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How to Be a Good Intern in 26 Easy Steps

By Robyn Brown, Account Executive

Internships give a developing PR professional an education that a college course just cannot fully provide. After all, it’s one thing to learn about a successful PR campaign; it’s quite another to be a member of the team that organized and ran that campaign. Additionally, students benefit from being immersed in a professional work environment, interacting with AEs and directors and learning the silent mores of office culture.

The internship has an equal benefit for the agency. Often the research and support functions that an intern provides are crucial to the pitch, event or PR campaign. This includes media list development, research on trends and reporters, and tracking coverage so we can demonstrate results with our clients. Truly, interns can be key members of any PR team.

At Brooks & Associates, we have been fortunate to work with a number of bright and hard-working upperclassmen, who were eager to learn and help our team. Over the years, we started to document the good qualities that we have come to admire in our interns. On day one, we hand each intern the list as a guide for a successful PR internship.

So, here is our guidance on How to Be a Good Intern in 26 Easy StepsMelissa Smith, our latest intern and now research assistant, contributed the first three.  Several others are borrowed from design firm Number 17, who knew what they were talking about.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share what you know. Trends in PR change so frequently and you as a student may have the best insight into what is going on NOW.
  2. Carve out a niche for yourself in the agency. Take on responsibilities and make them see that they just can’t live without you. You want them to miss you when you’re gone.
  3. Do your part in the office, but also try as hard as you can to tag along to client meetings. Not only will you figure out how these things work, but you will have made a new contact.
  4. Take your internship very seriously. (Seriously).
  5. Get in on time (without complaining about how early it is or how late you were up the night before).
  6. Listen very carefully and always take notes (just when people are giving you assignments, not during social situations). Keep a pencil and notepad with you at all times.
  7. Don’t feel entitled. (Your boss should not have to bend over backwards to accommodate your every need. She worked hard to earn the respect she receives and so should you).
  8. Find a mentor. (You are a fool if you miss the opportunity to soak up as much experience and knowledge from the people around you. Believe me: they will be excited to share with you… when they have time).
  9. Do more than is expected on every single assignment (unless more costs more).
  10. There is (almost) always something you can do (so let your bosses know when you are available; don’t just wait until someone notices you are free).
  11. Show up. People are relying on you. (A school assignment is NOT a reason to ‘call in sick.’)
  12. Understand that you don’t know it all (even though you feel like you do).
  13. Turn off your cell phone (even if your ringtone is really cute).
  14. Do not unnecessarily distract others who are busy working (even though Big Brother was particularly great last night).
  15. Bring snacks (sometimes sweet, sometimes salty).
  16. Be proactiveIf there is nothing official for you to do, figure something out on your own. (Like get to know the magazine or periodical collection so when someone is looking for something you can be helpful. Or go through the case studies so you can really study the company’s work).
  17. Look out for opportunities to demonstrate what you do know and how you can contribute (but don’t push it – nobody likes a show off).
  18. There are (almost) no stupid questions. (Ignorance is not bliss, just ignorant and it can be a major waste of time).
  19. *Don’t just follow directions. Think about what you are doing while you are doing it. (So when the account executive says, “but that’s full of typos” you won’t have to say “I know!”).
  20. Be eager to learn and people will be more likely to teach you.
  21. Don’t take it personally. The road to success is a bumpy one and you won’t grow unless you make mistakes.
  22. Never stop learning. From day one to day 1,351 – you will never run out of new things to learn.
  23. Don’t be afraid to show the rest of your team that you are overwhelmed or stressed out. This is not a sign of failure. Most likely, they have been there too and can probably help you out.
  24. Find opportunities to apply what you just learned in class to a client activity.Perhaps your professors will allow class credit for a project you took on at the agency.
  25. Be social media savvy. Account teams look to the younger generation for insight on social media apps and how to use them for PR projects. (This does not mean you are allowed to play on Facebook all day).
  26. 26. Understand that the success of the internship is (almost) entirely up to you.