By: Sydney Halas
In college, time seems to fly quickly. One moment you are moving into a dormitory room for the first time, and the next, you are a senior, hopefully, well-prepared to embark on your professional career. Like many students, I was lost as a freshman. I entered school with an undecided major and no specific direction. After taking a class where I had the opportunity to explore many majors, I found myself considering either a degree in public relations or speech pathology. In several hours of discussions with my academic advisor, we decided a career in public relations would be more fulfilling for me.
My first class in the public relations program was taught by Professor Tricia Hansen Horn, and she wasted no time emphasizing the importance of networking. Being a first year student, I didn’t understand the importance behind her message. I wasted more than two years doing absolutely nothing to connect with public relations professionals. I sat through presentations by guest speakers in classes and conferences hardly paying attention to the speakers’ names. My grades have always been incredibly important to me but taking the extra step to connect with professionals who could offer me future opportunities did not register with me.
Finally, a few months into my junior year, something clicked. I needed an internship. I knew I had a better chance at securing one if I made connections before applying. I began taking extra steps after listening to a guest speaker. I would go up to a speaker after he or she spoke and shake their hand and introduce myself. I would connect with them on LinkedIn, and in some cases, send them a message about what I learned or extra questions I thought about later. They often responded. Networking enabled me to get a summer internship at Worlds of Fun through an employee who reached out to me. Had I not learned about the value of networking, I may have failed to check LinkedIn, and I likely would have missed the opportunity.
Another incredible networking opportunity was presented to me earlier this year. I was discussing my plans as a future public relations professional with my best friend from back home, and she gave me the name of a young woman who might be of interest to me. I connected with her online, and we made plans to get coffee in Kansas City. As a gesture of good will, I offered to buy her coffee, just like Professor Hansen-Horn had always instructed us to do. And, as Professor Hansen-Horn predicted, she instead bought mine. I followed up the day after the meeting with a hand-written thank-you note. Now, she is personally helping me tailor my resume to apply for an internship with her public relations firm, which is one of the largest in the world. I would have never had this incredible opportunity if I was not brave enough to make the first move and capitalize on this valuable opportunity to meet a professional in my chosen field.
I hope that any college student who reads this learns from my mistakes. Networking is an incredibly valuable skill for any student and young professional, not just those who plan to work in public relations. You never know who might offer you your next internship, job or phenomenal career. Never let your laziness, or fear, or whatever it may be, stop you from reaching out to a professional in your field. Remember, the worst they can do is say “no.” What’s the best thing they can do? Well, you will never know until you reach out!
By Blake Hedberg
You have done all the necessary research, crafted an excellent cover letter, branded yourself with an excellent resume and survived the strenuous interview process. The company you hope to work for finally gives you that long-awaited phone call – you have landed your first internship. However, this is no time to relax. Plenty of hard work and learning opportunities await.
For most students, the process of finding and securing an internship is a daunting task. The amount of research, time and effort that goes into the process can be extensive. Some students put the process off until their senior year (do not wait this long). For those who have gone the extra mile to be placed in an internship program, your journey is off to a fantastic start.
You are about to embark on the beginning of your professional career, and you’re ready to begin your first day as a professional. Before you do, here are a few tips for maximizing your internship experience.
1. Embrace hierarchy with a smile
Let’s get this out of the way from the beginning: As an intern, you might have to perform trivial tasks at one point or another. Photocopying, coffee runs and things of this nature are not uncommon for interns. Get over it.
You are there to help the business by any means necessary – do this with the biggest of smiles. You must understand that there is a hierarchy at the company you are working for and everyone has been in your shoes sometime during their careers. Employers will remember you better if you perform any task with enthusiasm. Doing these small tasks will demonstrate your ability to listen and work effectively. This will, hopefully, lead to better assignments in the future.
2. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions
An internship is an incredible opportunity for learning, personal growth and development. You are expected to be asking questions. After all, you are there to learn, aren’t you? Don’t hesitate to pull your employer off to the side and ask them something when you are uncertain. Make sure the time is convenient for them, however, and they will likely be happy to give you some guidance. Asking questions is a necessity in getting the most from your experience. If you do not ask about it, they will assume you already know it. The more questions you ask, the more knowledge you gain.
3. Get to know anyone and everyone
From the other interns, to the CEO, to the janitorial crew; get to know the people around you. You never know who might be able to help you with something down the road! Participate on company softball teams, go out for drinks with your internship team, stay after events and chat with fellow employees.
Go above and beyond the hours you are expected to work and establish relationships with co-workers. Your work will become more meaningful that way. Networking does not have to stop once you have landed an internship. In fact, it is just now beginning. Keep building that professional network. It will pay off when you are looking for your first job.
4. Be willing to learn
Having the right mindset in any workplace is extremely beneficial. Taking a positive approach with an open mind will definitely impress of your employer. Not all internships are the same and you may have unique opportunities that go beyond your job description. Be ready. Take in as much as you possibly can from whatever you are doing. You will appreciate that you did after the internship has concluded.
No one likes a know-it-all. If you walk around and act like you know everything and that the employer has nothing to teach you, this will resonate with them in a negative way. Accept when someone is offering to teach you something, no matter what that may be.
5. Sell yourself
When it comes to internships, there is also a more competitive angle that is often forgotten. As you make friends with the other interns at the company you must not forget that, from an employer’s perspective, you are competing against one another. Whether you realize it or not, your employer is grading each intern with the possibility of hiring one or two of you at the end of the process.
You must be able to work and get along with others, but make sure you are selling yourself and reinforcing why you should be considered for employment post-internship. You need to outperform the other interns in your program. Yes, this is somewhat of a bleak realization but is in fact a representation of the real business environment. Leave no doubt in your employers mind that you are the candidate they should pursue.