Making the Grade

Daily Journal
It is important to write in your journal every day or at least every other day. In failing to do this, you will not only forget what tasks you have completed and what projects you worked on, but the journal will become a burden rather than a relaxing reflection on your experiences. Write in your journal as if you were merely talking to yourself or to someone you are close to. Your journal will turn out to be of much higher quality if you think of it as a conversation rather than an assignment.

Be honest as you write your entries. If you did not enjoy something that you did, say so. Don't feel that all of your entries need to be positive. They will be much more valuable to you if you are honest. Use your journal as a forum for discovering what you really like in the profession/job and what you really dont like. Your honesty with yourself now will serve you well in the future.

Save everything that you do. As you go along in your internship, merely make an extra copy of the things that you complete and stick them away in a folder or binder. Then, at the end of your internship, sort through what you have collected and decide which items best reflect your strengths and talents. These items should become a permanent part of you portfolio. Arrange these items in a manner that is organized and easy to read. It is by these items that future employers will gain a sense of who you are, the talents that you possess, and the experiences that you have had.

At the conclusion of your internship, you will be expected to write a paper or essay about your internship experiences. Discuss in this document specific tasks that you have completed and how you felt about the completion of these tasks. Discuss the internship experience as a whole. What did you like? What did you dislike? Why? Be specific in your responses. Again, just as with the journal, this document will be of much greater value if you are honest.

Your attitude is one of the most important aspects of your internship. It will either work for you, or it will work against you. Although attitude is something that sits deep inside of you, it is one of the first things that an employer will notice about you, especially in the field of public relations. Attitude is of particular importance during your first meeting with your employer. Have a confident, yet personable attitude. Look your employer in the eye and shake hands firmly. Listen carefully, but don’t be afraid to speak up.

It is imperative to your success that your attitude has at least these two dimensions: optimism and self-motivation. You need to be positive about what you are doing. First of all, if you are not enjoying what you are doing, you are in the wrong place. Secondly, as an intern, you are going to be presented with a variety of tasks that you have probably never done before. Such tasks need to be approached positively or you will not experience success, and you will certainly not be happy. You also may be overwhelmed because of the "newness" of this experience. However, you have to trust yourself and realize that the task is indeed do-able, as long as you maintain a positive attitude.

Self-motivation is the second dimension of attitude. It is quite likely that work will not be handed to you in all cases. Rather, you must be self-motivated to go out into the organization and find it. Not only does this give you the opportunity to keep busy and learn more about this business, but also such initiative will indeed be recognized and respected by your employer. Once you have obtained this work, you must be self-motivated to complete it in a timely manner. Unlike schoolwork, you will probably not be given a due date. Rather, it is up to you to complete it as soon as possible. If you have a list of tasks to do, ask your supervisor to give you a priority list. This may change constantly, but at least you will have some guidelines as to which task is most important. Always ask questions to ensure that you are completing tasks in an effective sequence. Time is a precious commodity in this business; therefore, you will quickly earn respect by being as productive and efficient as you can.

It is important to remember that you and the company that you are working for have expectations of each other. Not only may you have different expectations of each other, but also you may not fully understand each other's expectations. Remember that you are at a completely different point in life than the people with and for whom you work. In order to deal with this, and, in turn, be successful, you need to ask questions. Make a list of your expectations and clarify your employer’s expectations of you before you begin your internship. Also, see yourself not as a college student, but rather as someone who is a permanent part of this work environment. Doing this will not only enable you to feel more comfortable throughout your internship, but will also present a greater opportunity for success.

Fellow Employees
As you begin your internship, realize that you will be working with a variety of individuals within the organization. Some of these individuals will be in positions that are above you, and others will be in positions that are close to, or even on the same level as you. You need to think carefully about your interactions with all of these "publics." It is likely that your mannerisms with all of these individuals are going to be governed by the position that they hold. It is important for you to be professional, but you must also be natural and be yourself. Striking this balance is difficult and will indeed take practice. Just be aware of the dynamics that exist, and act accordingly. "Friendly, but professional" is always a good rule to follow.

Throughout the course of your internship, it will be necessary for you to communicate with various publics both inside and outside of the organization. It is expected that you will take this seriously and handle this communication professionally. When you are communicating with external publics, remember that you represent the organization that you are working for. In many cases, the external publics that you have contact with may not even know that you are an intern. Rather, they may make the assumption that you are a full-time employee. Often, you will not have an opportunity to make this clarification. You simply must conduct your business in a professional manner that reflects the values and cultures of the organization. Remember that as a public relations professional, your job is to protect the reputation of your organization or client(s). Reading a company's Mission Statement or Code of Conduct will keep you from making costly mistakes or errors in judgement.

Professionalism is something that you are not expected to have as you walk in the door on the first day of your internship. However, it is something that you are expected to learn and to adopt. Conducting yourself in a professional manner is the fastest way for you to earn credibility within your organization. Once you have earned credibility, you have earned respect.

You can best learn to act professionally by observing other individuals within your organization. How do they dress? How do they carry and present themselves? How do they treat one another? How do they treat their clients? How do they handle themselves under stress? Examine these behaviors carefully and think about how they can be adapted to fit your personality. Doing so will be to your advantage. Also, get a good book on etiquette and read it cover to cover. It could save you some embarrassing moments, especially during personal introductions or company dinners.

Making the Most
Your internship experience will be what you make of it. You are generally in charge of the experiences that you have and how to react to them. It is in your best interest to be as involved as you can in a variety of activities in your organization. Once again, it is likely that it will be up to you to seek these out. You know more than you think you do, and you will be able to complete the tasks that are set before you. You simply have to jump in and do it. Remember what you have learned in the classroom and apply it. Be as busy and efficient as you possibly can, and you will learn more than you ever imagined.