By Ashleigh Johnston, Intern
Most interns like to talk about paying their dues, the menial tasks they are asked to do and the often frustrating grind for little to no pay. But it’s all been said before and we’ve all been through it. I think it’s important for interns to see that light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train speeding towards you but rather its valuable experience to help you land the career you’ve been working so hard for. You spend years in school, months or maybe years interning and it starts to feel like it will never pay off. Especially since most people my age and younger are being prepared for the realization that a college degree is not necessarily a ticket to a job straight out of college. After three internships, I feel like a professional intern, not prepared enough to start a career, but itching to begin one anyway and put my intern past behind me. Then one day, my mom came home from work with a problem at her company and it hit me.
Her company was hosting an event that featured three celebrities. A PR firm was acting as the liaison between the company and the celebrities and someone at the firm forwarded an email from one of the individuals bashing the company. In addition to that, this same individual was making outrageous demands for the event and posting on social media a very twisted spin on her involvement. After listening to these problems, I started spouting off various forms of PR jargon like controlling the message, the PR firm’s lack of attention to detail by forwarding an ongoing message between clients, and notifying the correct people that they should be watching social media for more egregious messages from this individual in order to prepare for damage control.
PR is a demanding and competitive industry. It is to your own detriment if you are not organized, persistent, attentive to detail and especially proactive. Problems are best solved when they are anticipated rather than when they blow up and you have to react. These are all things I learned from being in the office, listening (code word: eavesdropping) to their phone calls and meetings to learn the language and the actions being taken. These are things I learned tracking news clips and knowing when a problem we were prepared for is quickly handled or when a problem that surprised us is efficiently handled as the phones are blowing up with media outlets seeking statements.
Sometimes in the midst of making coffee, running errands, doing the tedious but necessary (and I promise it is necessary) work, interns feel frustrated and wonder if and when they will actually learn something of value. It may take a moment like I had, in casual conversation, for it to click in your mind that you know what the firm did wrong, what they could have done better and what you would have done differently. I have much more to learn, but as my time as an intern draws to a close and people start asking if I learned something, I can honestly say I learned a lot. I finally feel confident that what is on my resume is solid experience. So to my fellow interns keep doing what you can, what you’re asked to do, and above all, be your own advocate to make sure you are learning and preparing yourself for the moment when it all clicks.