Back in December I brought up searching for an internship. More specifically, for an unpaid internship that you can complete while still in your PR classes. If you want to check out more on searching for and finding one check out Step 8.
Since January I have been doing my own PR internship at a small marketing agency that does work for non-profits and municipalities. As of yesterday I am done! It feels great to have the experience under my belt as my job search comes to an apex. But I want to talk about the different types of internships you may encounter. Some people have great internships, others not so much, so I want to look at what me and my peers have gone through with our internships. Always remember - Stay Positive.
The Different Types of Internships
1. The Pain-in -the... I Mean Challenging Internship
This one is where you become the person who does everything for the people in charge. You are a student and an intern, but all of a sudden you are doing the boss's work. Better yet, they don't have to pay you to do their work. And on top of writing up assignments that seem never ending that they infringe on your schoolwork, you are also expected to keep the coffee pot filled. And they may not even give you a thumbs up at the end of it all, which hurts the most.
Lesson: Even when an internship turns sour you need to make the best of it. This kind of experience will help you realize that life isn't fair and jobs aren't always like you imagined. You will get tougher, but from now on you will also treat others beneath you with respect. So at the end of the day, if you get some portfolio pieces and a new outlook on working, consider this worthwhile.
2. The Do-Nothing All Day Internship
This internship has you showing up eager, excited and ready to learn, only to sit staring at a computer screen for most of the day. Maybe they give you a few menial tasks here and there, but you don't feel like you are contributing or accomplishing much. This can be just as bad as being swamped. Because when you are not engaged in your work, you start to become slack and negative.
Lesson: Again make the best of it. Sure you can work on some school assignments, but why not take initiative and suggest some things you can do to help them. They may not know it, but they need serious help with their social media. That is just one example. And if you are afraid they will turn you down, just do it and then show them. They may just like it, and if they do, add it to the portfolio. And get a great reference, that way your time was worth it.
3. The Cat-on-Your-Lap Internship
This one happens sometimes. You choose to do an internship out of someone's home office. They have just started out and they are more than willing to take on a student for free work. But it turns out to be not what you expected. You work in a not so well-lit room in their basement where their cat insists on sitting on your lap while you write media releases.
Lesson: The office doesn't make the experience. You still get to write media releases and have something to put in your portfolio. Besides, cats are awesome, just don't where your good pants. Again make the best of it. Make yourself feel legitimate by setting up a space and bringing some nice pens and notebooks. Now you're in business.
4. The Out-of-Town Internship
So you wanted to get an internship in the big city, but now you are commuting 2 hours one way! Count 4 hours of traveling for an unpaid internship (actually you are paying out of your pocket to do it) that is not guaranteed to go anywhere. You have to wake up at 5 a.m. cause you don't have a car, but at least you are working with real agency people.
Lesson: Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get great opportunities. Maybe you could have negotiated for them to pay for a bus pass even if they aren't paying you. But regardless, you are proving dedication, so stick with it. Use your commute time wisely and you will no doubt come out with some great references and portfolio pieces.
5. The Why-is-Everyone-in-my-Class-Here Internship
You thought you had snatched up a cool, unique internship right out from under your classmates nose. But wait, a few days after you start, classmates start popping up and now there are 4 of you working there. Now you don't feel so special.
Overall, not all internships are made equal and everyone will feel differently about their situation. Don't compare yours to someone else's. And don't back down, nothing looks worse than someone who doesn't follow-through. No matter the work experience, you have to make the best out of it. I know I said this a lot, but people who can do this tend to go farther professionally.
How do you know if your internship was good? Ask yourself: "Did I learn something new? Did I meet new people? Did you end up with a reference? Did you get a portfolio piece? If you answered yes to at least 3 of these (which most will) then you did great!
How do you feel about internships? What have your internship experiences been like?
P.S. I love PR!