason for skepticism.

Ask questions and more questions
We have always been told to ask questions to our future employer, so ask them. SERIOUSLY, ask questions! Ask about other interns or even if there will be other interns. Ask for details of your job responsibilities and even ask about their work with former clients.

Stay calm
Yes, internships are important and they speak volumes on your resume. However, you should find your fit. Have some confidence. If you stay diligent in your search, you will find the internship that fits you. If not, it is not the end of the world. Continue to search; opportunities arise all the time.

So let’s review: Beware of a fancy website; it’s like the gold wrapper on a chocolate coin. Seek notoriety, whether it is good or bad. Asking questions will ensure you have a full understanding of what you are getting yourself in to. Lastly, STAY CALM — you are talented and capable; someone will want you. Happy hunting, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

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