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The Ideal Intern, from an Intern Coordinator’s Perspective

Published on July 13, 2017, at 8:20 p.m.
by Dalton Kerby.

You aced the application. Your cover letter was personalized and specifically addressed. You had your graphic designer friend give your résumé a touch of modern flair. You hit the interview out of the ballpark, and now you’re here. You’re a few weeks into your internship and you want to make sure you’re exceeding expectations and getting the most out of your time with the agency/corporation/nonprofit that you’re spending your summer with. Who knows better than anyone else what is expected of interns? Perhaps actual intern coordinators?

Megan McConnell and Morey Hill are account executives at MP&F Public Relations in Nashville, Tennessee. They also make up two-thirds of the agency’s intern coordinator team, and oversee everything from the initial application process to the final evaluations when interns exit. Furthermore, they were once interns at MP&F, so they truly have a dual-sided perception of what is looked for in an ideal intern. Together, they condensed their thoughts into five key takeaways.

1. Know the purpose of your internship.

“We want our interns to know what it’s like to work at an agency,” McConnell said.

It sounds simple, but there’s a lot to that statement. Interns in the public relations field are beginning to get a lot more experience with actual work and a lot less time spent making coffee runs. Interns are being offered tasks like writing press releases, drafting social media content and contacting media representatives. At MP&F, each intern is assigned to roughly six client teams, a pro-bono project and an office committee.

“We want interns to get valuable work experience and also contribute to the work and culture of a company,” Hill said.

Interns are being seen as real pieces of a business’ makeup, not just passersby. Once an intern is settled in, they should begin looking for ways in which they can seek value in their time, for their time is limited.

2. Know that you were selected for a reason.

Internships are rarely passed out. Coordinators don’t seek out interns but rather must filter through potentially hundreds of applicants in order to find the one(s) that fit their business.

McConnell said that for her, the top qualities in a potential intern are “readiness to learn, time management skills and relevant work experience.” Hill agreed, but added that “we’re focusing a lot on personality” as well. Therefore, if you’ve been offered an internship position, you’ve demonstrated that you are intelligent, hardworking, organized and friendly.

Don’t let the fact that you were chosen fall to the wayside. It’s important to not forget that you are capable and qualified for where you are. So get to work!

3. You can’t get by on just your résumé, though.

“Willingness to jump in on any project no matter how big or small” is what Hill looks for once the internship is underway. “Getting the Most Out of Your Summer PR Internship,” an article from PR Daily, encourages interns to “do the tedious stuff.” PR Daily asserts that hard work, even on the not-so-fun stuff, is the key to more opportunities. Do the tedious jobs and “you will surely receive something more enjoyable and challenging to tackle.”

Interns at work
Internships are both a time to grow professionally and personally

“Keep up the eagerness!” is McConnell’s advice. She said that it can be difficult to fight back the occasional tendencies of complacency. She believes that the interns who rise above the rest are the ones who are proactive and willing to volunteer for new tasks.

4. Ask questions, but ask appropriately.

“Asking questions shows that you are involved in the process and are eager to learn,” PR Daily said. Questions show active listening and real participation from interns. PR Daily says that the most important question is “when do you want it?” Deadlines are crucial in the industry, and the earlier that an intern learns this lesson, the better.

“But I think a good quality in an intern is that they don’t ask too many questions in some situations,” Hill said. He likes to see interns be able to take projects and figure out ways to complete them and showcase their ingenuity without asking too many questions upfront. There’s definitely a fine line that should be found when it comes to asking questions.

5. Learn from those around you.

“The people you work beside can be your greatest resources,” McConnell said.

Whether you’re interning in a branch of Edelman or a local nonprofit, you are never alone. It’s fair to assume that someone at your office will have a few more years of experience in the industry than you, and they’re willing to pass on their knowledge to eager interns who show potential and a desire to learn.

And like Hill said, “Everyone eats lunch. If there’s someone at your company whose brain you want to pick, you could always ask them to lunch. Maybe just not in the first week.”

Internships are a crucial element to honing your public relations skills as you prepare to embark into the so-called “real world.” Given that they are usually brief, the most important encouragement to keep in mind is to make the most of your internship. Be proactive and eager, pay attention and take notes. There is an infinite amount of advice that can be passed to future and current interns, but the best way to learn is through experience.

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