Marketing

How to be a Great Intern Boss

I just finished my third week working in the real world and I’ve already learned so much. My daily tasks are just about what I expected them to be, except for one thing: it didn’t occur to me until now that I would be delegating tasks to interns.  That’s weird for me.  I was in their position less than a month ago – and now I’m telling them what to do?

This post serves several purposes. First, it’s a way for me to hold myself accountable.  Second, there are so many posts out there about how to be a great PR intern, but very few – if any – posts written about how to be a great intern boss.  And you know what?  There should be.  Because in an industry where 99% of the PR interns are unpaid, I’ll say it, we owe it to them.  We owe them a great learning experience.  We owe them respect.  We owe them advice, direction, and an honest glimpse into this industry.  At the same time, an internship is what the intern makes of it.  They can’t learn if they don’t try.  They can’t be respected if they aren’t professional.  They can’t get advice, direction, and insight if they don’t seek it out.

This internship thing is a give and take situation, you see.  I present to you ways you can be a great intern boss, as well as ways you can be a great intern.

1. Give interns specific instructions

Tell them what the project is, what you expect them to accomplish, and when you the project to be done.  Be specific – down to what font the spreadsheet should be in or what folder the intern can find it on the shared drive.  Your interns can’t read your mind. The things that seem obvious to you aren’t obvious to someone who has never worked in an office environment.

*Intern action piece* – Ask for specific instructions.  Ask questions.  Before you run off to complete an assignment, repeat the assignment back to your boss. Your boss can’t read your mind. They are busy, and they took time to explain something to you.  Listen, and if you need something clarified, speak up. Don’t be shy. No one in their right mind would be annoyed with an intern who asked for clarification.  But it might be annoying if they were counting on you for a project and you don’t do it correctly because you didn’t listen/ask necessary questions.

2. Don’t give your intern an assignment you wouldn’t do yourself

It’s called a job.  We all have to do grunt work.  We love us some copying, faxing, presentation-binding, phone-answering and package shipping. Interns should expect that they too will have to share in the company glory of daily grunt work.  However, interns are not your personal assistants.  No, they can’t drive home to let your dog out.  And no, they are not going to hop online to research some car insurance rates.  They are there to earn college credit and build their resumes – not to save you 15% or more on car insurance – even if it only takes 15 minutes.

*Intern action piece* Eat a slice of humble pie.  You will have to do grunt work.  At the same time, if some narcissistic jerk is trying to make you his/her servant, stand up for yourself.  Lean on the college credit crutch.  For example, speak with your intern coordinator and say you need more writing assignments for your portfolio, or else you won’t get credit.  Say your professor told you so.  The time you put into an internship is an investment in yourself.  If it’s shady – get out.  There’s another semester, another internship, another opportunity. Control your destiny.

3. Give feedback

It’s as simple as that. Tell your intern how they did on the assignment.  Some companies hold review sessions at the end of internships.  Why not hold a mid-point review as well?  It may be hard to coordinate that for part-time interns, but to me it seems like a mid-point review would be especially helpful because it gives them time to improve upon the things discussed in a review.

*Intern action piece* Ask for feedback. When you email your boss an assignment, add a line such as – “Let me know if you need any more help with this. How can I improve this for next time?”  It shows that you care about your performance.  If you show you are motivated, people are more likely to invest time in your development.

4. Be nice

Once upon a time there was a PR intern. As a gift for a great first quarter, the company head honcho took the office out to lunch – everyone except the intern, that is.  They left the intern alone at the office with her Lean Cuisine and a research assignment.  Not that I have any idea who this intern is, but she says that the experience was the corporate equivalent to being the only kid in class not to receive a Valentine’s Day card or the only kid on the soccer team not invited to a really cool Chuckie Cheese birthday party.

You’d be surprised.  When you’re 2o, when it’s your first internship, when you’re broke, when you have no idea where your life or career is going – it means a lot to have you boss give you a thank you card on your last day.  Seriously, be nice. I know times are tough, but would it really kill your company’s bottom line that much to throw the unpaid intern a sandwich?  I know you’re busy, but would it really screw with your schedule that much to take five minutes to say hi to the intern on his/her first day?

Remember where you came from.

*Intern action piece* Nothing. Welcome to the world, kid: some people are jerks. Kill them with kindness.  Always be professional.  You don’t have to stay if it’s that bad.  You can get another internship.  You can get the college credit, somehow.  Just because you are an intern doesn’t mean you have to be pushed around.

I hope this list gives insight to both audiences, the interns and the professionals.  The point I want to drive home for the professionals is to just put yourself in the intern’s shoes when you are communicating with them.  The point I want to drive home for the interns is that you need to be proactive.

We all know how important internships are for students, but I will venture to say that they important for companies as well.  Name me one other way a company can give a potential employee a (free) test drive before the company hires that person?  Through internships, companies can hunt for and develop future talent.  Even if they don’t work for you in the future, maybe they will work for your competitor.  If you mentored that intern, then your competitor will get better.  When your competitor gets better, it challenges you to get better.  Mentorship makes our industry better.

I’m Employed!

That’s right!  I have real life, full-time, post graduation, big kid PR job.  I start today as an account coordinator for Kel & Partners, a web 2.0 marketing and public relations agency.  I’m proud that all of the internships, extracurriculars, blogging and networking has finally paid off.  I’m very grateful for this opportunity.

However, the purpose of this post is not to tute my own horn.  Rather, I just want to share some honest advice to all the other 2009 grads out there who are looking for jobs.  I’m no expert, but here are some things that worked for me:

1. I didn’t look for jobs, I looked for companies

I’m not a huge fan of job posting websites. Let’s not beat around the bush: I’m talking about Careerbuilder and Monster.  I think these websites tempt people into applying for hundreds of jobs they either don’t really want or aren’t really qualified for.  I think it gives you a false sense of accomplishment and a heightened sense of frustration when you never hear back from these places.

A friend of mine did a corporate communications internship last summer. She was a rock star intern, so they kept her around for the fall.  When she graduated in December, they created a full-time position for her.  However, before she could officially start the job, they had to list the job on a couple of websites for equal opportunity/ legal/ HR purposes.  So even though the job was created for her, they listed it anyway.  I’m sure they received tons of resumes from hopeful candidates who never had a shot…

It wouldn’t be wise to completely disregard job listing websites. There are absolutely “real” jobs listed from legitimate companies. However, I like to think of them more as job search tour guides rather than The Source of open positions.  Use them as a supplement to good old fashioned networking. Check out what companies are (supposedly) hiring on those job boards.  Check out their websites.  Go through your LinkedIn network – are you connected to anyone who works there?  Can you find out if there are any other opportunities at the company that aren’t listed online?  More importantly, what type of company is it?  What do they do, and how do they do it?  Are they deserving of your awesomeness?  It takes a long time to customize your resume and cover letter for each company you send them to.  Do not waste your time writing, editing, nit-picking and re-writing unless you actually want to work there. Your time is worth more than that.  Quality, not quantity, baby.  Quality, not quantity.

2. Informational interviews!!!!

My original contact with my company was through an informational phone interview back in February.  When you are just approaching a company asking to have a casual, informative conversation, you aren’t putting the potential employer on the spot.  You’re basically just two people, talking shop.  The advice I got from these interviews was extremely influential.  The feedback was incredibly helpful.  I think informational interviews are the new pink.

3. I kept my chin up

Unemployment is the worst. It feels like failure.  It feels inadequate, lazy, hopeless, boring – and most of all, like you are not in control of your destiny. (And I really really really hate that.)

Personally, I’ve ignored a lot of news since January, when economic things really started to go to hell. Whenever the news reporters started talking about lay-offs or stock markets or bailouts, I turned the channel and watched something happy and frivilous.  (My top recommendations include What Not to Wear, the Bachelor/Bachelorette, Flight of the Conchords and Bridezillas.)

Although being informed is important, I think having a positive attitude during the job search is much much more important.  Ignorance is bliss.  Dwelling on the thousands of workers who got laid off at a company a million states away from you in an industry that has nothing to do with you won’t motivate you to hunt for a job.  It’ll give you an excuse to mope around in your jammies and feel sorry for yourself that you graduated at such a difficult time.  That kind of information will intimidate you from trying.  You need to surround yourself with positive information.  Spite the recession like he’s your ex and keep trying.  You have to keep trying.  You owe it to yourself to keep trying.

Seriously, turn the channel, and look at every action you take toward getting a job as an accomplishment.

I hope that somewhere there is someone who will be a little inspired by this.  I’m very excited to start my professional career, and I will continue to blog about public relations and social media at this website.  In addition, I have a strong interest in career development so I may ponder that topic from time to time. (If you want to learn about career advice from someone who really knows what she’s talking about – read Heather Huhman’s column on Examiner.com.)

Last but not least, I just wanted to give a shout out to my parents, my brother, my best friends, and my adorable boyfriend – all who supported me through this journey.  Job or no job, cash-money or broke, you people love me for me and I cherish our relationships.

Trending Topic: PR Internships for 2009 Grads

Just about all the senior PR college students have graduated by now, most of whom have officially started their job searches.  Finding that first PR job is always a challenge, but in case you couldn’t guess, it’s even harder now.  (Chin up: There are jobs out there.) Over the past month, there’s been a small crop of my now-graduated friends taking PR internships at agencies, non-profits and other companies.

I say, do it.

I accepted my post-graduation internship back in March.  While I was overwhelmed with enthusiasm, some people’s reactions didn’t necessarily reflect my excitement. When you’re a sophomore and you accept your first internship, people are genuinely excited for you.  It’s baby’s first internship.  It’s adorable.  When you’re a senior and you accept your sixth internship, some people genuinely think that you’re crazy.  You have a college degree. Get a real job, already.

I just wanted to write an encouraging post to anyone looking for an entry level PR job and contemplating taking an internship.  Interning is not giving up on the job search – it’s giving you some more time for your job search.  At an internship, you’re gaining experience, staying relevant, and learning, learning, learning.  You’ll build your portfolio with new, better  work.  (Let’s face it – the stellar stuff you write now as a big bad college grad is better than those crap press releases you threw together for Intro to Public Relations class when you were a freshman.) You’re expanding your network. You’re showing ambition and a sincere interest in pursuing this career.  You’re staying in the PR game.

I think it sounds like a decent plan.

(You can do it!)

-Janet

Is this called growing up?

I just hit the “send” button on a message to a client that advised them to delete a picture from their website.  The client, a music group, had some new photos taken for promotion.  As a joke, the one photo had all of them making silly faces and holding cigarettes.  The one kid was holding  a condom and the other was holding a knife.

It was meant to be funny, and at first glance, it was.  But I thought a little further about the messaging behind the photo, and I was terrified.

Tto-write-love-on-her-arms1he group is a proud supporter of To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement that promotes mental health awareness and support for those who struggle with things like cutting, addiction, etc.  The cigarettes were tongue in check, the condoms were a little innuendo.  But the knife thing got me worried about encouraging or glamorizing cutting.  For a teenage audience, I want to be careful about anything that insinuates a comical image of cutting, especially when the client has worked so hard to raise awareness and support for people troubled by it.

This is the first time I’ve found myself in a position where I am advising someone to pull back the reigns and err on the side of conservative.  I pretty much pride myself on being fun, silly, out there, edgy – and completely willing to be different.  But for the first time I’m the serious one.  I’m the one with all the “let’s just be safe” and the “just in case.”  Despite my good intentions, I feel like the bad guy.  No one is making me feel like the bad guy.  I just feel like the bad guy.  Oh my God, I’m the boring one.

But it feels like the right thing to do.

Am I growing up?

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Work Experience on a Resume (response post)

So I tweeted about my earlier post (right below this one) and got some great feedback from @heatherhuhman, @davidbaker09, @amymengel and @alecjr.  General consensus was to leave off work experience and only emphasize the most relevant industry experience.  But at the same time, if something is important to you, you’ve got to be who you are and stick with it.

I really liked @amymengel’s advice of including the part-time work experience as a bullet under education.  So I changed up the resume.  It’s a win/win because it includes that thing that is important to me but it doesn’t distract from the internships.  Thanks for the tip!

Here is the old resume:

[scribd id=13522143 key=key-1wwj4gddb0rpn2uexiiy]

Here is the new resume:

[scribd id=13557938 key=key-2bso3jjgacmv13bulpfm]

I think the new one looks slightly less cluttered.

Thank you so much for the discussion.  I hope other kids read this and get something out of it!

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Work Experience on a Resume

On a recent class trip to NYC, I received some interesting advice about resumes from Bruce Bobbins of Dan Klores Communications.  Speaking to my class about resumes, Bruce said that something he values is an applicant with work experience, someone who shows he/she worked his/her way through college.

This interested me.  By senior year, a lot of people find themselves cramming four years of experience onto one page. (General resume advice for entry-level applicants is to keep it to one page. Let me know if you feel differently.)  I’ve been told before to delete my waitressing work experience from my resume and to only highlight my most relevant public relations/marketing/journalism experience.  His advice kind of contradicts that input – but honestly, I like his take better.

I’ve been doing the restaurant thing (more on than off) since I was sixteen.  If my resume tells a story, this is most certainly an interesting/funny chapter.  I feel like my resume is a conversation piece, a list of points that can be elaborated on in an interview.  I’m always happy to elaborate about the personal growth I’ve experienced from being a server.  After all, the restaurant and my customers were my inspiration for my first blog, Gratuity.  Work experience on a resume shows that you have a solid work ethic, something that some people think is lost in my generation.  No, being a server isn’t public relations, but you are definitely dealing with the public.  Learning to deal with difficult people in a professional manner, learning to show up on time, learning to multitask four tables on a crazy Saturday night, learning to play nice with your co-workers  – I think it’s great stuff worth mentioning on a resume.  Serving has made me a more confident, cool-headed and articulate person.  Although these qualities are less tangible than the writing skills shown by my press releases in my portfolio, these qualities will definitely help me in my career and my life.  I think that if you also take the time to reflect on your college gig, you’ll find that it not only gave you beer money and paid the electric – but it helped you grow up.

So whether you’re serving chicken parmesan in an Oxford shirt, folding shirts at Old Navy, delivering pizza for Domino’s or making lattes at Starbucks – I say, mention it on a resume if you’re able to talk about what you’ve learned from your experience and how it makes you a better candidate for the job.

On my way…

I’m moving to Boston in June for an internship at SHIFT Communications. (Thank you!) I’m really happy. The end beginning.

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You’re Really Pretty. Want To Do PR?

The Real World: Brooklyn is one of the first seasons I’ve kept up with in a while. So, I’m totally going to girl-out on you here, but I’d be completely lying if I said that the funny, small-town, adorable, trucker hat-wearing, guitar-playing, complicated war vet wasn’t a major factor in why I’m tuning in.

Um, hai Ryan.
Um, hai Ryan.

Now that that’s over…I’m taking The Real World: Brooklyn to task.

The roommates get to do their own jobs this season, which I think is great. What’s even cooler is that the one girl, Devyn, landed a job in fashion PR. Nice.

Want to see how she did it? Here’s the link. (The scene happens at 4:10. You’re welcome.)

In the episode, Devyn visits a designer’s showroom and tries on some dresses. Later, she sits down with the big boss man and talks about her dreams of becoming an actress, restaurateur, and owner of her own fashion line. He tells her that he could use some help with public relations, and that because of her “personality and beauty” she’d be a great fit for the job. So she was hired.

Really? Really? So if I’m really really pretty I’ll get a job? Gosh, aren’t I the fool. This whole time I’ve been interning and writing and networking and – apparently wasting my time. Duh! I should have spent all that time getting my makeup done and my nails done and getting extra super pretty.

How about no. You’re right, Derek Zoolander. There is more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking.

I think it’s sad that even in this day and age public relations still has this image of just being an industry for really pretty party planners (or even so much worse, Sp*n Artists.) We work hard! Not that we all aren’t just gooooorrrgeous dawling. But you’ve got to be talented, smart, unique, and saavy to hack it in PR town. Beauty might be…an added bonus? But not one that carries much weight.

I’m not going to lie, Devyn is beautiful. I just want to see her hammer out a clip report before lunch, a press release by 2 p.m., and follow up on those pitches by 3 p.m.

In conclusion, I know it’s just TV. I may not know the full story. She might have a degree or some type of experience that would qualify her for the position. However, as someone who is working pretty hard to get a PR job, I thought the way the show portrayed the simplicity of that PR hire was kind of condescending. I don’t think it’s a positive reflection of the field. I’m annoyed at the stigma that PR is just a fluff industry and that anyone with the right measurements can do it.

I was obviously irritated by this. But don’t worry, MTV. Ryan probably played a really stupid/cute prank or sang a really pretty song or smiled at the camera and convinced me to watch the rest of the episode. Don’t you just love/hate reality TV?

Until next time,

If you choose a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life.

-JNA

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photo: http://lh5.ggpht.com/_mk42XChtvT4/SaHeiKUn0aI/AAAAAAAABgI/2tlAUN6Kf5M/s800/Ryan%201%2084.jpg

Networking in Boston

A few weeks ago, Jason Falls wrote a blog post about why social media won’t help you find a job during a recession.  The basic sentiment is to use Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. but “know and understand that all the on-line, behind-the-computer, cyber connections in the world don’t beat a hand shake, a smile and a chat.”

So last week, I kicked it old school and met up with some PR and marketing people—(gasp!) in the flesh—during a one-day whirlwind of a trip in Boston.  I had three interviews, two of them informational and one for an internship.  I wasn’t all that shocked to learn that there were hiring freezes and no positions open for me.  However, and this could just be ego, but it feels really great/comforting to hear someone who has a job you want tell you that you’re doing the right stuff to get there.  I didn’t leave with a job (and I didn’t expect to) but I left with many more connections and information that will help me get one.  And recession be damned, I’m getting one.

Highlights:

  • “Twitter levels out the networking playing field.” My new friend Rebecca (@repcor) said it best.  It gives you direct access to people who work at, own, or know people who work at the companies you want to work for. Because of my connection to her and Justin Levy (@justinlevy) I got to watch a taping of Hubspot TV, take a little tour of the office, and chat with Mike Volpe (@mvolpe) about a social media paper I’m writing in school.  Connections connections connections.
  • I wrote a blog post about my trip, and a few days later I got a lovely email from Alexa Scordato (@Alexa) inviting me to a girls night with her friends.  So I ended up having a lovely dinner with Alexa, Rebecca, Maria Thurrell (@MaThuRRell) and Nidhi Makhija (@kaex88).  We even got a surprise visit from Todd Van Hoosear (@Vanhoosear).

I’m not trying to name drop, just giving credit where credit is due.  Everyone was so sweet and welcoming to me.  If I wasn’t convinced that Boston was the place for me before, the generosity of everyone I met really made me fall for Beantown and showed me exactly what that city has to offer.

I don’t think I will get a job directly from social media in that I’m not expecting someone to randomly Facebook message me one day and be all, “Hey, want to be an account coordinator?”  But in my case, I think it is really valuable to use it to make out-of-town connections, and I actually believe I will get a job from one of those.  I think if you plan to stay in the area you went to college in, it’s easier to make those connections the “old way” through PRSSA or AMA conferences and you may not have to rely on the internet so much.  But even in that case, following the local pros on Twitter couldn’t hurt.

Everyone tells me that “networking” is so important in job searching, but not that many people explain specifically what that means.  I hope my experience helps do exactly that: explain specifically what “networking” means.  It’s basically just talking to people who have jobs you are interested in having, talking to influencers they talk to, asking LOTS of questions, being gracious, being friendly, and building relationships.  I recently said that diplomas aren’t magic wands, and Twitter isn’t a magic wand, either.  If you click the mouse and follow someone it isn’t like ABRACADABRA (poof!) you’re hired.  But if you DM them, email them, meet them and offer a firm handshake and a nice chat—then maybe they can direct you to a friend who has a friend who has a job for you.

In conclusion, I just want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to meet (or chat on the phone with me).  I didn’t mention everyone because I wasn’t sure if it’d be weird to publicly write the name of your company and put down that I had an interview there, but I really appreciate your advice and your time.  Check your mail. 😉

Until next time:

Make friends.  Just keep swimming.  Don’t stop believing.

JNA

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Do college grades matter?

Update December 2012: I wrote this 4 years ago when I was a senior in college. Wow, I feel old. 🙂 My perspective now: I ended up graduating with a really good GPA. But it really didn’t end up mattering. I’m not going to grad school. I’m glad I focused on internships and had practical experience. I really really wish I had gone out and done something pointless and fun whatever Friday night I stayed in and wrote this post.

“To all the C-students, I say, you too can be president of the United States.” – George W. Bush

It’s Friday night in Rochester. Blizzard winds whip past my window. I sit with my laptop laboring away on my senior seminar paper(s) – yes, we have to write two each week. As I contemplate the relevance of the two-step flow and the diffusion of innovations theories in the measurement of social media PR, my thoughts wander:

  1. Why am I home on a Friday? Wow, I’m cool.
  2. I’d rather just research this to learn about my industry – not to write this stupid paper according to stupid rules so I can get a stupid good grade so I can have a stupid good GPA.
  3. I want a job.
  4. Do employers care about my stupid good GPA?
  5. Do college grades matter?

Obviously, if you want to go to grad school, your college grades matter. So knock yourself out and study. What if you don’t see yourself in grad school? My immediate goal is to get hired.

Typical resume advice about GPA’s suggests that if it’s above a 3.0, write it down because it’s a selling point. (So to be on the safe side, I keep mine on my resume because it’s decent. And yes, good grades helped me transfer with ease and kept the parents happy. In some ways the grades were worth it.)

However, let’s assume for a second that everyone applying at least mediocore effort in his/her communications degree can pull off a 3.0. That’s even allowing some wiggle room for a C or two, depending on how many credits you take. What I’m wondering about is that gap between the 3.0 and 4.0 student. As any dean’s lister will tell you, it takes a hell of a lot more effort to crank out a bunch of A’s than to settle for C’s. (And yes, sometimes you bust your butt and still end up with a C. I digress.) If you’re interning, if you’re building the portfolio, if you’re networking, if you’re involved with extracurriculars, if you’re already over-achieving– is it really worth the lack of sleep to put in the extra effort for that GPA? Or should I just be partying?

Say Student A and Student B both apply for the same, allusive, entry-level PR job. Both have multiple internships, both are PRSSA Chapter Presidents, both have killer portfolios. Both can barely fit four years of experience on a one-page resume. Student A has a 3.0 and Student B has a 4.0. Who gets the job?

Well let’s say this job is at a super edgy, unconventional type of agency that is “too cool for neckties.” The Students are being interviewed by an HR director with a trampstamp and a senior account executive who listens to A Perfect Circle. Student A is kind of up-tight. You know those kids who try to look and act older than they are? Yeah. He’s wearing this hideous tweed sportcoat that doesn’t match the navy blue oxford shirt underneath. He’s distant, doesn’t really smile, and has one of those “dead-fish” handshakes.

In contrast, Student B learns the name of the receptionist and says hi to the lady watering the plants on her way into the interview. Student B is respectful, but chill. She genuinely laughs when the SAE makes a joke about Facebook poking, wheras Student A does this awkward courtesy chuckle and then goes into some random, arrogant schpeal about how he single-handedly organized a 50-student Facebook protest on the day the news feeds were released.

Student B gets hired – not because of the GPA, but because she is quite simply a better fit for the company culture. My point: I’ve heard it argued that in a close-call situation like this, the kid with the better GPA would “win.” It’s the supposed tie-breaker. I’m starting to think otherwise. Looking back on internships I’ve gotten and the ones I haven’t, I think my GPA had nothing to do with it. When it came down to the interview, the successful interviews seemed like a conversation between friends or a really great first date. (And as for the unsuccessful…those seemed like interrogations from the CIA.) People have asked me about extracurriculars, experience, why I chose PR, why I’m interested in their company. Perhaps it will be the same when I interview for jobs. No one has asked about my GPA. I’m starting to wonder if maybe, they never will.

So I’m writing this paper for me, and the grades will fall where they may. And next Friday, I’m going out. Because as Tom Petty once said: “The work never ends, but college does.”

Feel free to disagree (or agree) with me. The comments are yours.