“What I learned at boating school is…”
If you remember that Spongebob quote you can relate to the struggle of recapping your learning experiences. For many students, internships are the best learning experiences you will ever have. They build your skills and help launch you into your career (scary, huh?).
This summer, I have been lucky to work as the communications intern here at thunder::tech. Through this journey, I have learned more than I could possibly layout in this blog.
But that won’t stop me from trying!
If you are an intern or intern-to-be and are wondering what you should look for from your experience, look no further. This blog will serve as an overview of my internship experience and the things I learned along the way. Hopefully, this will guide your search for that elusive internship and provide some tips and tricks for making it a memorable one.
How To Find The Right Experience
Finding the right internship experience can be easier said than done - after all, most students struggle to find an opportunity at all. Searching for your experience is half the battle and utilizing the right platforms can ease your suffering when looking for your next internship.
I have been a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) for three, going on four years now. PRSSA’s current members and alumni all tell the same story about how they got their internship, “I have received all of my job opportunities through a PRSSA connection.”
Your connections can be the difference between landing a great internship or securing one at all. Don’t neglect your peers and your mentors when looking for a new experience. They may know someone you can talk to or have seen something on social media that will land you your next job.
I didn’t know anyone at thunder::tech until about a month before my internship started. Luckily I had PRSSA connections and a vast university alumni group who connected me with the Director of Communications, Madison Letizia. The rest, as they say, is history.
Through my connection, I was able to set up an informational interview of sorts with Madison, which lead to a great relationship. This relationship-building made finding a meaningful experience a walk in the park.
If you don’t have a professional society or a link to your university’s alumni network to aid in your relationship building, head to social media. Many businesses, especially marketing, public relations and communications focused companies post their internships on company social media channels. Check the #internship hashtag and other related keywords to find the posts that will bring you to your next internship.
How To Maximize Your Learning
How can I learn everything about PR, marketing, social media, SEO, PPC and more in three months?
That is a daunting task that too many interns feel they need to accomplish--including myself.
As impossible as that task may seem, there is a way you can maximize your learning during an internship. The trick here is to seek out the information that is important to you, ask questions and take full advantage of your down-time.
Before I stepped foot into the office at thunder::tech, I was tasked with filling out a list of goals for the summer. These goals guided my experiences and provided me a direction for learning.
Luckily thunder::tech had this planned for me from the get-go, but that may not be the case for every workplace. If you don’t have a goals sheet handed to you, consider making one up yourself. Take a look at your company’s services and decide which areas interest you the most. Remember, you only have three months to learn these skills so be realistic in your choices.
After setting your goals, learning is all about initiative.
The second I sat down at my desk at the start of this summer, I was placed into various training meetings with members of the t::team. These training sessions covered everything from the platforms we use to the theories driving the work we create for clients. With the bases covered, I was able to dive into the topics I wanted to focus on and devise my path to learning new skills.
The key now was to figure out a way to learn efficiently, and that came through asking questions, doing research and getting thrown to the wolves a bit.
I learned quickly that asking questions was going to be my savior this summer. Professionals love to share their knowledge about the field, so take advantage and ask questions before you get started on a project.
Asking too many questions, however, isn’t the best way to learn. Sometimes you need to figure out a problem and learn a new skill. I need to thank my colleagues at thunder::tech here. Allowing me the chance to work through issues and fail a little was the best thing for my learning--even when it what challenging!
When I got stuck, I turned to some of the top publications in the industry or to my good friend YouTube to learn what I needed to get the job done. The power of self-learning is real. Always take the time to read, listen and watch on your down-time.
All of this learning will get you far, but the best way to gain experience is to get hands-on work.
How To Get Hands-On Work
Ah, the million-dollar intern question. How can you get actual, hands-on client work?
That’s simple, make your intentions known.
From day one on the job, you need to set the expectation that you are interested in working hard. If you are upfront with your coworkers about your willingness to lend a hand, there will come a time when they take you up on the offer.
The trick here is to be consistent. Always be willing to help, get the job done fast and with precision. If you produce good work, you will be given good work. If you can’t produce and don’t show initiative, you will be shredding papers and making copies for three months.
Every day at thunder::tech I made it my goal to work on something new and meaningful. When asked if I had too much on my plate, I quickly responded with, “Nope, keep it coming!” and the team did just that.
Kept it coming.
I was able to work on some incredible clients this summer including Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, Mon Ami Restaurant and Historic Winery, The Jet Express, The Pro Football Hall of Fame and thunder::tech itself. Without showing some initiative and asking for the work, I’m positive I wouldn’t have had all these chances.
Thanks, thunder::tech, for pushing me to do some great work, listening to my constant requests for more experiences and for throwing me to the wolves.
Perhaps more important than asking for more to do is to ask how you are doing. Evaluating your performance can be the gateway to change and further learning.
How To Evaluate Your Experience
“Measure, measure, measure. Obviously, a final deep dive is absolutely critical for any campaign but to measure throughout the process, to be able to optimize your campaign in real-time is really important.” - PR Week and AMEC
I love this quote because it hits on two of the most important aspects of measuring anything. Measure often and measurement is critical to success.
Internships are meant to teach and provide hands-on experience. Without measurement and evaluation, there is no way to know if you have learned anything. Asking for feedback is the best way to measure your progress; this not only applies to your work but your overall professionalism.
Remember, when I mentioned asking questions as a critical aspect of learning, well the same advice applies here. Asking questions about how you are performing can and will guide you through your internship and your career.
At thunder::tech we make a habit of evaluating our performance through peer evaluations and some sit down review meetings. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting through several of these meetings and they have helped me measure my performance and refocus on set goals.
Outside these 1-on-1 review meetings, I have taken advantage of asking questions. “How am I doing?” “Where can I improve?” “What should I focus on next?”
Asking these questions may be challenging, especially if you are the kind of person who takes constructive criticism to heart. It is important to remember that you are an intern for a reason--to learn! With learning comes failure and learning from failure is the best way to advance your skills.
Make sure you are asking the right questions at the right times and most importantly, find a coworker who will be honest with you about your performance. Luckily at thunder::tech everyone was willing to tell me what I needed to hear to improve, but that is not the case everywhere. Just like getting hands-on work, making your intentions known is crucial when attaining feedback. Let your team know you want their honest opinion of your work so you can get better.
At the end of the day, you will thank them for their honesty.
How To Say Thank You
Well, here we are, the end of the summer and the end of your internship. You had some great times, built some fantastic relationships and learned more than you could have hoped.
Now it is time to repay the favor to your coworkers and company.
Saying thank you is more than just saying thank you. Take what you have learned and the relationships you have built and carry them with you throughout your career. The best way to pay it forward is to share the experiences you had with your peers and future coworkers.
Public relations and communications are rooted in mutually beneficial relationships. The best way to provide value to your former company is to keep learning and building upon what you experienced during your internship. Keep in touch with your old team and fill them in on what you are doing now--trust me, they will appreciate it!
So thunder::tech, thank you for the opportunities you have given me this summer. It has been an amazing experience working alongside everyone this summer! From the get-go, I have been challenged, welcomed by everyone and learned more than I could put in this (not so short) article.
From the hilarious Slack conversations, Monday Morning Meetings, furry friends, midday Insomnia Cookie treats, the occasional adult beverage and the amazing work, this experience is one that I will never forget!
What I learned at boating school is… the relationships you build and the fun times had at an internship are things to cherish forever.
Cheers to you, thunder::tech; you know how to make an intern feel like part of the team.