INTERN TAKEOVER: 6 Real-Life Lessons Learned Outside of the Classroom
Completing an internship with Choice Media and Communications provides the opportunity to learn many real-life lessons that sitting in a classroom simply could not teach us. We’ve been taught everything from how to develop professional relationships to building a comprehensive, customized media list.
I’m Skyler Brown, one of the publicity interns at Choice! I am a senior at The University of Alabama majoring in public relations with a minor in communication studies. I am from Hoover, Alabama, and one day hope to be an account coordinator for a public relations agency. I love to read, watch Alabama football, and travel!
I’m Brooke Willett and I’m also a publicity intern at Choice! I am a senior at The University of Tennessee majoring in public relations with a minor in business. I am a proud Franklin, Tennessee native, and I hope to one day use the knowledge I have been given to travel the world and advocate for a cause I am passionate about. I also desire to work as a publicist for faith-based authors, influencers, and musicians. I, too, love traveling, listening to live music, and spending time with family and friends!
We are excited to share six real-life lessons we have acquired during our time with Choice and what we will carry with us through school and after graduation.
1. The Importance of Building Strong Relationships: Being a senior in college comes with so many opportunities for growth, across a variety of areas. From learning to be appreciative of every single opportunity you are given to understanding the value of hard work, every experience helps you grow professionally and personally. With Choice, I have grown by realizing the importance of building relationships. Every member of the Choice team genuinely cares for one another and takes the time to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. For example, Choice recently took a company retreat to Charleston, South Carolina which left them feeling refreshed and excited for the future of Choice, while also planning strategically for their continued growth. Seeing a company take a week-long retreat to reassess goals and take time to evaluate, reprioritize and plan together is inspiring. This retreat speaks to the value Choice places on building relationships with their colleagues and how beneficial it can be to invest in professional relationships, not just personal ones. It also happens to be their number one core value: We Believe Relationships Matter. I understand that so much more intimately after having worked with them for a semester.
2. The Value of Real-World Experience: Gaining real-world public relations experience is just as beneficial as completing different courses in college. There are several things you will learn during an internship that you may not have the chance to learn about in your classes. For example, using Cision to build media lists and WordPress to update websites are two areas I would have never learned about until after college if I had not acquired an internship. Accepting an internship will benefit you after you graduate when you are applying to jobs as well. You will have the first-hand experience in public relations which will set you apart when it comes time to start applying for jobs.
3. The Benefits of Research: My biggest tip for finding an internship is research! Researching different agencies in different locations can help you get an idea of where you want to intern and how many internships are offered in that specific city. This is also helpful when you are selected for an interview. Research the company before your interview and come up with questions to ask about their clients, company culture, or even congratulate them on their recent accomplishments. This will show the interviewer that you have taken the time to find out details about the company and care about the position you are applying for. You’ll also learn how significantly research will be a part of your everyday within the internship. Honing this skill is key to your success in this industry.
5. The Benefit of Failure: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” – Henry A. Ford. In reflecting on the last few months of being an intern with Choice, I have come to realize that failure is the vehicle for true understanding and success later on. Branching off of what Skyler said in regards to the importance of real-world experience, I believe this and the experience of failure go hand-in-hand. As a student, I can often sit in a classroom and learn from other people’s mistakes in the past, but as one of my favorite professors always says, “You cannot learn how to play tennis until you pick up a racket and fail at it a few times.” This statement has resonated with me in this experience. Beginning this internship opportunity, I was swarmed with the idea that I would learn and progress linearly toward growth in my future career. I was excited to gain real-world experience, learn from experts, build relationships with women in a field I intend to enter who are successfully doing the job I desire to do post-graduation, build my portfolio, and ultimately nail a job. Nearing the end of this experience, I can confidently say that I have further found what it means to face failure, receive feedback and grace from the team I am working with, and extend grace to myself.
My advice to any student working in an internship is to welcome the possibility of failure, as it is inevitable. If you can go into an internship, or an entry-level position, knowing that you will fail at some point but are eager to correct your mistakes and learn effectively from them, then you are in the right place for success.
Tips for Organization and Balance: Something that I believe is equally as important to learn as the nuts and bolts practical day to day activities of your field in an internship experience is how to organize yourself. As a full-time student at The University of Tennessee (Go Vols!), a student leader on campus, a member in my sorority, a participant in campus ministries, and a part-time intern, I had to learn organization and fast. I believe the first step to organizing and balancing well is to become comfortable with saying “no,” and understanding in which scenarios this answer is appropriate. This semester, I found myself having to say no to things I once loved, but no longer had the time for. This practice also comes with being self aware by understanding your personal limits. I, personally, had to try and fail many times this semester while learning what I was capable of and what I needed to devote more time to in order to develop (reference failure lesson above). Moving further in this self-discovery, I recommend asking yourself what are complete absolutes that you know you cannot compromise on. One example for me is getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. By knowing this, I can prioritize my bedtimes and know that I will be able to perform the next day at my highest level, and serve those around me the best I know how. Once these decisions are established, you can now move into tangibly organizing your days. Some tips I recommend are:
Find an easy and well-organized system for managing your calendar. Personally, I recommend utilizing a Google calendar. This feature on my email has been a life-saver, and it wasn’t until these last two months that I have heavily relied on this feature to balance my life. What I love about this program is easy to operate. As the user, you can log appointments or meeting times on a timeline of your day, alert people of appointment times they can request with you, send email invites to others participating in a meeting or conference call, leave notes under appointments such as locations and memos, as well as recreate daily and recurring appointments. I use this feature to plan my days from when I have class, an assignment due, or when I need to call my mom. Using this is the number one thing I suggest all students or beginning professionals consider to balance the craziness of their lives.
The second tip I recommend to stay organized is to get in the habit of setting reminders on your phone. This is a feature on my iPhone that I have used for a year or so now and it has become my brain when my brain decides to take a backseat. In fact, when I originally applied for this position last spring, I was told that interns for the summer had already been selected and was encouraged to reach back out towards the end of the summer to be considered for the fall 2019 internship. It was on this day that I set a reminder in my phone for two months in advance to remind me to contact Kerry regarding reapplying for this internship.
And lastly, I recommend creating an ongoing to-do list and purposely incorporating small and tangible tasks to be done in the midst of your long and daunting ones. This, to me, has proven to be an encouraging way to stay productive while feeling successful and capable.
6. The Importance of Searching with Passion: Being a student, I often heard that the probability of me working for clients I am passionate about is not always promised and that I might have to “work my way up” to arrive at a job where I can weave my passions into what I get to do in a job or internship. This is far from the truth in my experience at Choice.
Being an intern at Choice, I have been given the opportunity to not only work with an all-female team who are grace-filled and passionate about mentoring, but also work for clients I already loved. This was the driving factor behind my desire to be an intern at Choice, and this is my biggest advice for anyone seeking an internship in their field. Find your passions and lead your internship search with them in mind. A tangible way to do this is to search for firms and organizations that you are already excited about or that represent people, issues and companies that you already love. This can be done through social media searching, LinkedIn, and simple research with the purpose of finding an organization to learn from that aligns with your values as the end goal.
While this may seem impractical and potentially naive, it is possible. I believe, especially in public relations, that one aspect of success in representing an organization well is to align your passions with the values of the client or organization. This also happens to be Choice’s second core value: We Believe Enthusiasm Drives Us. I learned quickly from these women that being passionate about the clients they serve drives ultimate success in the partnership.
Applying, accepting, and completing an internship can be a major step toward starting your dream career. It can signify the beginning of entering the “real world” and often comes with the pressure that is associated with becoming an adult. With Choice, there was no pressure or stress; just lessons learned and experience gained. So today we ask you: what is the biggest lesson you have learned during one of your internships?